Feeds

Be the next tech hotshot – by staying the hell away from regulators

Must-read essay on why we'll be on a private isle well before your cure is on sale

The Power of One Infographic

Column Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things – that's Adam Smith, by the way.

I'm often left rather scratching my head as I read the latest screeds on the new new economics. You know, all this lovely stuff about how late industrial capitalism can, and should, change into a more caring, localised system.

What people come up with seems to be very much like old economics, although the authors of papers on the subject would be horrified if you were to point this out to them.

Take this paper [PDF] on “ultra micro economics”. It has all of the usual right-on backing: it takes a fair amount of evidence from the New Economics Foundation (nef – they insist there's a shortage of capitals at present. Also stands for Not Economics, Frankly). It is essentially arguing that lots of small-scale business is good for a locality. Well, yes, it is.

We do indeed know that it is small and upstart businesses that produce the majority of employment in the economy. We also know that it is those same two that produce all of the net increase in jobs in the economy. Large companies tend to reduce their headcount over time: jobs growth comes from the new and small ones growing up in the interstices. All of this is well known and entirely standard economics.

Given that the paper is based on nef material, they manage to – at least in my opinion – get things such as comparative advantage wrong. This is something Ricardo detailed in 1817, so you would think that people would get it right by now. From the paper:

It [ultra-micro economics] is also a direct challenge to the idea of comparative advantage as the only design for reviving urban economies. This doctrine claims to provide a blueprint for local economic revival via specialization, competing with similar places until they are all exactly the same.

Its major drawback is that it provides too few winners and far too many losers, especially when it is combined by the extreme reduction of global competition, and the way the few mega-winners carve out the world between them.

Comparative advantage does talk about specialisation, yes, but it isn't stating that a village or some other area should become solely a specialist in anything at all. Rather, it's really stating that we should all do what we're least bad at.

If we're all doing what we are that least bad at then there will be more of everything for us to share through trade. But it's this point made in a Guardian piece about the paper that really has me doing that head scratching: one of the ultra-micro heroes, Pam Warhurst of Incredible Edible said, for example, that the "government will spend millions of pounds on a campaign to eat five a day".

Instead, the local GP centre in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, used wasted scrubland outside to encourage people to plant vegetables and fruit for everyone to use. "It helps if you don't ask permission," she said.

Well, yes, and how is that different from what Adam Smith said up there at the top, taken from Wealth of Nations – the book of his that few bother to read? Or as he didn't say but meant, bugger off and let people get on with it themselves.

The paper goes on to point out that we don't have local community banking because it's really damn hard to fight through the regulatory thicket to be able to open up a new bank. And there's little point in trying to ask for government help about anything at this scale simply because national government doesn't think at this sort of scale.

All of which is entirely true and is very much the old economics explanation for why you don't actually want government at any level trying to micro-manage the economy. It's simply not very good at doing so.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.