Sunday, June 01, 2008

Capitalism is great: part I

No Country for Old Men was moderately successful by mainstream Hollywood standards. Now it seems pretty self evident to me that films existence increased overall welfare. Everybody involved in making and distributing the film made money, enjoying an increase in status and improved their career prospects. Everybody who saw it is poorer but most people (not all) were glad they saw it and were happy to part with the money. They had something cool to talk with their friends about and they get brownie points for liking a "deep" Cohen brother's movie.

But, it doesn't end there. It's pretty predictable, but all bookstores starting stocking the book which presumably started selling better resulting in similar benefits for all concerned in the same way as the movie did. After a couple of months, many of these same book stores started stocking other books by Cormac McCarthy, including Blood Meridian which is considered pretty good literature. So people who lament the decline of reading (and capitalism's role in this) have cause to celebrate the release of this very capitalist movie.

These are just the first and second order effects of movie. The impact is wider, but it starts to get more intangible. Take me for example. I went out and bought "No Country" and enjoyed it and only then did I realise that I basically didn't even know the names of most respected American authors from the past 50 years. The ensuing discussions and research led to the purchase of books by John Updike, Philip Roth and Saul Bellow (between Greg and me). My story probably isn't typical, but spread over the world it'd be pretty surprising if there weren't thousands of similar stories which all had the movie as their trigger.

If the product that triggers a similar diffuse chain of events is one that you don't approve of, then it's easy to moan about exactly the same mechanism. I really do think that people like Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore are on net a negative influence on the world- but I don't discount the pleasure that people get from reading them, what does it matter what I think of them? Trying to get rid of the Chomsky's is the same thing as trying to get rid of "No Country".

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