Fundamentally, trading allows specialisation, and this increases efficiency and diversity. So why is global trade resulting in more homogenisation, not more diversity? The same shops on every high street, the same stuff in all the shops. I remember the first time i went into a Toys R Us – A toy shop not just bigger than any i’d seen before, but vastly bigger than any i’d seen before. I expected a vastly larger choice of toys. And of course I was wrong, not more choice of toys, but larger piles of a smaller choice of toys. Why is the mass market operating to restrict choice?!

I’d appreciate any systems-level or economics-based answers to this. Some possible angles I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Choice isn’t really being restricted: if I want to I don’t have to go to Toys R Us, I can go anywhere I want to buy whatever I want. That’s real choice. [I’d argue that in an important sense there is still and increase in homogenisation not diversivication, and that’s what I’d like explaining]
  • Trade only leads to specialisation of labour, indirectly it leads to standardisation of products (production lines, etc). Although there are an increasing number of economic roles for me to play in modern consumer society, there’s no reason why specialisation should make that society more diverse [in which case, why does consumerism seem to promote homogenisation?]
  • We’re seeing the effects of a false market, one that has been distorted (eg by government-supported monopolies, by trade laws, etc). A real free market would lead to more diversity. [I doubt this is true, not least because ‘free’ markets are impossible, markets are always societal constructions. Additionally I suspect that any market that is free in the sense of universally connected with total capital and labour mobility would be totally unstable and prone to epidemics like any ecosystem without semi-permeable barriers. [Er maybe this is a point to expand on in another post]. Secondly, even if this arguement is true, what is it about the current market system that reduces diversity?]
  • Answers on a postcard email please….