I don’t like pointing the finger at losers all the time, although the RIAA’s legal strategies deserve constant denunciation and ridicule.
Here’s a good example of a good idea made good (despite rocky economic conditions), written by the inspiring Virginia Postrel.
The sea/land/rail container has transformed the global economy:
Just as the computer revolutionized the flow of information, the shipping container revolutionized the flow of goods. As generic as the 1’s and 0’s of computer code, a container can hold just about anything, from coffee beans to cellphone components. By sharply cutting costs and enhancing reliability, container-based shipping enormously increased the volume of international trade and made complex supply chains possible.
”Low transport costs help make it economically sensible for a factory in China to produce Barbie dolls with Japanese hair, Taiwanese plastics and American colorants, and ship them off to eager girls all over the world,” writes Marc Levinson in the new book The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (Princeton University Press).
The key moment was when a businessman stopped looking at shipping in terms of each component, but decided that customers care about the start and finish points, the time it takes and cost. From there, and the added reduction in pilfering, speedier loading/unloading and border control processing, there has been a tremendous improvement in global trade. The nearest equivalents in the past I can think of are the amphora and the barrel.
I found Virginia Postrel’s article via Reason Online. Only sad note, her column was the last of its kind in the New York Times:
This is Virginia Postrel’s last Economic Scene column. She has written columns under that heading for the past six years.
However, the same blog post on Reason’s ‘Hit and Run’ describes the use of containers for building homes, shops and even a Ukrainian shopping mall. I hope Brian Micklethwait tells us what he thinks about it all.