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."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tirzah

The first poem at The Freeman is Frederick Turner's Tirzah. It seems The Freeman is certainly starting off strong with this experiment in publishing poetry. If they continue to publish such strong works, that is certainly a good thing. This poem is poetry first and foremost. This shows the people at The Freeman are serious about changing the culture, which is what is truly necessary to get classical liberalism accepted by the general public.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Poetry at The Freeman

The Freeman is now publishing poetry. If you are a libertarian poet, this is a great publishing opportunity. And, like good capitalists, The Freeman will even pay you for your poem!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shakespeare: Business, Hording, Taxes, and Usury

Just when you thought there could not be more about Shakespeare, scholars are now focused on the evidence that he was a shrewd businessman. Not just in regards to his theater, but also in regards to grain. And though I don't know if he was a borrower, it turned how that he was a lender.

So we have Shakespeare the teacher, Shakespeare the actor, Shakespeare the poet, Shakespeare the businessman, and Shakespeare the lender.

How much this "new" information is being brought forth in order to try to bring Shakespeare down a few pegs, it's hard to tell. The assumption by most scholars is that market activity is morally degrading. If Shakespeare was (horror of horrors) not just a businessman, but a horder, a tax evader, and a lender at interest, how can we revere him?

It seems to me that this is prime fodder for literary scholars influenced by Austrian economics. We can use this information to see just how informed Shakespeare was in regards to business. And the reason Shakespeare was hording grain was, no doubt, because of the famines caused by the Little Ice Age. This would suggest, rather, Shakespeare was as wise in business as he was in his poetry. But that is the argument which needs to be made. Further, we can ask, too, if we see these elements in Shakespeare's works, and what they mean in that light. This is culture as spontaneous order influencing the contents of Shakespeare. This is what the Austrian school of economics can bring to bear.