Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Geoffrey West on corporation and cities

My day was made when I read the edge piece today. Geoffrey West, professor, talks about interesting aspects of Why Cities Keep Growing, Corporations And People Always Die, And Life Gets Faster.

As an investor, company life-cycle represents a lesser-debated frontier. Analysts tend to rely on the accounting view of going-concern. Yet, the permanence we take for granted is a mirage. However, understanding when the decline of the firm comes about is easier said than done. 

Dr. Geoffrey West points to yet unpublished (and still being verified) work that says firms scale sub-linearly. In other words as firms get bigger, they become less profitable and they eventually perish. Compare this with cities (which he discusses before firms) that grow super-linearly. In other words as cities get bigger, they become more beneficial for its inhabitants. So then, should investors stop companies from growing? And how should one view the increase in scale. 

I think as investors it highlights a very important and much neglected area.

My book "Subverting Capitalism & Democracy" is available on Amazon and Kindle.