Time To Open Up Online Shopping

In both Europe and Latin America, the Internet has been slow to develop the sort of mass appeal it has gained in the U.S. But as computer use increases in those regions, so does Internet use, and one application consumers love is electronic shopping. Online retailing is set to boom in both places.

The move is so rapid that it's already causing speculation about a backlash from powerful interest groups. Main Street merchants want to restrict electronic competitors. Governments fearful about losing value-added revenues are looking for ways to tax electronic transactions. And latter-day Luddites may want to slam the brakes on the trend simply out of ignorance. All of these interests need to be resisted and their ideas rejected.

Governments should let online trade flourish. If they try to milk it for revenue, they'll kill it in infancy, and set their economies back a generation. That's because online systems offer a highly efficient distribution system and a powerful inflation-fighting tool that can be used to break down restrictive laws, such as those that limit shopping hours.

The fact is, the so-called relentless competition from Internet shopping threatens mainly the lazy, the inefficient, and the price gougers. The relatively low cost of setting up an Internet retailing operation means that neither pure size nor a national or international store network offers the protection to inefficient retailers that they once did. Let the electronic shopping begin.