Friday, December 26, 2008

BBC and Containers

The BBC has done a couple of nice reports on the revolution that was created by the brilliant and simple idea to use standardized containers as a unit of shipping. As part of the series of reports they have attached a GPS unit to one container full of whisky leaving Scotland. You can read about this and even track the box at this site.

Container shipping is a great example of creative destruction. It creates winners and losers, and tends not to be noticed unless the losers that have significant political influence focus effort, not on improving their own business model, but instead getting the rest of us, usually through their power over the gubmnt, to prop them up, or to inhibit the coming winners (a standard behaviour of rent-seekers). There is a gigantic example of this response in the news these days, with monstrous hand-wringing over American car firms. Meanwhile, all sorts of other creative destruction going on right now, are proceeding without too much suggestion of a response from the government.

One example is the press, which has tried to respond to the threat of the Internet partly by the transformation of their own companies, but partly also by rent-seeking behaviour, for example the suggestion that there be regulation of the "non-journalists" on the Internet. It will be interesting to see how these and other responses develop.

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