Sears Catalog = internet
I have a friend who sells things on eBay, and not just old stuff-- she'll actually bargain-shop and buy new stuff and then flip it on eBay for profit . . . and while this is a savvy use of markets and technology, it's actually nothing new, just an incremental increase in the accuracy of the "fair market value" of goods for sale in the United States . . . and, according to Robert J. Gordon, in his fantastic and comprehensive new book The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War, the great leap forward in fair pricing and markets happened in the early 1900's-- as did many of the other impossible to reproduce leaps forward in technology-- when the Sears catalog become readily available (and free shipping on the items therein) because then these consumers were armed with pricing information from the catalog, and no longer beholden to the often unfair prices given at general stores-- so the Sears catalog was essentially the internet of its time, an incredibly informative piece of technology, and the concurrent adoption of the car (especially the affordable Model T) allowed people to roam far and wide, in search of fair prices for what they were buying and selling . . . so while my friend is in a sense a "fair market price hero," making the price of goods of services across our country more accurate, allowing someone in backwoods Arkansas to enjoy the low prices of a surplus of goods at a TJ Maxx in densely populated central New Jersey, we're only talking about a slight adjustment (and the convenience of shopping at home) and-- which is the thesis of Gordon's book-- there will never be a leap forward in market information as great as the one created by the innovative, earth-shattering inventions of the early twentieth century-- catalogs, cars, and even city department stores . . . but not having to get in the car to buy stuff is still pretty amazing, whether by internet or Sears catalog.