The next mutation, or evolution (depending on your creed), of our Western economic model will consist of a major upheaval in the trend of monopolization. Instead of localizing our needs geographically, as shown by the proliferation of big box one-stop shops, and administratively (all those endless mergers), we will see a dramatic shift towards a new model – the “microconomy“.
The microconomy will be a gradual reversal of monopolization, facilitated (if not necessitated) by the Internet. Historically, monopolization has been favoured for its ability to reduce operating (parts manufacture, administration, shipping, communication) costs and to boost the perceived “authority” of the parent company. This concept of authority was vital in the old economic model, because it fostered feelings of security and trust in the minds of both customers and employees. For example, the stock market used its perception of authority to secure seemingly endless investments from a naturally near-sighted public and from fellow money monopolizers (aka fat cats).
Authority is a universal concept, modeled for eons by families, governments, and religions, as well as in our present day globalized economy. But there’s change afoot. The recent popularity of political democracies is part of a relatively new global trend. Its evidence can be found everywhere, from the rejection of organized religion, to the breakup of the nuclear family. This trend, the gradual focusing on the individual, on his/her opinions and his/her personal power, unavoidably leads its subscribers to a bloated sense of individual entitlement and a rejection of authority – two traits that ‘just don’t jive’ with our current economic model. Why? Personal entitlement (ex: Loreal’s slogan “you’re worth it”), mixed with innate human greed, fueled the stock (and morgage) bubble, and our rejection of these conglomerates’ unquestioned authority (and therefore their contingent security) popped it!
So what’s next? Our generation has grown up in online communities linked by common interests rather than geography or generalized class systems. A new market model, without getting into all that nitty gritty supply/demand graphing, is on the horizon. The new “microconomy” will use personal entitlement to motivate both buyers and sellers in a net-based network of individuals using their “soft-skills” to meet each others needs and wants. Authority will not be assumed, but will be dynamic and trackable, based on individual sellers’ records (much like Ebay ratings), customer comments, and with how prominently they are linked in the network.
The microconomy will take people out of the conventional workplace and allow them to transition to the soft-skills marketplace of the home and like-interest groups. Skills and interest groups will connect on the network, but will travel and meet physically within the local community. In the old system, we are overly connected, not to people, but to transient images of people. In the microconomy, these people become real and whole.
Convenience and personalization are two key components that must be highlighted in this new model. The microconomy will be about sourcing the best of what we need/want, and making energizing person-to-person connections with new interested minds. The closest analogy would be the ol’ town square. The geographic convenience of a Walmart will be replaced by the logistical convenience of a local network of sellers of “hard” and “soft” goods. People will have the opportunity to specialize in their areas of expertise and interact in enriching ways, while eliminating so much of the “busy work” inherent in administrating and operating our present conglomerates.
There is an unbelievable glut of information, skill, talent, passion, and, yes, even money, circulating in our present economy. The microconomy will eliminate the “middle man” and connect people within their communities in meaningful ways. We are the first generation trained on the tools that will bring it all together. Now if only we could find the time…
(Note: This opinion essay is an original work by Cymbria Wood and should not, in a perfect world, be quoted or posted without a reference to this blog – thank you)