In a story by Robert Louis Stevenson
, the reader is presented with the paradox
of the bottle imp
who will fulfill ones every wish, the catch is that if one dies with the bottle in ones possession, one will experience the tortures of hell forever.
The real catch however is that in order to get rid of the bottle, one has to sell the bottle for a lower price than one bought it for.
The paradox is that because the one buying it for 1 cent cannot sell it anymore, he should not buy it for fear of suffering in hell; and no one should buy it for 2 cent, because there would be no one to sell it to for 1 cent. By mathematical induction we can reason that no one should ever buy the bottle at all.
Like many logic problems, this assumes that all participants are sufficently informed, completely rational and bright enough (if not infinitely rational) not to buy the bottle. If one assumes that there are at least some people who are not afraid to end up in hell, then you may still buy the bottle and may hope not to get stuck with it.
Another take is that in practice, there is no paradox here at all, for economic reasons:
If you made use of a genie to wish for earthly possessions, the number of goods on Earth would skyrocket, leading to deflation - a lower price being paid for everything, which would lead to the creation of smaller units of currency, which you could then use to sell the bottle for.
This just goes to prove that the economy is a self-regulatory system with a negative feedback loop.
Of course one would run into practical problems like the mass of Earth increasing with each item the bottle imp gave out, but hey, it is not like the prospect of Earth turning into a black hole has ever stopped human economic theory (cf. how the Club of Romes book Limits to Growth was received by some of the public).
Earth economy would be faced with the prospect of shuttling all the free junk off into space or selling it to aliens, essentially proving that the paradox is not that easily dispelled. Finding accountants willing to keep track of ownership of all the zillion goodies that the bottle imp gave out also might be quite a challenge.