Herbert Spencer on Amazon (and Uber)
By Alberto Mingardi
I’ve been re-reading some of Herbert Spencer’s works, for a LibertyMatters discussion that began with a very insightful article of George H. Smith. In Spencer’s The Study of Sociology I’ve stumbled upon this rather amusing quotation that I’d like to share:
the difficulties of altering the settled routine are, if not insurmountable, still very considerable. Take, for instance, the commerce of literature. In days when a letter cost a shilling and no book-post existed, there grew up an organization of wholesalers and retailers to convey books from publishers to readers: a profit being reaped by each distributing agent, primary and secondary. Now that a book may be ordered for a half-penny and sent for a few pence, the old system of distribution might be replaced by one that would diminish the cost of transfer, and lower the prices of books. But the interests of distributors practically negative the change. An advertised proposal to supply a book direct by post at a reduced rate, offends the trade; and by ignoring the book they check its sale more than its sale is otherwise furthered. And so an old organization, once very serviceable, now stands in the way of a better organization.