Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Who Is Disco Stu?"

You might say my overarching mission is to remind people that their aesthetic and cultural intuitions are not necessarily a good means of making snap judgments about complex topics like economics and science. Just because you hate the sight of corporate logos doesn’t mean you can conclude that everything government does to regulatorily restrict corporations will enhance the public’s welfare. Just because you hate hippies doesn’t mean you can conclude pot is a drug significantly more dangerous than scotch. Even punks, as tonight’s 8pm Debate at Lolita Bar should remind some, benefit from taking some fiscally conservative notions into account when assessing a philosophical issue.

But as long as people do make snap judgments fueled by their aesthetics, one problem with trying to tell them scare stories about government cracking down on businesses is that so many people hate business — especially big, seemingly impersonal ones like those driven to ruin by the government in Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. Leftists just aren’t likely to find the industrialist characters Hank Rearden and Francisco d’Anconia sympathetic in the first place and certainly aren’t going to find them more sympathetic once the two of them engage in a gun battle with a mob of attacking union protesters, Rearden admiring d’Anconia’s gunmanship while they’re at it.

That’s a shame because the world we want to live in is precisely that in which we cheer people as they defend their property and think only secondarily of the fates of the thieving savages who assail them.

So: if you can’t wrap your mind around the idea that industrialists are people too, check out this story, whose heroes might better suit your hip sensibilities: Paul Jacob notes that Ian Schrager, a co-founder of Studio 54, says (in a Vanity Fair interview) that it was really the absurdly high cost of complying with government regulations and licenses that killed discos back circa 1980. The next time you and your knee-jerk-socialist punk buddies find yourselves complaining that the price of your concert tickets was too high, ask yourself how many more clubs there might be — and thus how much more price-reducing competition — if not for that useless, controlling, predatory buzzkiller that is the government. (Tonight’s debate, as always, is free, though.)

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