Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Capital, but small

As the economist with the small m jets off to unknown lands, I'm here to keep the blog warm.

Recent news from Jacqui Smith interested me because I'm speaking on a panel next weekend with Michael Savage. No, not that Michael Savage - but the masking effect in Google makes it very difficult for me to find anything out about who I'm debating with. It's a clever way to keep me on my toes. I might walk into an intellectual ambush - or even a Home Office ambush if someone in immigration misunderstands the conference announcement.

My accountant has this problem. He's called Mark Saunders, and if you search for that you'll find the Chelsea barrister who died in a police shootout this time last year. Even a year later that's still much more interesting for Google than an accountant, however good his double entries.

Even Leigh Caldwell is not a unique name - I thought for a while I was at least the only one with a blog, but there are now not one but two of them on twittermoms alone.

Fortunately missmarketcrash remains unique, but the Indian news alerts us to "lucky promoters" who "miss market crash, strike gold". It's hard to stay special in a competitive world.

In the economics of knowledge there are hints of this. Any individual fact is not a scarce good - you can give it away without losing possession of it - and thus it's hard to apply standard economic theory to it. But if you can define yourself a unique collection of knowledge or expertise - or get others to perceive that it's unique, as embodied in a unique name - that is scarce and excludable. Bounded rationality for once makes an economic phenomenon more tractable instead of less.

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