12/24/2019

Ryan Murphy's "Markets Against Modernity"

"The book is sort of like behavioral economics, but feels different. It has some similarity to Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter, but the analysis is applied to private sector activities. It doesn’t fit neatly into either the “left” or the “right” side of the political spectrum. It’s not clear if the message is that we need more regulation or less. At times it can be elitist (when defending science over pseudo-science), while at other times it is anti-elitist (when criticizing expertise in cultural fields.) I see its hard-to-pin-down nature as a plus, but others may be frustrated.

One of my favorite sections discussed social capital. I’ve generally bought into the notion that high levels of social capital are desirable. To some extent that is true, but Murphy points out that social capital can also pressure individuals into acting in ways that are counterproductive. Social capital can encourage “buy local”, or “natural” products, or “do-it-yourself”, even where these approaches make no sense."