September 6th, 2006

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Autism, serendipity, and the politics of envy

Maybe TV is bad for kids after all. I mean physically bad. (Marginal Revolution)

Serendipity - gone with the record store? Tyler Cowen argues otherwise, and I would agree - but not for the same reasons. Back in the day, when I had a lot of disposable income and sank a lot of it into records, I spent a lot of time looking for albums by artists who had split off from the bands I really liked, which is how I wound up with all those Phil Manzanera, 801, UK and Asia albums as well as a handful of Brian Eno albums (which weren't actually that good, imho). These days that kind of information in easier to come by thanks to the Internet, and it's easier to find CDs as well since you can root through dozens of online record stores and buy directly from people who didn't think Republica's second album rocked as hard as you thought it did. Not only that, there's software (and people) all over the place who can suggest music based on the bands you like. "Hey, how about some Not Drowning, Waving? Want to try some Lo Fi? And what about..." You get my point. I think there may actually be more serendipity out there than there used to be when all you had to go by was the funky art on an album's front cover and the few details on the back.
UPDATE See also Glenn Reynolds' TCS Daily essay on independent music,, and the recent MySpace announcement.

Jane Galt talks about envy and redistribution in this post in response to what seems to me to be some self-evident asininity by Brad DeLong, takes her hits, and expands on her original comments here... to me, redistribution is self-evidently evil and you can't justify it except in very limited circumstances, of which making pouty academics' feelings of envy towards the rich is not one. There are a number of my friends who are doing much better than I am in spite of not being as well-educated as society measures these things, and it doesn't occur to me to envy them their success. They were in the right places at the right times with the right skills, they made the right decisions, and they cashed in. I didn't. End of story, pretty much. I'm not holding myself up as some sort of saint here by any means; I'm just saying that I can't justify taking away their money (or anyone else's, be it Bill Gates or Joe Schmoe) unless there's some pressing national need for it. As long as Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens can piss away money on the Bridge to Nowhere while ignoring the looming Social Security mess, I don't think we're there yet.