THIS NEW ECONOMY

Our economy is an amalgamation of diverse styles of trade,…

…commerce, and social exchanges. New economic functions develop around the operating old. Barter, one of the earliest forms of commerce, has not gone away. The barter economy ran through the agricultural age, the industrial age, and continues today. Indeed most of what happens on the World Wide Web is barter. Even many years from now a significant portion of what the economy does will be done by the industrial layers–machines churning out goods and moving materials. The old economies will continue to operate profitably within the deep cortex of the new economy.

Yet the inertia of the industrial age continues to mesmerize us. Between 1990 and 1996 the number of people making tangible things–stuff you can drop on your toe–decreased by 1%, while the number of people employed in providing “services” (intangibles) grew 15%. Presently a mere 18% of U.S. employment is in manufacturing. But three quarters of those 18% actually perform network economy jobs while working for a manufacturing company. Instead of pushing atoms they push bits around: accountants, researchers, designers, marketing, sales, lawyers, and all the rest who sit at a desk. Only a minuscule percentage of the workforce performs industrial age tasks, yet our politics, our media, our funding, and our education continue the grand fantasy that industrial jobs need to be created. Within a generation, two at the most, the number of people working in honest-to-goodness manufacturing jobs will be no more than the number of farmers in the land–less than a few percent. Far more than we realize it, the network economy is pulling in everyone.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK