Hello Stuart,

I was quite surprised to find out that you were one of the contributors for this site, which was given to me to on a list of "model" blogging websites... Well, actually, it's not that surprising, it fits you well. The surprise was that I knew one of the contributors of the website.

As a matter of coincidence, in the same session on internet, I also found out about this website, which I think you would enjoy:


I hope you have a look at it, and that you'll let me if you like it :)(probably not on this website, but maybe on Facebook?)

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@ M. Sullivan

"If I am a hit man who uses my money to fund the arts? Do I get credit for my culture?"

Yes, why yes you do. Federico da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino, offed his rivals the Medicis during a high mass in the cathedral in Florence in 1478. Now that's class. And he has a most excellent rep as patron of the arts. . .notably sponsoring the great Italian painter Piero della Francesca, one of the greatest Renaissance painters. The Duke commissioned many portraits and church altarpieces as well as notable devotional paintings. A pious humanist, indeed.

Note however that the Medicis got their revenge in the end however, effectively seizing control of Urbino by 1516.

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It seems to me that the status of the artist is mostly determinable from the quality of the art.

The status of the patron, on the other hand, is more complex. It's tied up with some question about whether her choice of that artist is scattershot versus discerning, and with how she has made the money to support it.

I believe we have a cultural bias to be overly morally suspicious of great wealth, because it is only within the last 3-400 years that it has become feasible to amass a great fortune without arbitrary appropriation being at the heart of it.

Even under modern capitalism, the kind of market where it would be impossible to make an immoral dollar without breaking the law is hard to imagine being feasible. All negative externalities accounted for in the market price of every good and service? Transaction costs and barriers to entry low enough for more than negligible rent-seeking to be ineffective?

That kind of marketplace is certainly not in existence in any country today.

If I am a hit man who uses my money to fund the arts? Do I get credit for my culture?

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"Constant" accused me of status-seeking by declaring my preference for a particular TV show. I'll go along with that.

Actually I'm a HUGE status seeker. It would take far too long for me to count the ways. Perhaps I freely admit to this shortcoming as a means to seek status (because honesty might be seen as a greater virtue).

But we must be careful here: I think the interesting paradigm that Robin is describing is status-seeking by affiliation. We shouldn't be surprised to find huge swaths of human behavior explained by status seeking (after all, status is important for increasing reproduction opportunity); but status seeking by affiliation is just a subset of that (I would say it's an interesting subset because of the question of merit).

It's hard for me to sort out my deeper motivations, but I suspect I expressed my preference for the NewsHour not so much because I thought affiliating myself with it improved my status, but because I thought disparaging all of the other television news programs did so. This is a different form of status seeking: making oneself look superior by criticizing others.

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If someone wrote using absurdly anachronistic style, then yes, their success would likely be limited.

Dickens and Shakespeare both enjoyed great popular success in their day; if they aren't as accessible today it is because the language's standards have changed, creating an artificial barrier to appreciating their work. Either one, writing today, would likely enjoy massive success, though Shakespeare might have to tone down some of the off-color innuendo a bit.

Imagine someone in 150 years reading Harry Potter novels or, say, Stephen King's work and getting accussed (probably by status-seeking pseudo-populist "common man" type folks) of being an elitist snob for "liking" stuffy old literature that noone actually enjoys. That'd be about the same level of absurdity.

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Weird sort of comment spam we're getting these days. No links; text appears to be cut-and-paste from German newspaper articles (so, in particular, doesn't seem like the maximally-unobtrusive sort of thing you'd use if you were just trying to get some accounts in place for later spamming). Is "Raivo Pommer" just hoping to harvest email addresses from people who send angry responses? Or is this some incredibly stupid attempt at spreading some message he (presumably crankily) thinks is important? I suppose we'll never know.

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Raivo Pommerraimo1@hot.ee

Österreich Krise

Österreichs Ruf als Schuldner steht auf dem Prüfstand. Die Alpenrepublik will in dieser Woche ihre bis 2014 laufende und 2 Milliarden Euro schwere Staatsanleihe um eine halbe Milliarde Euro aufstocken. Dieser Betrag sollte leicht auf dem Anleihemarkt einzusammeln sein. Allerdings ist Österreich ins Gerede gekommen. Das liegt an der tiefen Rezession in weiten Teilen Osteuropas. Dort haben österreichische Banken Forderungen von 280 Milliarden Dollar - eine Zahl, die dem österreichischen Bruttoinlandsprodukts nahekommt. Wegen der wachsenden Schwierigkeiten osteuropäischer Schuldner, ihre Kredite zurückzuzahlen, sind die Bedenken der Anleger mit Blick auf die Kreditwürdigkeit Österreichs und seiner Banken in den vergangenen Tagen gewachsen.

Ein Indiz für die Skepsis ist die Renditedifferenz zwischen österreichischen Staatsanleihen und deutschen Bundesanleihen. Noch nie war sie so groß wie derzeit. Für zehnjährige Laufzeiten zum Beispiel beträgt die Differenz fast 1,4 Prozentpunkte. Bundesanleihen rentieren mit 2,9 Prozent, österreichische mit immerhin 4,3 Prozent. Auf dem zu Übertreibungen neigenden Markt für Kreditausfallversicherungen (CDS) ist die Diskrepanz zwischen Österreich und Deutschland sogar noch größer. Die Aufstockung der österreichischen Staatsanleihe ist daher keinesfalls Routine.

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“How did elitist art die out in the 20th century, so that the elite now favor crappy aharmonic atonal music by John Cage, crappy meaningless boring books by Thomas Pynchon, crappy modernist architecture like every school built since 1960, and crappy modern and postmodern art of which Picasso and Jackson Pollock represent the very best?”

That’s a good question. I think the decline of the elitist art may be tied to the social decline of the elite. The XVIIth century art patrons (kings and rich nobles) felt very confident about their status, and so even the greatest artists of the time had to cater to their unenlightened tastes. This situation continued even when the patronage of art shifted to bourgeoisie in XIX century. However, with the advent of socialism in XXth century the social elites began to feel increasingly insecure. They could no longer openly claim higher status based on their elevated income or better education. Instead their rather discreet pretensions to higher status began to be based on belonging to higher culture that is associated with “enlightened” political views and avant-garde art.

In this situation one of the main functions of “elitist” art is to set a boundary between the “elite” who likes or pretends to like it and the uneducated crowds that don’t. Contrast it with the music or paintings of XVIII century which may impress even a child.

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I absolutely do love Shakespeare. If I didn't genuinely love his plays and just wanted to signal status, I'd read summaries of the plays and memorize a witty line or two from the most well-known plays (while of course lying and saying that I read him regularly).

You seem to suffer from a form of "inverse snobbery," assuming that your literary taste is somehow "standard" and that since you do not like Shakespeare and since there are some benefits in some circles to pretending to like Shakespeare, it must be the case anybody who says they do like Shakespeare is lying in order to impress others.

Do you really think it would be so easy for somebody today to "write like Shakespeare"? What does that mean? Mindless imitation? Running their writings through a search-and-replace program that inserts prithees, 'sbloods, and other common Shakespearean terms? How do you "write like" the person who shaped the English language more than any other?

It's very frustrating not being able to mention Shakespeare or Bach or certain other artists in public due to rampant inverse snobbery. It's okay to say that you're currently reading Harry Potter, but if you happen to be reading The Tempest and admit it in public, you're a liar and an elitist snob.

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Tomasz, yes people do actually enjoy Shakespeare and Dickens, and I see no grounds for thinking it's always (or even usually) because of status-seeking. Dickens enjoyed plenty of market success in his lifetime; what do you think has changed that would make it impossible for people to like his work sincerely now?

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Do people actually enjoy Shakespeare and Dickens? I think "liking" old literature is the most horrible and masochistic case of status seeking by association.Want to bet that if someone wrote like Shakespeare/Dickens today he would get neither market success nor critical acclaim?

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Raivo Pommerraimo1@hot.ee

Teuer Geld

Er beruft sich hierbei auf ein Urteil des Landgerichts Coburg (Az.: 23 O 426/08). In dem Fall hatten der Beklagte und seine Ehefrau zusammen einen Kredit über 21 000 Euro aufgenommen. Als sie sich scheiden ließen, vereinbarten sie, dass die Frau den Kredit zurückzahlen werde. Im Gegenzug verpflichtete sich der Mann, zwei weitere Darlehen zu begleichen.

Diese Absprache teilten sie auch der Bank mit. Als die Frau die Tilgungen nicht leistete, kündigte die Bank das Darlehen und verlangte vom früheren Ehemann den offenen Schuldbetrag von 16 400 Euro. Zu recht, urteilte das Gericht: Denn die Absprache zwischen den früheren Eheleuten schütze den Beklagten nicht. Maßgeblich sei allein das Vertragsverhältnis zwischen der Bank und dem Mann. Der Beklagte sei durch die Scheidung oder die Abmachung der Eheleute untereinander nicht von seiner Schuld gegenüber der Bank befreit.

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"The market's literature" encompasses quite a lot.

Indeed - potentially so much that anyone who wants to define a category opposed to it had probably better artificially narrow his definition. Starting with Shakespeare: Shakespeare wrote plays which were performed to paying audiences. What about that other height of English literature, Charles Dickens? He sold his novels in serialized form to a paying audience. What great English-language novels were commissioned by the state?

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"The market's literature" encompasses quite a lot. For example, the best selling fiction author of all time is, supposedly, Agatha Christie.

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Which does the majority of the planet listen to with trust?

I'm not sure, but if I were to guess, I would first ask, has there been a world-spanning empire recently - an empire on which the sun never sets? And is there a news organization associated with this empire? If I were to guess, I would guess that this news organization was the most widely listened to.

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Let me begin by trying to make it explicit; bits in italics are ones Stuart omitted and I've guessed at.

Not precisely the argument I had in mind, but close (thanks for pointing out the argument was unclear). My argument was: If people seek high status jobs simply because they are high status, this is bad. However, high status may be correlated with other factors. So to judge if status seeking is the main reason someone seeks out a job, we need to control for other variables, as much as we can.

One possible correlated variable to status is the possibility that a job is seen to be useful/worthwhile/contributing something positive. If this fact is indeed a major consideration, then all those who actually contribute to the job happening should be equally valued.

Then if there is a mismatch between status accorded to different categories of contributors, there must be other reasons causing preference for being in one category. These reasons could include status seeking, enjoyment of the job, remuneration, etc... Anyway, they must be selfish reasons, and status seeking seems a good candidate in the art world.

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