The Long Tail
Austin Bay notices that India has nominated Sashi Tharoor to replace Kofi Annan when his term ends. The traditional way of maintain checks and balances within the UN has been to rotate the Secretary General's position between internal political blocs. But commenter Liberty Dad believes this doesn't go far enough.
The real prize would be the US and India setting up a joint, democracy only club (sorry Pakistan). One that could evolve into first, a massive humanitarian org (Indian people, US guns & supplies) and later into an alternate Human Rights peacekeeping force. The UN is terrible partly because it has no competition! The US and India and Japan should start a competing org, but not leave the UN. (Though they could all reduce their funding for the UN and send that funding to the new org.) If the seat was to rotate each 4 years between Mumbai, Tokyo, and Chicago (?) (I was born there! But safest big US city), it could be a big splash.
Once the United Nations is regarded as a "service organization", whose purpose is to provide a products like humanitarian aid or technical advice to its members, efficiency would be expected of it like any other provider. Competition would be natural in that setting. The UN protects itself by subliminally portraying itself as an ideal proto-state -- the sole embodiment of not only present but future international legitimacy. Without striking that mystical chord people would expect as much from the UN as they would from their building sanitation contractors. And what building sanitation contractor could survive on the UN's record?
But maybe the real danger to the UN lies not in the possibility that countries will set up a rival organization, but that private networks will spontaneously arise to gradually take over its functions. Chris Anderson, who is studying the phenomenon of the Long Tail thinks that the impact of being able to reach multitudes of micromarkets is only now beginning. Google may be the symbol of its start, but the Global Poor is the symbol of its ultimate target.
In January I spent a week in India in part to wrap my head around C.K Prahalad's "Bottom of the Pyramid" theory, which in many ways resembles the Long Tail. Are they in fact the same? As I mentioned in an earlier post, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, like the Long Tail, is about finding ways to efficiently address sub-economic markets. In this case, Prahalad is talking about how to sell goods and services to the world's 4 billion poor, for mutual benefit. ...
Both theories are based on the notion that if you break the economic and physical bottlenecks of distribution you can reach a huge, previously neglected market. They both recognize that millions of small sales can, in aggregate, add up to big profits. And they're both focused on ways to lower the cost of providing goods and services so that you can offer them at lower price point while still maintaining margins.
Ed Driscoll, writing at Tech Central Station notes business models that exploit the Long Tail have "demassified" the mass media.
It's not just television entertainers and their audiences that are turned upside down by the growing "demassification" of the media. The economist Thomas Sowell noted last year that during Tom Brokaw's long tenure as NBC News anchorman, he took his show from last place among the big three broadcast networks to number one. But he had more viewers when he was in the cellar, more than 20 years ago, than he had in first place this year when he retired, because fewer people now watch NBC, ABC, or CBS News. First is not always biggest if the pie has shrunk.
The first signs of the fragmentation of mass culture were documented 25 years ago in Alvin and Heidi Toffler's seminal The Third Wave. It began with cable and satellite television's ever-growing number of narrowcasted channels, then with talk radio, and now exponentially with the Internet.
A recent post at the Belmont Club described how the Jihad 2.0 and its Internet enemies and rivals -- have created virtual insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, movements and countermovements and communities of all types over the Internet -- and threatened to similarly transform politics. The UN is now in the process of demanding billions to revamp its Turtle Bay headquarters, which is pathetic in it's way: a last century project of an ex-future world state rooted firmly in the past.