Archive for December, 2009

Artificial Scarcity

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Whenever technology solves a problem with scarcity, somebody steps in to keep the scarcity by means of politics, wealth, power, propaganda.

  • case in point: patents were probably NOT introduced to further innovations, but to keep others innovations down, so the own innovations would be worth more.
  • case in point: copyright. As it became easy to print and reprint, and content-producers (or more often, the printers) wanted to have a temporary monopoly on it. As it became even more easy trough the internet, the laws became more draconian.
  • case in point: revenue services. Not only it fills the coffers of the state, but it also keeps foreign competition out of the own markets. And with trademarks, it can be used to keep cheap imitations out of the market.

The irony of this when it pertains to intangible goods, is that the corpus of works is much bigger than anyone on earth can digest. In effect, the availability of such an enormous amount of works has created an “economy of attention”. Since every living being has access to more works he can read, listen to or watch in his lifetime, you need to goad him into “consuming” your work; and preferably to pay for it. Apart from marketing, how do you do that? Maybe by putting a monopoly on works you’re not even interested in? With the hope that most of those works will not be available to the public…