Monday, March 9, 2015

Involuntary Exchange

What do you think, folks? Does Matthew B. Crawford raise an interesting point here? Is attention a commons? Is the national vigor sapped by prolific advertisement?

Firms contract with property holders to hawk their wares. In a general equilibrium, consumers pay less out of pocket for ad-subsidized goods and services. But is it really a "choice" when advertising comes bundled with the ordinary activity of living one's life? Sure, you can freely choose your ideal mix of Hulu and Netflix (mine is 0% to 100%, in case you're curious), but when you're obliged by the necessities of living to trawl the aisles of your ad-laden supermarket, the choice has been made on your behalf, yes? Opting out is particularly expensive. More so, perhaps for folks on limited budgets?

Then again, what's the alternative? Ban commercial speech? Or regulate it for content somehow? I'm sure that a venerable bastion of civilization such as the NYT would shudder at the thought of so disgracing the spirit of the First Amendment, yes?

Also, I urge you to please excuse the tomfoolery of this graf [emphasis added]:
A notable feature of many formerly Communist countries is the apparent absence, or impotence, of any notion of a common good. Self-serving party apparatchiks have been replaced by (or become) quasi-free market gangsters. Many citizens of these countries live in the environmental degradation that results when economic development is left to such interests, with no countervailing force of public-spiritedness. We in the liberal societies of the West find ourselves headed toward a similar condition with regard to the resource of attention, because we do not yet understand it to be a resource.
It is clear that Mr. Crawford never enjoyed a stroll within a hundred meters of the Neringa. One of the greatest jokes played on Anglophone audiences was when Sean Connery, playing a Lithuanian submarine commander in The Hunt for Red October told the moviegoer surrogate that he enjoyed fishing in that river as a boy. Soviet industry had turned it into blackened, acidic sludge twisting though the concrete demense of Vilnius. Since 1991, it's enjoyed a bit of a comeback and when last I visited, it no longer reeked unto the gods themselves. The same is generally true of the rest of the country. Littering is way down, citizens are much more frugal about energy consumption (an old habit of Soviet-era Baltics was to run the heat full-blast with the windows open in the winter), and the old Chernobyl-style reactors are all either shut down or in the middle of decommission. To claim that the Communist era was one characterized by a clean environment and the subsequent Capitalist era is one of degradation is so completely counter to the truth that one must wonder if Mr. Crawford is having a bit of a jape with readers.

Tee hee.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?