Markets Are Eating The World
For the last hundred years, individuals have worked for firms, and, by historical standards, large ones.
That many of us live in suburbs and drive our cars into the city to go to work at a large office building is so normal that it seems like it has always been this way. Of course, it hasn’t. In 1870, almost 50 percent of the U.S. population was employed in agriculture. As of 2008, less than 2 percent of the population is directly employed in agriculture, but many people worked for these relatively new things called “corporations.”
Many internet pioneers in the 90’s believed that the internet would start to break up corporations by letting people communicate and organize over a vast, open network. This reality has sort-of played out: the “gig economy” and rise in freelancing are persistent, if not explosive, trends. With the re-emergence of blockchain technology, talk of “the death of the firm” has returned. Is there reason to think this time will be different?
To understand why this time might (or might not) be different, let us first take a brief look back into Coasean economics and mechanical clocks.