It occurred to me that I could wake up one morning to find myself in the position of being the despotic leader of Canada. And in the event of that eventuality, I thought I should have a political plan ready, in my back pocket as it were, that I could just whip out, unfold and start reading as soon as the cameras started rolling. That way there would be no awkward silences as I got my thoughts straight.
Moreover, I decided, I should only talk about those things that I could do immediately, that very day. That way I would never have to backtrack on my campaign promises, and everyone would see that I mean what I say. So, without more ado, here is my practical program for the first day of the despotism:
- No more of this summer time/winter time nonsense. No more of remembering to turn the clocks forward and back. As of today, there is only standard time.
- ALL sellers of goods and services MUST show the bottom-line price for any good or service; a bottom-line price includes all charges, taxes, fees, etc etc. If the sign says $11.95 you actually pay $11.95. No exceptions, no excuses.
- All fines, penalties and awards against corporations or other organizations are paid, first by the directors and senior officers of the company or organization, and only second, if required, by the shareholders. Accountability rules. No pay backs, no exceptions, no excuses.
That’ll be it for the first day.
I’ve spent long stretches of my life being interested in fashion; first, in simply enjoying the textures and colours and styles of major couturiers (the more ravishing and physically inspiring the better — think Versace of the 90s); but also later in the enjoyment of reading the business stories behind the catwalks. I spent so much time watching FashionTV that even I was worried. Even later, I read more on the history of various strands of fashion — clothing, makeup, hairstyles, accessories. I still look at the sultry pictures, and I’m still interested in the whole business.
Now, imagine the pleasure I feel at having found this article — Fashionomics, by Jason Potts — that builds fashion into the very guts of modern consumer- capitalism. As Luciano Andreozzi and Marina Bianchi observed recently, fashion is something that is seemingly everywhere except in economic theory.
Yet is it possible that economists have missed something important, here? For fashion seems to be an expression of risk culture on the consumer side, just as entrepreneurship is on the producer side of the economy. Could it be, then, that a rational, open society not only accommodates fashion, but actually requires it as a mechanism of competitive advantage and productivity growth?
The basic thesis is that fashion assists in encouraging the destruction or disposal of old goods in the desire for new.
Fashion fulfils a … role in the consumer economy, by providing a mechanism to periodically liquidate certain elements of a consumer lifestyle, triggering the incentive to learn about new things and to demand new goods. Fashion cycles are wasteful in an equilibrium economy due to the artificially induced depreciation of otherwise functional assets such as clothes, cars, and furnishings, which implies random demand shocks to certain producers and a loss of consumer surplus. Yet they may have an overall role that is welfare-positive in an evolving economy, due to their role in facilitating structural change on the consumer side.
Fascinating stuff about how the real world works, and how some industries and/or companies can take advantage of that knowledge.
First published on 3rd February 2008