Free markets and the google village
Posted by aogThursday, 17 July 2003 at 20:01 TrackBack Ping URL

I was thinking about one of the standard issues with regulations raised by libertarians. This theory is that detailed regulation of business is generally unncessary because businesses that harm their customers tend to go out of business and that, more over, general laws against force and fraud can handle the cases of real criminality.

I subscribe to this in general, but one problem has always been the ability to discard a previous reputation by moving. A scamming business can simply fleece the locals and then move on to another location and repeat.

However, that may be far less possible in a Google-ized world. People talk of a “global village” but I’m not sure they really think through what they’re talking about. In this case, one aspect of the village is that people can find out things about you rather easily. In a pre-Information Age society where physical movement is easy but information movement is difficult it’s much easier to abuse customers. However, once information technology catches up, it gets difficult. Nowadays, if a business regular abuses it customers, it’s pretty much a given that at least one of customers will create or use a website to spell it out to the world. And soon enough Google will locate it and make it available to any one who searches for it.

We already have a relatively mainstream idea of doing this to potential romantic partners. I expect that even more people do it to prospective business partners, it’s just not sufficiently outré to become a meme.

This will not, of course, put a complete stop to scams, it will simply raise the bar as a lock on a door does. Only the competent, inventive and thorough scammers will survive - the stupid and the lazy will get tripped up. Think of it as evolution in action.