January 16, 2008

don't forget to brush!

If i were to describe the first five chapters of Cowens book i would start by saying that it is a reading that should be read in one sitting, as the facts and social observations he portends are streamlined into a conscious effort to understand economics in a more human sense. He oscillates quite a bit between various subjects, but he spends most of these chapters relating to us a more refined idea of how we value our time and the attention we give to the cultural arts of both past and present. As a dabbler in various books and their ideas, i try not to skip chapters or even look at the table of contents before i read, as I want the writers ideas to drip down to me as i apply them to my own experience. I wasn't expecting a Nathan Halesque version of economic theory and human liberty, nor was I expecting a tutorial on resisting "effective interrogation procedures." What did catch my attention, and brought back vivid and delightful memories of growing up, was this notion of intrinsic motivation in attaining desireable outcomes, through systematic rewards or penalties. Each scenerio is different, and there is no universal theorem he asserts. In branching off his casual research with his dentist, i could relate because as a child my fears were placated by the dentist in the simplest way. I never really did "fear" the dentist, but i could always look forward to this treacherous experience because of the box on the floor that contained various childrens gifts. I couldn't see what was on the floor in the box until he finished, but each time i would abscond with a lucky rabbits paw for my willingness. Drowning people in bonuses may hinder motivation and negate the desired effect in some cases, he argues.
The lowlight of this book comes from different angles. I might not be interperating his approach correctly, however, on the one hand he seems to have a black and white view on cultural tastes, on the other he romantisizes about cultural decisions to help create stories and internal narratives that embody our soul as an individual. In one instance he generalizes using phrases such as "most americans." "most americans i have found cannot develop a taste for microtonal wailing of Egyptian pop" How can anybody possibly know what a persons tastes are without either extensive surveying or obtaining financial records of their musical purchases? Which brings me to my next point. If people demonstrate more distaste for rap, a euphemism for "lower classes whining," as Cowen implicitly states, as a result of higher education, would this not be signal to some people that there might be a projection by higher economc status of insecurities for a lyricists ability to maximize scarce time (tracks), compact aeons of information (ancestoral trauma, current societal stresses or tragedies, attitudes and identifications with ideas, values, and beliefs in those tracks) with a careful selection of words deemed dominant by the collective, then why do we categorize genres as though they are separate? It doesn't take much effort to find that artists are brushing hips, reinventing themselves with the art and sounds of those before them, (Phil Collins In the Air Tonight remastered by Tupac Shakur, Enya mingled with Fugees Ready or Not, Falco's Amadeus remade by Tech nine Im a playa) all with different attitudes and beliefs about systemic environmental realities. We are learning that you don't have to live the lifestyle to be completely mezmerized or comforted by it and identify with it in your daily life, the diffusion of American culture (music) has made its way all around the world. If you buy it and are not satisfied then consider it a sunk cost, as most economists would agree.

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