Seminar with Professor Lawrence Busch
Currently, we live in a world in which markets play an outsized part. Although less obvious, we also live in a world of standards. The contemporary literature on markets in mainstream economics assumes that objects, services, firms and consumers are all standardized. This has not always been the case. Markets and standards have become intimately linked through their shared histories. Once one begins to examine that relationship more carefully, it becomes clear that (1) this is typical only of what might be called ‘high modernity’ and may even be in decline, and (2) standards perform many functions essential to the creation and maintenance of contemporary markets. Of late markets and (less visibly) standards have been used to pursue a wide range of ends. ‘Market Design’ has been recognized as feasible. Hence, we need to abandon our Cartesian or even Platonic view of standards and markets and accept that we live in a world with multiple ends. In such a world it behooves us to pay attention to the ways in which standards can be and are used to create, modify and even destroy markets – in short to build a multi-polar world.