Arnold Kling  

The Food Court Economy

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Resistance versus Avoidance... Usually Look on the Bri...

In the second essay in a series, I write,


Think of the economy as a restaurant, or, better yet, as a Food Court. Behind the Food Court there is a farm, where plants and animals grow spontaneously in adequate but limited supplies...

When the Food Court economy was relatively undeveloped, there were only a few recipes. They required a lot of work to prepare, and the meals were monotonous, low in nutrition, and not very tasty. Over time, however, people discover new recipes, which add variety, efficiency, and pleasure to the Food Court. This is the process of economic growth.


The essay goes on to give an account of the emergence of capital markets. It then looks at the issue of intellectual property.

The trend as I see it is for the balance to continue to shift in most industries toward greater importance for research and testing, with relatively less importance to physical plant and equipment. In other words, I see intellectual property becoming a larger component of capital, as the economy drifts in the direction of the Food Court metaphor. As a result, intellectual property law is going to be increasingly important as we move forward.



COMMENTS (3 to date)
Mark Horn writes:

I don't normally post glowingly complimentary comments. But I just want to thank you for this article. The metaphor is perfect. I intend to use it to explain a number of econ basics to my wife that I've (thus far) failed to adequately convey...

But wait? Can I do this? Am I violating your intellectual property rights by re-using the metaphor that you created? Do I have your permission? Explicitly or implicitly? Do I need it? What are reasonable bounds on intellectual property? Should there be any bounds?

spencer writes:

This is already a strong trend in business organizations. If you include management skills in what you call intellectual property it is what is now driving much of what is going on in business organizations. A modern firm takes something from a researcher in Europe, combines it with production in China, and distribution in North America to bring a product to market.

Isn't this exactly what you are talking about.

Moreover, the internet is making the modern era organization more efficient and moving the economy closer to the economists perfect competition model.

Dewey Munson writes:
which add variety, efficiency, and pleasure to the Food Court. This is the process of economic growth.

Given constant obesity aren't we eating the same food?

toward greater importance for research and testing, with relatively less importance to physical plant and equipment

How does research and testing convert to a usable good without physical plant and equipment? By and large efficiency increases should be equal.

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