Tyler Cowen outlines some themes of his new book, Create Your Own Economy, in Fast Company.
In a typical day, I might write two tweets, peruse 15 blogs (Jason Kottke and Penelope Trunk are two must-reads), and watch James Brown dance on YouTube. If it’s a really fun day, I’ll read more blogs, scour the Web for movie reviews, browse eBay, Google myself, and spend more time on Twitter. None of this costs me a penny, and yet I am producing plenty – namely, my own interest and amusement.
More and more, “production” – that word my fellow economists have worked over for generations – has become interior to the human mind rather than set on a factory floor. A tweet may not look like much, but its value lies in the mental dimension. You use Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other Web services to construct a complex meld of stories, images, and feelings in your mind. No single bit seems weighty on its own, but the resulting blend is rich in joy, emotion, and suspense. This is a new form of drama, and it plays out inside us – with technological assistance – rather than on a public stage.
Online, you can literally create your own economy. By that, I mean you can build an ordered set of opportunities for prosperity and pleasure, analogous to a traditional economy but held in your head. There is no obvious monetary transaction, but you’re using your limited resources to get a better deal – the very essence of economics. In fact, “economics” comes from oikonomia, the ancient Greek word for household management, and the modern practice of economics is returning to that idea.
His day sounds a lot like mine, though on the best of them I’d find time for a road ride. His argument makes a lot of sense.