2001 was a bad year for Internet Analysts. This is one of the last publications by Keenan Vision where I followed up my 1999 piece about small businesses doing e-commerce over the Internet.
Here's the introduction. You can download the full PDF here.
E-Merchant 2001: Accelerating Free Trade
In the aftermath of the Internet bubble small business e-commerce services are still going strong
By Vernon Keenan November 7, 2001
For the average American or European it seems like common sense that anyone may choose to own a business and operate as a business entity. However, this entitlement comes only after centuries of bloody progress in Western values, including individual liberty and freedom.
After civilization emerged from the Middle Ages and the Crusades the global economy was governed by mercantilism, which was an economic policy prevailing in Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Under mercantilism governmental control was exercised over industry and trade in accordance with the theory that national strength is increased by a preponderance of exports over imports. Empires and royal families controlled all international trade and exerted military force to colonize the New World as new sources of production and to have power over trading routes.
Around the same time that mercantilism was developed Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press which mechanized the production of pamphlets and books. The automation of book production had an explosive cultural effect in Europe, where people learned to read, and the religious movement gained power.
From the time of the American Revolution to the dawn of the 21st century advances in the speed and richness of remote communication have mostly accelerated the spread of liberty and freedom, especially concerning commerce. The power of the printed word was in force during the 18th century when the personal freedom and Free Trade movements took fire from American, French, and British writers, generating the American and French revolutions. In particular, English economist Adam Smith wrote extensively about Free Trade in his influential masterpiece, The Wealth of Nations (1776).
Free Trade expanded in Europe and America in the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution made capitalists strong enough to conduct global trade, displacing government-run trade. Free Trade was the operating theory of international trade until the early 20th century when worldwide discord stimulated protectionist governmental policies. The protectionist practices formed a kind of neomerchantilism, which was strongly practiced until after the Great Depression and World War II.
This scene from the Sacramento Delta during the 1849 California Gold Rush, exemplifies the role of individual merchants in a Free Trade system
As personal freedom and liberty reasserted itself in the second half of the 20th century instant global communication was developed, with capabilities ranging from making an international telephone call to a live worldwide television broadcast to 2 billion people. Starting with the telephone, telegraph, radio, and television, the century ended with the Internet rapidly advancing towards becoming the richest and most widespread global medium for remote human communication. Globalism, which to some people describes a borderless economy focused on individual company productivity, is now the world’s newest economic paradigm.
Not surprisingly, a new type business is emerging out of the convergence between Globalism and instant worldwide communication. These new businesses, which Keenan Vision calls e-merchants, may be seen as the ultimate expression of commercial freedom and liberty. The e-merchant is a small business which performs all or part of its economic activity using the Internet. Keenan Vision considers an e-merchant to be a business with fewer than 100 employees that offers a catalog of products and services, confirms orders, and accepts payment with Internet technology.
The global nature of the Internet gives a single individual an unprecedented level freedom to perform commerce on a global basis, especially products and services that have an intangible nature and may be delivered entirely over the Internet.
As the power of freedom and liberty has been enhanced by remote human communication in the last 300 years, the power of an individual to become a branded entity in global commerce is now just beginning to be felt.
The adoption of the Internet as a primary or auxiliary way to do commerce is as inevitable as the adoption of the paper catalog, telephone, fax, and advertising media as tools of commerce. The difference is that with e-merchant technology an individua