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Global Culture

Entry 205, on 2005-08-08 at 14:39:23 (Rating 3, Politics)

I listened to an interview, this morning, with Tyler Cowen, an American economist. He supports the free market and the way it is creating a global culture based mainly on the American lifestyle.

Like most people who strongly support the free market, he is very selective about his evidence, and doesn't follow particularly rigorous methods of examining and testing his hypotheses. I concede that I am probably somewhat biased in the opposite direction, I am very skeptical of any belief which makes the free market economy an answer to the world's problems.

Cowen suggests that the global environment gives minority groups the chance to spread their culture widely, but in reality, the opposite usually happens. If a numeric analysis of the degree of cultural diversity was made, I suspect it would show a decline in diversity as Americanism takes over. For example, here in New Zealand, the most common article purchased at supermarkets is Coke! Unfortunately, mass culture often equates to junk culture, which is a point Cowen admits, to his credit.

Consistent with other free market dogma he rejects subsidising cultural activities. The interviewer mentioned how Shakespeare and the Russian ballet have been maintained through subsidies, and suggested this was both a good thing and an essential action to ensure these are maintained. Cowen rejects this, although without any real objective study its hard to prove the point one way or the other.

He was in New Zealand as the guest of the Business Round Table, a new-right neo-liberal group who espouse standard free market, low tax, etc policies. It shouldn't be surprising then (especially since we are in the middle of an election campaign) that he supports their theories, even though they have been shown to be counter-productive in their pure form.

Like everything, the answer is in taking the middle ground, and using the market as a tool without letting it become the goal itself. Subsidies are a valid tool to reach a particular goal, and shouldn't be ruled out simply due to a ideological viewpoint. The point is that markets and money are a tool, not an end in themselves. Its just common sense, but the supporters of the pure free market don't seem to realise this.


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