Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Arbitrage: The Good Fortune of Creating Value

How to think about arbitrage potential? Those who have owned businesses, experienced self employment or engaged in financial activity, already understand the broad scope of arbitrage potential on a conscious level. Arbitrage - like innovation - can serve as a beginning point, for new organizational patterns which contribute to greater resource utilization. This post is particularly for those who may not closely follow economic discourse. Recently, it came to my attention that inquiring minds want to know: what specifically do I mean, by arbitrage?

First, a few standard interpretations. Investopedia focuses on some financial aspects:
Arbitrage...is a trade that profits by exploiting the price differences of identical or similar financial instruments on different markets or in different forms. Arbitrage exists as a result of market inefficiencies.
However, "market inefficiencies" may be considered relative, since arbitrage can also be a more open ended process in which "inefficiencies" are hardly obvious to the average observer. Wikipedia further broadens the idea of arbitrage, via an explanation of markets:
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations, and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services (including labor) in exchange for money from buyers.
This latter description could be helpful for readers who are uncertain about my framing, regarding the need for greater personal freedom of choice, via a marketplace for time value. Many workplaces are in a process of social transition - one which is less about labor, and more about time based social options. However, this change is so recent, that society has yet to develop meaningful and relevant context, by which time based services could more closely match personal challenges and inclinations. Time arbitrage would allow individuals to discover time value in relation to that of others, so that our institutions would not have to constantly do all the negotiating in our stead.

Some time based services are practical, while others are experiential. Yet both need to occur so as to feel freely chosen by the participants. In many respects, the idea of product is in the eye of the beholder, which is why formal structure for services formation at an individual level could prove so useful. Whether or not one finds value in the sets of resources that individuals offer, depends on the broader context of those resources. How has this context been represented by the entrepreneur, business person or professional who brings the product environment to our attention?

Arbitrage can prove successful enough, to bring new social patterns and economic activities into play. However, it helps to remember that arbitrage can't be forced. No arbitrage process is as simple as anyone might imagine. By way of example, only consider the wide range of skills and talents that individuals gain over the course of a lifetime, and the time investment involved. Often, too few of these investments and challenges have proven viable in the marketplace. The challenge is to make more of the things we enjoy, a dynamic and vital part of our economic lives.

Even though society more often thinks of entrepreneurship in terms of national or global opportunities for creating value, the fact remains that far too little economic value has been created of late in our own environments. Yet local entrepreneurs are in the best position to contribute to our life experiences in an immediate sense. The arbitrage which is possible in our immediate environments, is just as important as the arbitrage of nations. Both hold equal value.

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