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Do Economists Know about the Internet?

? The Case for a Long and Deep Recession |


| United Kingdom R&D goes into the tank ?

November 28, 2005

Do Economists Know about the Internet?

Michael Mandel

Economists don't seem to find the Internet very interesting. I looked at the preliminary schedule of presentations for the annual meeting of the economics profession, to be held in Boston in early January. Out of more than 400 sessions, most with two or three presenters, the word 'Internet' only appears 3 times.

That doesn't seem reasonable, does it?

02:18 PM


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Does the lack of the keyword internet indicate a lack of interest? Or has the internet become so pervasive in its short life that it is no longer a separate topic. Rather, its impact is intertwined in the many other presentations. Since I am not an economist, I won't likely attend, so please let me know which way it turns out. - pjw

Posted by: Patrick J. Walker at November 28, 2005 04:27 PM

The absense of the term 'Internet' therefore also implies :

1) The dynamics of globalization are not understood by this group. I bet that 5 years ago, most of them weren't even predicting that India would rise in importance the way it has.

2) The accelerating nature of technological progess is not understood by this group. They must be assuming that the rate of change of the next 50 years will mirror the rate of change of the last 50 years.

3) They apparently haven't pondered why companies like Google, Yahoo, and eBay have market caps higher than companies like GM, Ford, etc. in such a short time. Is this not an interesting development, economically?

Posted by: Kartik at November 28, 2005 05:27 PM

The absence of the word "Internet" in the proceedings or the schedule may or may not indicate a lack of interest. Taken as a whole, its pretty tough to apply economic theory around the Internet; its much easier to break it up into its constituent parts: Infrastructure, Access, and Content. Of course there are overlaps between these three sub-sectors (many of the agents in one sub-sector act in others: think AOL, Verizon, and now...Google).

I would be more surprised if there were a lack of symposia on "Telecom", "IPRs", "Standard setting", etc. these are all topics crucially important to the Internet that are in many ways easier to tackle with economic theory.

Posted by: Christopher at November 29, 2005 09:30 AM

Nothing on standard-setting or IPRs. Three sessions on telecom, as far as I can see.

Posted by: Mike Mandel at November 29, 2005 10:49 AM

.... or, the internet concept and its effects on each economic subset is included in each and every session. The internet is so pervasive on the entire economy that it is treated as a special subjet area within each session, even though not mentioned in the session topic .....

Posted by: Steve at November 29, 2005 02:27 PM

I look at the internet more like a medium rather than the domain itself. So if economists are not considering internet, while considering other mass media, it will be a shock rather than surprise !

The domains also use internet as the medium, if not the only medium in somecases. Economists (or the group discussed) , I believe, in the above case, might have viewed it as a means rather than a result in itself.

Posted by: Sriram at November 30, 2005 11:33 AM

Do economists know about Starbucks?

It seems like they don't, judging by the latest breed of productivity-prohibiting ones popping up everywhere.

I build web sites intended to be valuable to as broad and relevant of an audience as possible. Where I used to live, Starbucks enabled me to do a wonderful job with this work, providing an atmosphere that let me crank out lots of code.

Then I moved. Ouch.

The new Starbucks that are going in near my new place are productivity-prohibiting disasters (although probably more profitable for Starbucks). All of the new ones going in around here are the same: tiny with little or no work area and no fireplace.

Why don't I just work from my office? I'm solo with my project, so the office is like solitary confinement. And I'm not alone. I have a friend that also works solo on his web site and has several times as much revenue, both of us 6-figures yearly.

Please, economists, find a way to get Starbucks to build less profitable stores that let geeks get their creative work done. (And tear down these ones that just went up!)

Posted by: Anonymous at April 19, 2006 06:26 PM

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