In the most recent Economist the main leader is entitled “Hyperactive, yet passive”. It is talking about American industry. All sorts of phenomena are increasingly affecting American employers — more regulations, more impact of smartphone apps, more turnover of shares, more credentialism, more training – and making them more frenzied. Yet at the same time, they’re not dynamic enough with innovations, new sales. All the big consumer goods firms are financially transfixed, with only those in the communication field doing well — and these, increasingly, don’t know what to do with their huge and accumulating profits.
Has the penny not dropped? No uniquely new consumer goods have been thought up or sold for at least 30 years. There’s nothing new available by which people can carry demonstrate to friends and neighbours their social aspirations. We’re moving into quite different economic territory where fees, not business profits, are the paradigm. And once the personal computer and the smartphone become as well-developed, mature, standardised and totally friendly as, say, the automobile, typical home furnishings or the bicycle have become — and that won’t be long now — we’ll be well into Phase 2 of the industrial revolution before we know it.