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Authority as a market

Now, customers who aren’t very savvy are far more likely to get snookered than in the old days when you could totally rely on your choice of tuxedo store selling you merchandise of the highest quality. On the other hand, sometimes we want a bathing suit or pajamas.

We always had a marketplace of authoritative knowledge. There were many, many sources offering us knowledge goods at various levels of quality and price. But we were reluctant to call it knowledge unless it had the Club brand. Now, the marketplace has become far more explicit, and this has engulfed all authorities. Knowledge no longer seems so binary. It’s all up to what you’re getting dressed for and how much money and time you have available to spend.

This means the old authorities are now facing stiff competition. On the other hand, the “brand” still has real value: There are times when we truly need the highest quality, most certain, truths in the Club. But there are also times when we can’t wait and can’t afford to pay. So long as we’re clear about the quality of what we’re buying—a challenge to all of us, but especially to those of us who are responsible for educating our youth—we are overall better off.

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