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Next: Information Markets Up: Understanding AMIX Previous: The Information Age


We live in what is supposed to be the exemplar of a ``free market economy'' yet virtually nobody, even many who have achieved great success in business, understand the basics of the dynamics of a market. Markets cannot be easily analysed. They are simply places where the collective wisdom of the buyers and sellers of the moment duke it out and somehow, in a chaotic yet historically effective process, arrive at prices and hence values for the goods they exchange.

Markets are so messy and confusing that it takes an intellectual leap to propose a market as the solution for anything. Typically a dealer and/or retail distribution system will predate a market. For example, stock options were available in a dealer market for decades before the emergence of exchange-traded stock options in the 1970s. Although futures markets for grain, cotton, and sugar existed in the 19th century, livestock futures were considered a radical innovation in the 1950s and 1960s, as were financial futures in the 1970s and index futures in the 1980s. Each of these developments created an efficient market in which prices could be assigned to commodities traded in far less visible ways before.

Markets have evolved, then, from concrete commodities such as a carload of wheat, to abstractions such as a 100 shares of Consolidated Diversified Industries, to concepts such as December XYZ 40 Calls, to financial vapourware such as options on futures on international shipping rates.

And yet, we have no markets for information.

Editor: John Walker