Friday, December 31, 2010

Creativity Requires Dissatisfaction

Mises' insights regarding what impels human action are applicable to any kind of human action, including creative action. Why does the creative artist create? Because they feel dissatisfied. There is something they want to be in the world that is not in the world, and they create to put it there. They may succeed -- and thus create nothing else. Or they may fail and fail again (or, as Thomas Edison said in regards to all his attempts to invent the lightbulb, discover a large number of ways that don't work) -- and thus create and create and create. Competition among artists also compels creation, of course, since competition is of course a discovery process, as Hayek rightly observed. But let us stick with this idea of the artist as dissatisfied.

For example, I find little in Mises to disagree with -- a few details one can attribute to what was known and not known at the time, but nothing of real substance in regards to his ideas. With Hayek, though I find myself agreeing, disagreeing, sort of agreeing, and all sorts of other variations. He's right in interesting ways, and wrong in interesting ways. He's always willing to throw out an idea that's not fully formed or thought through, and is then equally willing to have someone develop it -- or explain why they reject it. Mises is marvelous if you are looking for great quotes supporting what you believe; Hayek is marvelous if you want to think in new ways and develop more ideas. Reading Mises is satisfying. Hayek is much more generative of scholarly work, precisely because he is so unsatisfying. This is a lesson in economics consistent with Mises:

We call contentment or satisfaction that state of a human being which does not and cannot result in any action. Acting man is easger to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory. His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims as bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness. A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things. He would have neither wishes nor desires; he would be prefectly happy. He would not act; he would simply live free from care. (Human Action, 13-14)

Peter Boettke has argued that Mises is the greatest economist to have ever lived. (You can listen to his podcast at EconTalk.) Yet, most Austrian economists seem to deal with Hayek. Why? Mises is satisfying, and thus does not drive one to act; Hayek is unsatisfying, and thus impels one to act. That's why scholars love him. Dissatisfaction creates disequeilibrium which drives growth and creativity. I read Mises and say, "Yes, yes, yes, and yes!" And then I turn to Hayek so I have something to write about.

One may argue that I am in fact using Mises now. Yes, but I am inspired to use him prcisely because I am using him to discuss literature, which creates a disequilibrium in the attempt to put the two -- Mises and literary analysis -- together.

Let us consider this from an artist's point of view. I read Camus's "The Plague," and am satisfied that there is nothing more that can be done. It is a marvelous piece of fiction. And it is the pinnacle of that style of novel. Yet I read anything by Faulkner (another Nobel Prize winner), and I'm inspired. There is so much that is good -- and so much that can be rethought and rewritten. His novels have inspired writers from Milan Kundera to Toni Morrison to Cormac McCarthy. He makes me want to write novels and short stories. Some works are satisfying -- one reaches an equilibrium with them; other works are dissatisfying -- one is in disequilibrium after reading them and, thus, in a creative space. Creativity only occurs when a system is in a far-from-equilibrium state. One work may create that; in other cases, it is the combination of several works. Life, too, invades. The creative artist is in fact always already in a far-from-equilibrium state, always ready to create. The smallest input can create a butterfly effect and set the artist off to create a new work. Thus, works which may be satisfying to the average reader can be inspiration to the creative artist.

The creative person -- whether the creative artist or the inventor -- is not just dissatisfied with what he has. The creative person is dissatisfied with what is available. The creative person is dissatisfied with what exists -- and sets about trying to create that thing with the world is, in his estimation, missing. His actions, of course, create dissatisfaction in others, who now know about this newly created thing they had never seen and never knew they wanted until it was invented. Thus the creative person plants the seeds of dissatisfaction in the world, creating the very conditions for human action.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Free to Choose Your Own Ending

Individual choice comes to film with Turbulence. It reminds me of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. This raises some questions, though, regarding the nature of storytelling. For example, consider the fact that in a standard narrative, we are watching to learn what the characters will do, which teaches us something about other minds and other choices. However, if we are deciding what the characters will do, what is the role of narrative? Does film become something more akin to a video game? Certainly such films could be interesting from a game-theoretic perspective -- but it would tell us more about the audience than the film itself, would it not? Are there other issues one could raise?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mises on the Creative Genius

From Human Action, 139-140:

The Creative Genius

Far above the millions that come and pass away tower the pioneers, the men whose deeds and ideas cut out new paths for mankind. For the pioneering genius(12) to create is the essence of life. To live means for him to create.

The activities of these prodigious men cannot be fully subsumed under the praxeological concept of labor. They are not labor because they are for the genius not means, but ends in themselves. He lives in creating and inventing. For him there is not leisure, only intermissions of temporary sterility and frustration. His incentive is not the desire to bring about a result, but the act of producing it. The accomplishment gratifies him neither mediately nor immediately. It does not gratify him mediately because his fellow men at best are unconcerned about it, more often even greet it with taunts, sneers, and persecution. Many a genius could have used his gifts to render his life agreeable and joyful; he did not even consider such a possibility and chose the thorny path without hesitation. The genius wants to accomplish what he considers his mission, even if he knows that he moves toward his own disaster.

Neither does the genius derive immediate gratification from his creative activities. Creating is for him agony and torment, a ceaseless excruciating struggle against internal and external obstacles; it consumes and crushes him. The Austrian poet Grillparzer has depicted this in a touching poem “Farewell to Gastein.”(13) We may assume that in writing it he thought not only of his own sorrows and tribulations but also of the greater sufferings of a much greater man, of Beethoven, whose fate resembled his own and whom he understood, through devoted affection and sympathetic appreciation, better than any other of his contemporaries. Nietzsche compared himself to the flame that insatiably consumes and destroys itself.(14) Such agonies are phenomena which have nothing in common with the connotations generally attached to the notions of work and labor, production and success, breadwinning and enjoyment of life.

The achievements of the creative innovator, his thoughts and theories, his poems, paintings, and compositions, cannot be classified praxeologically as products of labor. They are not the outcome of the employment of labor which could have been devoted to the production of other amenities for the “production” of a masterpiece of philosophy, art, or literature. Thinkers, poets, and artists are sometimes unfit to accomplish any other work. At any rate, the time and toil which they devote to creative activities are not withheld from employment for other purposes. Conditions may sometimes doom to sterility a man who would have had the power to bring forth things unheard of; they may leave him no alternative other than to die from starvation or to use all his forces in the struggle for mere physical survival. But if the genius succeeds in achieving his goals, nobody but himself pays the “costs” incurred. Goethe was perhaps in some respects hampered by his functions at the court of Weimar. But certainly he would not have accomplished more in his official duties as minister of state, theater manager, and administrator of mines if he had not written his plays, poems, and novels.

It is, furthermore, impossible to substitute other people’s work for that of the creators. If Dante and Beethoven had not existed, one would not have been in a position to produce the Divina Commedia or the Ninth Symphony by assigning other men to these tasks. Neither society nor single individuals can substantially further the genius and his work. The highest intensity of the “demand” and the most peremptory order of the government are ineffectual. The genius does not deliver to order. Men cannot improve the natural and social conditions which bring about the creator and his creation. It is impossible to rear geniuses by eugenics, to train them by schooling, or to organize their activities. But, of course, one can organize society in such a way that no room is left for pioneers and their path-breaking.

The creative accomplishment of the genius is an ultimate fact for praxeology. It comes to pass in history as a free gift of destiny. It is by no means the result of production in the sense in which economics uses
this term.

12. Leaders [Fürhrers] are not pioneers. They guide people along the tracks
pioneers have laid. The pioneer clears a road through land hitherto inaccessible
and may not care whether or not anybody wants to go the new way. The leader
directs people toward the goal they want to reach.
13. It seems that there is no English translation of this poem. The book of
Douglas Yates (Franz Grillparzer, a Critical Biography, Oxford, 1946), I, 57,
gives a short English resume of its content.
14. For a translation of Nietzsche’s poem see M.A. Mügge, Friedrich
Nietzsche (New York, 1911), p. 275.

Where does one even begin in discussing this? Being a creative genius himself, he certainly knows of what he speaks. As a poet/playwright/fiction writer myself, I can certainly attest to the truth of what he says in regards to the creative person. Of course, this creates the following problem, as explained by Mises:

As far as a special kind of labor gives a limited amount of pleasure and not pain, immediate gratification and not disutility, no wages are allowed for its performance. No the contrary, the performer, the "worker," must buy the pleasure and pay for it. (138)

Mises is here talking about people who do things like hunt, which is work for some people, yet pleasure for others (there are many such activities -- indeed, many activities of the past which were necessary for survival have become pastimes: fishing, gardening, rowing, sailing, etc.), but it is applicable to a certain degree to what he says about the creative person (he in fact says what creative people do is not in fact labor at all -- making remuneration even more problematic). Yet this leaves one with the question of what one is then to do to eat and clothe and house oneself? Naturally, there are ways to nevertheless get paid: playwrights are paid for performances of their plays, novelists are paid to publish their novels, musicians are paid for performances, etc. But the poet doesn't get paid. Neither does the scholar, directly (excepting books, but that might as well be unpaid, considering the amount of money one in fact tends to get for scholarly books). Much of what the creative person gets is prestige. That can pay off, of course -- even in monetary gain -- but it's not paid labor in the same sense. One does not pay a novelist for the work put into the novel, but for the finished product. The novelist who creates a book in a month and one who creates a book in 10 years will each get the same amount of money for sales (all other things being equal, of course).

It seems, then, that one pays for works of art in the same way as one "pays for" religious experiences, through a gift or sacrifice, as David Mamet argues. The creative person too makes a sacrifice in creating the work -- one which may or may not "pay off" in financial gain. Of course, the creative person creates regardless of financial payoff, so long as the means and time is available. Of course, many creative people will find the means and time, sacrificing in other places in life. If suffering and sacrifice were financially rewarded, the creative people of the world would have been the wealthiest. Instead, the have to hope that the zeitgeist at some point involves their work, so that others will be willing to pay for their finished works.

(For those interested, here is a poem I wrote with an economic theme.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Review and More Scrooge

An excellent review of "Literature and the Economics of Liberty" by Bruce Edward Walker. The review originally appeared in Religion and Liberty at the Acton Institute.

He has also written on Scrooge and the Ghosts of Charity, to continue yesterday's theme.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ebenezer Scrooge's Transformation from Welfare Statist to Charitable Giver

For Christmas, David Henderson gives us a lesson about Ebenezer Scrooge in the Freeman. I learned about it from Henderson's EconLog response to Krugman on Scrooge. Krugman gets the story about as wrong as one could imagine in his NYT piece.

Indeed, Charles Dickens' views on society and economics have been misunderstood for a long time. He is often portrayed as an anti-capitalist writer, but when I read Oliver Twist, I was surprised to read a story in which the government-run orphanages were presented as terrible, the criminal underclass as despicable, and in which the hero of the piece (beside Oliver Twist, of course) was a wealthy businessman. That book, at least, is anti-government programs and pro-market.

And of course David Henderson is correct about Scrooge's attitude. Scrooge argues that because the government has welfare, there's certainly no need for him to be personally charitable. Dickens no doubt was observing this change in attitude as government welfare programs were set up. Scrooge's attitude is thus the natural consequence. He does not feel the need to be generous, because others are being generous on his behalf -- with his tax dollars. His attitude: they give with my money, why should I give more? He doesn't seem to object to the presence of welfare programs, but he certainly considers them sufficient.

This attitude is in fact prevalent among supporters of the welfare state. Supporters of the welfare state have been shown to be the least charitable; those who oppose the welfare state the most charitable -- with their own money (which is the only way one can in fact be charitable). It is a shame that too many people cannot tell the difference between charity and government welfare programs. It's the kind of confusion that creates such gross misinterpretations of such great works of literature.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Oft-Ignored Mr. Turton: The Role of District Collector in A Passage to India

Click here to read my latest article in Libertarian Papers. Below is the abstract:

E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India presents Brahman Hindu jurisprudence as an alternative to British rule of law, a utilitarian jurisprudence that hinges on mercantilism, central planning, and imperialism. Building on John Hasnas’s critiques of rule of law and Murray Rothbard’s critiques of Benthamite
utilitarianism, this essay argues that Forster’s depictions of Brahman Hindu in the novel endorse polycentric legal systems. Mr. Turton is the local district collector whose job is to pander to both British and Indian interests; positioned as such, Turton is a site for critique and comparison. Forster uses Turton to show that Brahman Hindu jurisprudence is fair and more effective than British bureaucratic administration. Forster’s depictions of Brahman Hindu are not verisimilar, and Brahman Hindu does not recommend a particular jurisprudence. But Forster appropriates Brahman
Hindu for aesthetic and political purposes and in so doing advocates a jurisprudence that does not
reduce all experience to mathematical calculation. Forster writes against the Benthamite
utilitarianism adopted by most colonial administrators in India. A tough figure to pin
down politically, Forster celebrates the individual and personal relations:
things that British rule of law seeks to suppress.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Theatre as the Art of Praxeology

David Mamet argues in "Theatre" that plays are very translatable precisely because they are about plot -- action.

Ludwig von Mises, in "Human Action" argues that "the logical structure of mind is uniform with all men of all races, ages, and countries" (38) and that, therefore, praxeology is valid for all people at all times -- that it is indeed a science.

Perhaps plays are the art of praxis? Indeed, as Aristotle argues (and Mamet parrots), plays are the art of action.

This is different from the fact that action is necessary for the production of any work of art -- or to engage in it at all, if you are a member of the audience. A play presents action. As Frederick Turner has observed, to act is both to do and to pretend to do (as an actor is in one case someone who performs an action, and in another case is someone who pretends to perform an action on a stage).

What more is a plot than the problems inherent in the fact that "acting man chooses, determines, and tries to reach an end. Of two things both of which he cannot have together he selects one and gives up the other. Action therefore always involves both taking and renunciation" (Mises, 12). The audience of a play judges the characters according to both their ends, and the way(s) they go about achieving those ends. Audience members, in viewing a play, thus act as praxeologists, as praxeology studies human action to help us determine what actions are appropriate to achieve one's purpose (12). This is why one can appreciate the goal of a character, but disagree with their actions to achieve it (which makes us feel conflicted toward the character), or disagree with the goal and appreciate their actions (as one may be impressed by Iago in "Othello"). Such things add richness, complexity to plays. Of course, even abstaining from action is itself an action (Mises, 13), so works such as Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" are interpretable using praxeological methods.

To make a man act, you need uneasiness, "the image of a more satisfactory state," and "the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness" (Mises, 14). What else is this but a summary of plotted literature? If the protagonist achieves "a more satisfactory state," one has comedy; of (s)he does not, one has tragedy. More specifically, if the character reaches equilibrium -- happiness -- one has comedy; yet if the character does achieve what (s)he wants, and it results in more uneasiness in their lives rather than less, one has tragedy. If they do not achieve what they want, we just have a sad story -- a drama, perhaps. From the principles of paraxeology, therefore, we are able to derive the three basic forms of theatre. Theatre is indeed the praxeological art.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Klingon Versus Esperanto

Here is a fun article on the proliferation of two different artificial languages -- one to be spread in a top-down fashion, the other happening to spread in a bottom-up fashion. Guess which one caught on?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Paul Cantor on Literature and Making Money

Paul Cantor's lectures on the serialized novel and Shakespeare's theatre.

HT: Allen Mendenhall (who should have posted this in the main part of the blog and not hidden it in a comment ;-) )

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Greater Humanities

Here is the transcript of an interesting talk given by James Clifford about the "Greater Humanities". Two things of interest to an Austrian economics approach to understanding literature are:

The Greater Humanities are 1) interpretive 2) realist 3) historical 4) ethico-political.

1. Interpretive. (read textual and philological, in broad, more than just literary, senses) Interpretive, not positivist. Interested in rigorous, but always provisional and perspectival, explanations, not replicable causes.
2. Realist. (not “objective”) Realism in the Greater Humanities is concerned with the narrative, figural, and empirical construction of textured, non-reductive, multi-scaled representations of social, cultural, and psychological phenomena. These are serious representations that are necessarily partial and contestable…
3. Historical. (not evolutionist, at least not in a teleological sense) The knowledge is historical because it recognizes the simultaneously temporal and spatial (the chronotopic) specificity of…well… everything. It’s evolutionist perhaps in a Darwinian sense: a rigorous grappling with developing temporalities, everything constantly made and unmade in determinate, material situations, but developing without any guaranteed direction.
4. Ethico-political. (never stopping with an instrumental or technical bottom line…) It’s never enough to say that something must be true because it works or because people want or need it. Where does it work? For whom? At whose expense? Contextualizing always involves constitutive “outsides” that come back to haunt us-- effects of power.

You may disagree with my shorthand characterizations, but I hope you will recognize a set of intellectual dispositions, a habitus, that link the humanities, a lot of the social sciences and the theoretically-informed arts.

where he lays out what makes the humanities distinct, and how observations on positivism, in which he sites H. Stuart Hughes, Consciousness and Society (1958):

Hughes, an intellectual historian in dialogue with Talcott Parsons and other leaders of Harvard’s “social relations” initiative, wrote in reaction to the 1950s boom in “social science.” His response begins with a chapter called “The Revolt against Positivism.” Weber, Durkheim, Freud, Croce, Pareto, Marx and Gramsci--the founders of modern social analysis-- emerge as non-reductive, imaginative, yes “humanistic” thinkers, concerned with the unconscious, with indeterminate behaviors and complex, over-determined motivations.

The revolt against positivism wasn’t then (and isn’t now) a revolt against science. But against a narrow, instrumentalist vision of science, a vision that fetishizes quantifiable, auditable outcomes—immediately useful (to whom?) and marketable (for whose benefit?) Does this sound familiar? I’m updating Hughes 1950s intervention for the neo-Liberal present, where we confront an economistic positivism perfectly adapted to the sink-or-swim, bootstraps (find your own grant support), privatized logics of an “entrepreneurial” system of rewards and punishments.

There are a few things of note that Austrians can and should address. One is of course the fact that the Austrians are left out of this list of anti-positivists. Another is that we need to address the consequences of the Austrian economists being left out of this list: the fact that an economic view doesn't have to be "economistic positivism", as well as the fact that the intersections between the humanities and the economy are not necessarily negative (not to mention the bizarre -- to an Austrian -- description of "entrepreneurial"). One might in fact address why they are perceived to be negative (saying they are all a bunch of Marxists over in the humanities is too easy: what experiences are they having to make them have this attitude? why?). The Austrians on subjectivism and subjective values in particular may be of particular interest to humanities scholars.

I believe Austrian economics might be in a unique position to rescue the humanities -- from both the dominating positivism of our universities and from the humanities themselves.

From the Sensory Order to the Literary Order?

How might Hayek's The Sensory Order inform or affect the way we understand literature?

One might object that this gets us too far afield from the issues surrounding the use of Austrian economics to understand certain elements in literature and literary production -- yet Hayek saw The Sensory Order as central to his work in economics and social theory (D'Amico and Boettke's objections notwithstanding). Whether Hayek thought his economics came from his ideas on the brain, or his ideas on the brain came from his economics, there might be some benefit to using his understanding of how the brain worked to understanding literature. Or should we just skip ahead to contemporary theories of the brain and have a separate area of study, such as neuro-literary studies, or Evolution and Literature?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Make Everybody Rich

Frederick Turner (who introduced me to Austrian economics through Hayek's work) wrote that if we Make Everybody Rich through embracing capitalism, it will result in a renaissance in the arts.

The Arts in a Free Market Economy

Tyler Cowan at FEE on The Arts in a Free Market Economy, in which he shows that the free market has benefited the creation of art and literature, not harmed it, as many on the Left imagine.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I love that we are getting so many people coming by, but we need to have more discussions! :-) Discussion is the lifeblood of ideas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Paying for Art

It is popular for artists -- most of whom are Leftists or even Marxists -- to complain about the corrupting effects of money and the free market on their art. Somehow one of the best indicators of value ever invented -- money -- devalues art. There is nothing farther from the truth.

One of the great insights in David Mamet's "Theatre" is the role of money in making great plays and great audiences. He argues that for an audience to enjoy the play, they have to pay for it. More, they have to pay for each and every performance. In other words, he even argues against subscriptions, which undermine choice:

A subscription audience is a dreadful audience. It is almost inevitably sullen. Why? It has been dragged out of the house. These subscribers are not theatergoers, though they may again be, under different circumstances; they are bargain hunters, who have been sold a bargain. "Six plays for the price of five" sounds like a good idea at the time, but in practice it functions like "all you can eat," where the only way one can make sure one has gotten one's money's worth is to make oneself sick. (95)

He observes that this undermines the sense of adventure that attracts people to the theatre and makes it part of the experience. More, by buying your tickets up front, you eliminate the element of scarcity from the equation -- and if something is not scarce, it is not valued much, if at all (how much, on any given day, do you really value air -- even as absolutely important as it is?). Also, it protects the playwright, actors, and theatre from risk -- and, thus, from learning anything at all. As a result, they cannot (and will not) improve.

"Government subsidy functions similarly" (97), as observed in my previous post.

The audience has to pay, and it has to pay for each and every chosen play in order for it to be a good audience. And a good audience is one that educates an attentive playwright and actors. An audience that hates your work is still a good audience if they sincerely hate it (as opposed to being sullen for the above reasons).

The audience, in the actual theatrical interchange, must have two qualifications: (1) it must have come to be delighted, and (2) it must have paid for admittance. (105)

Why must they have paid? Because "The ticket price is a sacrifice entitling the audience" to enjoy the play:

The audience members must pay. The payment transforms them from critics to entitled consumers. In the car business they teach that "nobody walks on the lot unless he wants to but a car." The equivalent of walking on the lot is payment for admission.

The audience members coming to be delighted, and paying for the privilege, will eke form the drama the enjoyment to which they are entitled. If the drama is not enjoyable per se, they will read the program, go to sleep, or leave. (106)

More, neither the audience nor playwrights "may or can express its desires save through the unfettered operation of the free market" (120). It is one thing to say you liked something to got for free; it is another to say you liked something you paid for.

Let me give an example. My brother is an artist, and when he was younger and just beginning as an artist, he had the romantic notion that he was going to give all of his art away. People would value his art because it was inherently valuable. I told him if he really wanted people to value his art, to charge hundreds or thousands of dollars, and then it would be valued. Well, he mostly ignored me, and gave many paintings away. Yet, he also sold a few pieces to a few friends. This set up what turned out to be a perfect experiment of his theory vs. mine. As it turns out, when he went over to the homes of friends he had given art to, he could never find it displayed; but those who had paid for their works displayed the works prominently. My brother stopped giving away art piece after that.

If you fill a theatre with critics or students, you will never get the feedback you need to be a successful actor or playwright. You need a paying audience. Only a paying audience will create art that will last the ages.

David Mamet's "Theatre"

In the back of his latest book, Theatre, David Mamet (who already has a society dedicated to his work) has the following Acknowledgements:

I am very much indebted to the works of Thomas Sowell, Paul Johnson, Frederich Hayek, and Milton Friedman, and to those of Richard Wright and Eric Hoffer.

Some may remember Mamet's piece in The Village Voice two years ago, Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal, in which he writes that

I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.

As we can see, he has since added Hayek to that list.

So it seems we have as a fellow free market supporter (if not outright Austrian) one of the greatest living American playwrights. Not too shabby.

Anyone who even likes theatre who hasn't read "Theatre" should. But if you are a playwright, actor, director, or are otherwise directly involved in theatre, there is no question that you should read this book. For those of us interested in the economics involved in literature and literary production, Mamet has quite a bit to say in this small book. Most notably, he argues that feedback is vital to have a healthy theatre. The audience's reactions to the work teach the playwright and actors what works and what doesn't. The souls of playwrighting, then is "writing, revising, staging, revising, and starting again" (127) -- i.e., feedback, and responding to that feedback. More, he argues that government support for theatre destroys such feedback and, thus, is destroying contemporary American theatre. It results in the creation of a bureaucracy in charge of the theatre -- a bureaucracy that believes itself to be the reason for the theatre's success, meaning it will do what is necessary to expand itself, "For while the task of the artist is to create, the task of an institution is to continue" (101). With government subsidies and various tricks of the trade to get people into seats, what you end up with are two possibilities: 1) a conservative lineup of plays that won't offend anyone, or 2) a lineup of plays that cannot and will not improve because there are no consequences to either bad plays or bad performances. Neither is conducive to the development of a healthy theatre. You have to have a paying public -- paying for each and every performance you put on (rather than season tickets) -- to have the kind of useful feedback that results in well-written and well-performed plays.

Thus we see, in Mamet's work, how economics can help us to understand not necessarily how a work of literature -- in this case, a play -- comes into existence, but how a good work of literature comes into existence. You have to have audience feedback. The audience "is the only judge. If the audience members didn't laugh, it wasn't funny. If they didn't gasp, it wasn't surprising. If they did not sit forward in their seats, it wasn't suspenseful" (104). And that is that. It is the audience that matters most, because they came to be entertained -- and make their judgment in their seats. "The teacher, critic, competition judge, assembly of fellow students all watch the performance in order to judge, and so their opinion, either of the moment or of the piece as a whole, is worthless" (105). If not truly worthless, they certainly provide a very different kind of feedback -- one which has little to do with the success of the piece as a work anyone may enjoy.

Yes, people come to the theatre to experience beauty, in its various guises. That is the ultimate judge. That is the economics of the theatre.