Thursday, February 17, 2011

Literary Thoughts Sprung From "The Limits of Market Efficiency"

In a recent article, James Buchanan says of law,

Suppose that a law, rule, or convention emerges and exists, one that is recognized, even if by all participants, to be less enhancing to their well-being than a readily imagined alternative. The opportunity cannot, however, be exploited by single entrepreneurs-artibrageurs because of the nonpartitionability of law, as such. There is nothing comparable to the profit-loss dynamic of the market that will insure any continuing thrust toward more desirable outcomes. The rule in question may survive while remaining destructive of potential value, at least in an opportunity cost sense.
I want to draw special attention to the last two sentences. It seems to me that this argument is equally valid for the production of art when considered within their own spontaneous orders. Genres of art and literature have their own rules, of course. And one could look at a work of art or literature as the author following a set of rules in his or her own particular way. Each individual following the rules will not necessarily result in uniformity of action, but could in fact result in a variety of actions. But this depends on if the rule in question is oppressive or generative. The evolution of art is thus an evolution in the rules of art, and the expression of particular individuals' following of those rules. The emergence of a new set or literary rules may not result in "more desirable outcomes" for the readers of literature. In fact, if enough people follow a rule that does not result in a desirable outcome, one may fidn that the rule in question results in the destruction "of potential value, at least in the opportunity cost sense," insofar as fewer people read contemporary literature. It would then behoove one to try to find out what rules are most compatible with human literary enjoyment. Perhaps the economics of literature point to the need for more Darwinian explanations?

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