Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reversing arbitrary path dependence

Some standards are arbitrary, with little if any technical justification. Certainly anyone who’s carried a pocket full of European AC plugs will attest to this.

The WSJ has an interesting article Monday on how Samoa is changing the handed-ness of its automobiles and roads. It’s giving up the choice of its neighbor American Samoa that matches its “imperial” master (left-hand drive), to match that of much larger neighbors, Aus/NZ who match their former imperial master (right-hand drive). Apparently the Americans (and the French) and their allies are 70% of the world while the Commonwealth countries (plus Japan) are 30% of the world.

In searching for cheap leftover cars from Aus/NZ (much as Mexico takes cheap leftover cars from the US and Eastern Europe does so from the EU), Samoa is swimming against the tide. The WSJ lists 11 countries that have switched from 1946-1974 — all switching from the losing standard (British) to the winner (Franco-American).

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