A trip to the cinema was all about the mass experience, the mass medium of motion picture enraptured free market audiences for over a century. The medium began to be supplemented , but more importantly, individualised, by home video in the 1980s.Now the success of modern motion picture distribution channels such as Netflix and ITunes have made the once mass medium , a highly individualistic one. Technology it seems has changed the lens through which this and many other forms of entertainment are being enjoyed
Technology could have been used instead to improve the mass experience and not to personalise it’s consumption , but profitable enterprises always seeks to satisfy customer needs, so there is clearly then a consumer preference for immediate delivery of an individual experience.
As Rothbard points out in “What has government done to our money? The Case for a 100% Gold Dollar”, we only exchange something we currently have for something we want if we feel that what we have is worth less than what we are trading it for. Therefore cinema has been exchanged for video on demand, Railroads for cars and main frames for IPads due to the value people have placed on the product or experience which they prefer. If this was not the case, banks of pay phones would still supplant the needs for smart phones.
Human action, as Mises explains, only occurs when the individual feels uneasy about something. Maybe that unease was being surrounded by others, waiting in line, travelling a distance to be entertained, being charged more than you thought a service was worth .Whatever that unease was, it promoted innovation and technology has torn a hole in the one size fits all world and transformed our world into a cut your own cloth culture.
Human beings’ hatred of inefficiency, inconvenience and incompetence, explains the need for this technological innovation and perversely explains why gridlock and two and three car households still remain the norm, just as more and more public funds are pumped into public transport. It doesn’t just stop at how people choose to get from A to B .For example, private hospitals show the faith people have in government sponsored healthcare; private security, gun ownership and gated communities show the level of belief that the state’s policing adequately protects their families.
This is why any increase in government spending is so frowned upon when many consider it necessary to supplement what they already consider a night watch man state with supplemental privately run services. Much like Home video supplemented the mass experience of cinema in decades past, these private services, due to technological advances and consumer preference alone, may eventually supersede and replace more wasteful and less effective public services.
Changes in how we consume goods and services through technology are essentially, changes from distribution systems that we are dissatisfied with to ones that we are happy with. How soon will it be before technology and individualism changes other systems that we are uneasy about or dissatisfied with –the Banking system, political systems, and belief systems?
Here are some possibilities (some may say most likely impossibilities about technology and individualism and how it could liberate us in the 21st Century:-
- The abolishment of fractional reserve central banks and the spectre of government induced inflation through the simple idea of a pool of investors seeking a return, meeting a pool of borrowers seeking a loan at a reasonable rate, in a secure online environment, not as an alternative to the current banking but as a direct replacement
- World currency may emerge from the internet rather than from any grandiose imperialist planning. Exchanging goods and services for an internet credit-as Murray N. Rothbard noted, a medium of exchange must be transportable, divisible and durable. Apple or Facebook could become the goldsmiths of the digital age
- If we have indeed moved from farms to cities to the internet, do national governments matter, and is the current debt crisis and how it was handled, the first cracks in the collapse of the 20th century political system
Little Republics it seems are getting smaller, from the firm to the individual, providing more checks and balances against the Big Republic and proving more difficult to control and contain. Liberty is but a click away.