It's been decades since we last came up with a good economic idea. Most people subscribe to capitalism (or any of its variations), even though many are similarly against it ("Damn those capitalists!). Then there's Communism, but history has proven that it just won't work (or perhaps we're not civilized or trusting enough for it to work). So I've been wondering, what's the next economic trend? Or is Capitalism here to stay?
I've been noticing one rising pattern that marks the late 90's and early 2000's. It's preceded by the popularity of the Internet, the realization that networking is important in business, and open source advocates (many of which stem from the computer industry). It's the idea of free stuff. You get something for nothing. Or rather, you don't charge a specific amount. Perhaps the best example of this is Wikipedia. It's a company with big expenses. Yet it's managed to survive for the past few years through donations. It provides a service, yes, but it doesn't charge. Other examples of this, albeit on a smaller scale, are probably the fandoms. Scanlating and fansubbing services are prolific in the Internet, and most of these are services are provided for free, the access to which are usually donation-based services.
But things aren't limited to the Internet. Some marketing promos are essentially "free". Things such as "spread the word to 10 people and get X item for free" are often scams, but some are legitimate promos and get the job done. Another one I'd link to this trend are network marketing companies. True, you still pay for the products, but the profit sharing-like income is akin to spreading the word, sitting back, and relax. We're shifting to thinking hard to earn rather than working hard to earn. Smarts more than effort, although of course, the latter is still necessary.
We also have all these file sharing programs/companies, from the defunct Napster to the rising popularity of eMule and BitTorrent. Who knows what's in store on how these can be tapped for revenue? Blogs are capable of earning money through ads, and both Google and Yahoo are seeking ways to generate income from their email services with spamming people. It gives new meaning to the term "free market".