A zero-sum game is a competition among two or more participants for a fixed amount or quantity of winnable goods. Whatever one participant gains necessarily comes at the expense of the other participants. Thus, the sum of all gains (positive) and losses (negative) is zero, hence the name. A situation in which the participants can change the amount or quantity of winnable goods (create or destroy winnable goods) is not a zero-sum game, but is instead a variable-sum game.
Zero sum contradicts the Win-Win sales model, that voluntary transactions are beneficial to both parties. Zero sum denies the benefits of economic growth, as President Kennedy said, "a rising tied lifts all boats," and assumes one person's gain or profit comes at another person's loss. Zero sum thinking results in rationing, or "sustainability," as the word is often misused in modern times. Zero sum thinking results in dividing up limited resources rather than focusing on expanding opportunities to create new wealth.
Zero sum is anti-entrepreneurial.
Non-economic zero-sum games
- Social conservatives recognize that rights are a zero-sum game. As Bill Borst states, "I say that anytime that a new right is born, in the zero sum game of life, it impinges the freedom of another."
- An example of this is the homosexual agenda, as "LGBT+" activists demand new "rights" for themselves at the expense of the religious freedom of Christians and other social conservatives. As social conservatives correctly predicted, it is not possible to expand rights to cover, for example, both the "right" to same-sex "marriage" and the religious freedom of cake bakers.
- Zero sum games
- Adam Smith described the process, "Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of." Wealth of Nations, Book I Chapter 2.
- The New Three R's, by Bill Borst