Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Effect of Magic on an Economy

At Bleeding Heart Libertarianism, Kevin Vallier has done an analysis of The Great Stagnation in Westeros. He is, of course, doing an analysis of the economic situation of the fictional world created by George R. R. Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire novels.

He concludes that the presence of magic in the world is what has stagnated development in that world for years. Now, since we live in a world without magic, one might wonder exactly where an economic analysis of such a world gets us? Other than it being an insight into Martin's ability to understand the economic cause-and-effect of magic, suggesting a keen understanding of human nature (as the popularity of the books and the HBO series also demonstrate), what might we learn from such an analysis? I have my own ideas, but I would be interested to see what others thought.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Subjective Artistic Value at LibertyChat

I am now periodically blogging at LibertyChat. This week's posting is on Subjective Artistic Value.

Many artists are leftists perhaps in no small part because, as an artist, the labor theory of value just seems right. You finish a work, and you are outraged that people don't value it as much as you do. You, after all, know how hard you worked on it. You put in all that work over the years, gaining experience. You put in all that thought. You paid for your supplies and worked so long on your project. If there is anyone who wants the labor theory of value to be true, it's an artist.

But it's simply not true. It's simply not.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Economics as a Science of Choice and Literary Production

If economics is a science of choice, there is certainly a strong argument for using it to understand literary production -- or artistic production of any kind. When an artist creates a work of art, that artist has to make a variety of choices. Since this is a literature blog, let us focus on literature.

What sorts of choices does a poet, for example, make?

The poet will have to decide what sort of rhythm in which to write -- whether that rhythm be a formal rhythm or a "natural" rhythm. Will there be rhyme? If so, what kind of rhyme? If end rhyme is used, what rhyme scheme? Will it be formal verse? If so, what form?

What will be the poem's topic? How will the poet deal with the topic? What images and ideas will the poet deal with? What words will be used? What effects does the poet want to create?

The poet will be making all of these choices. Some of these choices will be made consciously. Some will be made in light of the language the author is using. Some will be made in light of the culture in which the author is writing (sometimes in conscious opposition; sometimes in unconscious cooperation). Some will be made with the conscious use of rules; some will be made using the kind of tacit knowledge that comes about from writing many poems (if the poet has been writing poetry for many years and has internalized the rules).

The poet will use tacit knowledge, personal knowledge, local knowledge, cultural knowledge, knowledge of the language, historical knowledge, literary knowledge, etc. All of these kinds of knowledge will contribute to the creation of the exact poem(s) the poet will write. This makes him akin to a Hayekian/Kirznerian entrepreneur.

If we view economics as a science of choice, much opens up in its use in understanding the creation of art.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Individualism vs. Collectivism -- Culture Affects Wealth Creation

Individualist cultures are wealthier than collectivist cultures. Of course, the literary themes within a given culture greatly affect that culture -- and of course the culture affects the themes. Literature that reinforces collectivism is going to thus contribute to economic stagnation, while literature that reinforces individualism is going to contribute to economic growth and the creation of wealth. Of course, as Hayek noted, the kind of individualism also matters. There are kinds of individualism -- solipsistic, radical individualistic individualism -- that give rise to collectivism, meaning the literatures that promote such an individualism will themselves contribute to the creation of a collectivist culture and, thus, to economic stagnation. Anyone want to list literary works that promote radical individualism, social individualism, and collectivism? I would not be surprised if we found geographical patterns.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Patterns of Literary Misery Match Economic Misery

Big data does in fact bring some interesting insights. A pattern of literary mood and societal mood created by economic conditions correlate, with a 10 year lag on literary mood. Paul Ormerod, an economist and coauthor of the piece, argues that, "The results suggest quite clearly that, contrary to post-modern literary theory, literature serves a purpose. It informs people about the human condition, and the content adapts to the conditions of the time." We should not be surprised at the lag, given the fact that artists have to first process the emotions, then write the work, then get the work published. All of this is a multi-year process -- apparently averaging out to about 10 years.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ruth Bendict, Spontaneous Order Theorist

Austrian economists ought to familiarize themselves with the work of anthroplogist Ruth Benedict. Her book, Patterns of Culture argues that cultures are, essentially, spontaneous orders (though she does not use the term). Consider the following quote, wherein Benedict argues that the integration of the various parts of a culture into that particular culture

is not in the least mystical. It is the same process by which a style in art comes into being and persists. Gothic architecture, beginning in what was hardly more than a preference for altitude and light, became, by the operation of some canon of taste that developed within its technique, the unique and homogeneous art of the thirteenth century. It discarded elements that were incongruous, modified others to its purposes, and inverted otehrs that accorded with its taste. When we describe the process historically, we inevitably use animistic forms of expression as if there were choice and purpose in the growth of this great art-form. But this is due to the difficulty in our language-forms. There was no conscious choice, and no purpose. What was at first no more than a slight bias in local forms and techniques expressed itself more and more forcibly, integrated itself in more and more definite standards, and eventuated in Gothic art.

What has happened in the great art-styles happens also in cultures as a whole. All the miscellaneous behavior directed toward getting a living, mating, warring, and woshipping the gods, is made over into consistent patterns in accordance with unconscious canons of choice that develop within the culture. (47-8)

What we see here is art as a spontaneous order. She also mentions the catallaxy (getting a living), the institution of marriage, the political order and instituttions (warring), and the religious order and institutions (worshipping the gods), but if we generalized this out, we would see the same arguments made for language, morals, technology, science, etc. These are network effects resulting in a variety of orders and institutions within those orders.

I am currently reading Benedict's Patterns of Culture, and I must say that so far I keep seeing her describing spontaneous order after spontaneous order. If Austrians have not yet discovered her work, they should.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Best Novels and Plays About Business: Results of a Survey

Ed Younkins shares the following with AEL readers:



The Best Novels and Plays About Business: Results of  a Survey

My Koch Research Fellows, Jomana Krupinski and Kaitlyn Pytlak, and I conducted a survey of 250 Business and Economics professors and 250 English and Literature professors. Colleges and universities were randomly selected and then professors from the relevant departments were also randomly selected to receive our email survey. They were asked to list and rank from 1 to 10 what they considered to be the best novels and plays about business. We did not attempt to define the word “best” leaving that decision to each respondent. We obtained sixty-nine usable responses from Business and Economics professors and fifty-one from English and Literature professors. A list of fifty choices was given to each respondent and an opportunity was presented to vote for works not on the list. When tabulating the results, ten points were given to a novel or play in a respondent’s first position, nine points were assigned to a work in the second position, and so on, down to the tenth listed work which was allotted one point. The table below presents the top twenty-five novels and plays for each group of professors. Interestingly, fifteen works made both top-25 lists. These are noted in bold type.




The Best Novels and Plays about Business

Business and Economics Professors

English and Literature Professors

1.   Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
457
1.   Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
282
2.   The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
297
2.   Bartleby: The Scrivener, Herman Melville
259
3.   The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
216
3.   The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
231
4.   Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
164
4.   The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
143
5.   Time Will Run Back, Henry Hazlitt
145
5.   Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis
126
6.   The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
136
6.   Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet
121
7.   The Gilded Age, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
95
7.   The Rise of Silas Lapham, William Dean Howells
98
8.   Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet
89
8.   American Pastoral, Philip Roth
85
9.   God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
57
9.   The Confidence Man, Herman Melville
75
10. Other People’s Money, Jerry Sterner
57
10. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
75
11. Bartleby: The Scrivener, Herman Melville
55
11. A Hazard of New Fortunes, William Dean Howells
66
12. A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe
48
12. The Octopus, Frank Norris
65
13. Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis
47
13. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
62
14. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Sloan Wilson
43
14. Nice Work, David Lodge
62
15. Rabbit is Rich, John Updike
41
15. The Big Money, John Dos Passos
59
16. Major Barbara, George Bernard Shaw
39
16. The Gilded Age, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
58
17. Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens
33
17. Rabbit is Rich, John Updike
55
18. The Goal, Eliyahu M. Goldratt
33
18. Seize the Day, Saul Bellow
55
19. The Driver, Garet Garrett
32
19. Mildred Pierce, James M. Cain
54
20. Executive Suite, Cameron Hawley
32
20. The Financier, Theodore Dreiser
53
21. The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope
32
21. Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens
51
22. American Pastoral, Philip Roth
29
22. Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey
45
23. The Octopus, Frank Norris
29
23. The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald
44
24. Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey
28
24. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
43
25. North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
27
25. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
39

Friday, May 3, 2013

Arts Funding Debate at The Economist

The Economist is hosting a debate on Arts Funding. It begins with Alan Davey discussing how Keynes set up Britain's art council and arguing that, apparently, there was no art funding at all prior that, and that therefore there was no art being produced to speak of (how else is one to interpret phrases such as "Britain after the second world war didn't have much by way of arts provision" or defining Keynes' goal as being "essentially an attempt to address market failure"?) Mr. Davey is apparently unaware of the appearance of the distinctly anti-establishment Modernist movement that arose at the time and the fact that the artists without any public support were in fact the most productive and most creative of all the artists working. Pete Spence takes up the other argument, pointing out that government spending on art tends to crowd out competitive funding, support safe (conservative in the worst sense) art, and undermine market signals that drive artistic innovation and creativity. In the end, "No elite panel of experts should decide what art is best for us. We should decide what is best for ourselves. The dead hand of the state doesn't have much going for it—we should put it to rest and embrace the messy, diverse, vibrant tapestry of commercial funding."