catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Getting the incentives right

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A hint from Chris Berg on the Bangladshi way to get people along to watch films. Would it work for the Aussi films that appear to be struggling these days?

This looks like a good read as well.

This is an Amazon review.

“In Praise of Commercial Culture” is Cowen’s attempt to demonstrate that capitalism and economic growth promote, rather than squelch, individual creativity through artistic expression. In it, he provides a detailed history of the origin and development of markets for literature, painting, sculpture, and music. Throughout the book, he focuses on both pecuniary and non-pecuniary incentives that markets create for individuals to challenge prevailing artistic sentiments and express their creative energies in new and unique ways.

He begins his economic analysis of art markets by stating that the creation of wealth enables people to address their aesthetic interests. Specifically, markets enable artists to free themselves from both the desires of wealthy patrons and the need to satisfy mainstream tastes. This enables outsiders who stand to gain little by appealing to mainstream conventions to take risks and establish new cultural ideas. He gives a number of examples of how members of ethnic minorities managed to break color barriers by creating new genres of music.

In the area of books and literature, he asserts that the decentralization of editorial and financial decision-making enabled the number of publishers to skyrocket. He points out that small independent and university publishers can flourish in a commercial society by gathering capital for little-known authors who operate outside of popular spheres. He states that it has become more and more difficult for a small group of authors to dominate the attention of readers. He responds to the accusation that literary diversity diminishes fame-based incentives for authors by explaining that markets tend to increase the quantity of fame available to everyone over time. As a result, the quantity and quality of literature available to the public also increases over time.

Cowen responds to critics from across the political spectrum. He deconstructs arguments brought against capitalistic art by neo-conservatives, religious leaders, neo-Marxists, feminists, multiculturalists, artists, and surprisingly, some libertarians. He explains that members of each group fear culture because it can produce rapid changes in people’s worldviews. As unregulated culture cannot be controlled, people who have a vested interest in preserving certain ideas tend to oppose it. Thus, people who work in politics must limit human creativity to stay in power.

Although his defense of government as a limited entrepreneur in the cultural market will rankle some readers, Cowen’s account is a lively historical view of how markets reward individual creativity. Like Samuel Johnson, he praises the ability of markets to enable artists to turn their passions into livelihoods. He presents an effective critique of arguments that favor heavy government involvement in the artistic realm. Most importantly, he demonstrates why individuals should look forward to enjoying high quality artwork for years to come.


Written by Admin

January 27, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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