I have this great idea for an introductary economics lecture. Thousands of years ago the color purple was incredibly expensive to make, being exclusively available through the mucus of mollusks—it took 8,000 of these shellfish to make just one gram of pure dye. The dye was so valuable, Rome, Persia and Eygpt all used it as the color of the empire. In Phoenicia, only the rulers were allowed to wear it. Everywhere else, only the very rich could afford it.
Now look around you. Do you see the color purple on anything you own? Probably; it’s a good color. Go to the store—do you see purple anywhere? Sure do. I have purple post-it notes on my desk; when I’m done with them, I throw them away. At justtoiletpaper.com, you can get toilet paper in any color—red, black, maroon, orange, green and oh yes, purple.
Friday’s Wall Street Journal had an article about the changing face of design. People are inspired by shows such as Trading Spaces and While You Were Out and are working with companies to create their own space and style (including toliet paper). Once, nearly everyone in the world was a farmer. Now the average citizen has a greater and greater chance to make a living in design. Markets make things cheaper, cleaner, faster, stronger and smarter. They increase variety, invent new possiblities, blend cultures and change the very state of how people live, work and play. What was once a color exclusively for the elite few is now one we can wipe their asses with.