In a simple economy, there is no need for the middlemen in the distribution of goods and services. In such an economy, say, for example, a historical pre-industrialization European economy or a contemporary emerging African village economy, a middleman aiding in distribution of goods and services may never develop. To illustrate this idea, look at a reliably authentic example from fiction written in the early 1800s. In Jane Austen's fictional Emma, Mr. and Mrs. Elton were married in Bath, England.
The text suggests that, after his proposal, they delayed their wedding (similar to all young couples of their social standing) until after their carriage was built. Mr. and Mrs. Elton would not have dealt with a middleman, and the carriage builder would have had no need of a middleman, because the carriage builder and the client (the Eltons) were in near proximity to each other, were able to negotiate a reasonable and socially uniform price with each other in person, and were able to make and take delivery of the goods without concern for transporting the finished product.
A middleman for the distribution for goods and services develops as part of a supply chain when an economy becomes so complex and sophisticated, spanning great distances, differentiating into more and more highly technical divisions that the scenario depicted for the Eltons can no longer exist, when we can no longer go to an independent producer of high or low value items and select or special order without consideration of materials, cost, distance or time.
Abigail Cooke makes the point in "New Role for the Middleman" that even in the e-commerce era opened by the Internet, a middleman adds value to the transaction thus is still a needed member of the supply chain. Some examples she uses are farmers and sports enthusiasts-turned-manufacturers who have limited understanding of expert technological knowledge, expert product management and distribution knowledge or expert transportation scheduling knowledge.
Therefore, while there are producer advantages in cost cutting and profit maximizing resulting from eliminating the middleman, the actual and potential disadvantages (e.g., limiting market area, customer base, finished goods supply options) of eliminating the middleman in today's sophisticated and Internet-based marketplaces make such an elimination impractical on the various levels suggested above.