Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Time and Currency

Jeffery Tucker compares In Time and The Hunger Games at Laissez Faire Books. Again, we learn something about economics, but this time from looking at the problems with the film In Time.

(Congratulations, too, to Jeff for his new position as publisher and executive editor of Laissez Faire Books!)

Flowers in the Mirror

Mao Yushi analyzes the Chinese novel Flowers in the Mirror, by Li Ruzhen in The Paradox of Morality, with some interesting economic insights.

A few gems:

"negotiations in which both parties are seeking their personal gain can reach equilibrium, whereas if both parties are looking towards the interests of the other party, they will never reach a consensus."

"Money and prices play an important role in the development of society. No one should hope to replace emotions such as love and friendship with money. It does not follow, though, that love and friendship can replace money."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bricolage in Art and Entrepreneurship

Readers might be interested in the conference Bricolage in Art and Entrepreneurship.

Particularly the fact that they will be covering:

Relationship between artistic and entrepreneurial creativity

Economic and social organization of art production

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Charles Dickens' Entrepreneurial Energy

Peter Klein on Dickens' entrepreneurial energy.

Why Read Shakespeare?

Why read Shakespeare? Russell Dean Schultz, at least, has an idea. The man he is responding to, Mac McCann, argues we shouldn't read Shakespeare because he's hard, and reading hard texts make it difficult to develop "critical thinking" skills.

"Critical thinking" -- the great evil of our education system. What is it? It's hard to say. It's a postmodern response to the rejection of logic, reason, and philosophy. It is an excuse to argue against reading anything of any importance whatsoever.

Why read Shakespeare? Perhaps "critical thinking" is not the skill to be developed by reading Shakespeare. Perhaps there are other reasons to read Shakespeare. Perhaps by reading things that are difficult, your reading skills will improve. Perhaps by reading Shakespeare, you will discover how much of our culture was created (or at least recorded and passed on) by Shakespeare. Perhaps by reading Shakespeare, we can learn something about what it means to be human.

Perhaps, though, those are things our public education precisely do not want to teach our children. Either that, or those teachers who don't want to teach Shakespeare are either too lazy or too stupid to understand his beautiful works. A good teacher does not find many students who hate Shakespeare. Bad teachers, though, to cause students to hate Shakespeare -- or reading in general. Teachers, don't blame Shakespeare if your students hate to read -- blame yourself.

Of course, it's much easier to blame Shakespeare.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

“The Hunger Games”: The Role of Dystopian Literature in Libertarianism

There is a nice piece on “The Hunger Games”: The Role of Dystopian Literature in Libertarianism by Christine-Marie Dixon over at Students for Liberty.

As the author notes, dystopian novels have played an important role in libertarianism. I suspect they will always have such a role, since it is easy to show the negative outcomes of government actions. Also, stories have to have problems, so we should not be surprised that most "libertarian" literature involved dystopian visions.

What would a pro-market novel that was not dystopian look like?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Theory of Mind, Mirror Neurons, Economic Coordination, and Storytelling

One of the great things about Austrian economics is that one of its main practitioners, Hayek, also wrote a book on the brain, meaning every once in a while I can indulge myself in a little neuroaesthetics.

In Hayek in Mind: Hayek's Philosophical Psychology, (Adv. in Austrian Economics, vol. 15), Chiara Chelini has an article, "Hayek's Self-Organizing Mental Order and Folk-Psychological Theories of the Mind," that I highly recommend for the simple observation Chelini makes that our theory of mind (regardless of which theory of theory of mind you choose to subscribe to) is what allows us to coordinate our actions -- coordination which gives rise to the economic spontaneous order. Because we understand others have minds and because we empathize with them, we are able to more or less figure out what others are thinking, meaning we can coordinate our actions with them. When we are more or less right, we get coordination; when we are wrong, we get discoordination. Our large number of mirror neurons aid in this, because they allow us to copy people's actions exactly (they practically compel us to, in fact), which in effect coordinates our actions with all those around us.

What does all of this have to do with literature?

How could we even understand a story if we could not identify with the characters? This is even more true when viewing a play, film, or T.V. show, since we can watch the characters' actions and faces, which allow us to understand those actions. We do so because we place ourselves into those characters' minds. More, the actors similarly place their minds into the characters' minds in order to bring them to life for the audience. Our having a theory of mind and a very large number of mirror neurons is what allows us to create stories, understand stories, and act.

In other words, the same thing that allows for economic coordination is what allows us to create stories.