Possibly the Shortest Time from the Start of a Conversation to the Moment I Knew I Wanted to End It, Based Only on What Was Said

- You know, in England, those insurance companies, they charge you a higher price for insuring your house when it has a tall tree standing next to it!

- Well, that's probably because the tree might fall on the house when there's a storm.

- Oh, so you're with them?


It has been hypothesized that artists and intellectuals tend to dislike markets because the measure of status in the market is income, and artists and intellectuals tend to do rather poorly on that measure, but they do well in terms of the currency "products of the mind". I like that theory because I find reductionism aesthetically appealing: Many phenomena explained by few first principles = Yummy!

If the status theory of artists and intellectuals' political preferences is right, it would explain this phenomenon by the same principle that also explains why you rarely hear a good word from a Pepsi spokesperson about Coke and why women say much nastier things about other reasonably attractive women's looks than men: They're badmouthing the competition. The same perspective also explains why women so wildly overestimate the attractiveness of their best friends: They're showing solidarity to their allies.

People. Once you start thinking about them, they seem pretty pathetic. I guess that's why they call social psychology The Dismal Science.


dirk said...

But why then do so many artists who have done well in a market economy -- movie stars, pop stars, etc. -- often continue to badmouth it? I'm guessing it's a handicapping principle: if you make $40 million in Hollywood and badmouth the free market you place yourself above those on Wall Street who also made $40 million. If you're Bono, for instance, you can treat your wealth as a sort of accident (and not be far from the truth) while still blaming others who try to make money for their *greed*. Mendacity? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. The wealthy hedge fund manager probably deceives himself more about the role of luck in his life than the wealthy rock star or Hollywood actor.

All in all, I think your theory is correct, though I'd add that a self-reinforcing mechanism is in place: the businessman can't not think about how micro-economics works over his career while the song writer can spend his entire career without having to think too hard about why businesses work the way they do, and in fact may benefit psychologically from not thinking about it.

LemmusLemmus said...

I'm sure there are a lot of influences on people's political orientations. But to answer your question, I think one can think of these things in a three-phase model. In the middle are the formative years (roughly, ages 14 to 24), any influences before that (genetics, early childhood, what do I know . . .) and influences of the more or less immediate situation after that. If this last module is not so powerful (especially if the formative years are very influential in this respect), then that might help explain why Bono is a lefty, assuming he is honest about it.