Thursday, 1 July 2010

Shallowness is good....


I have decided that we're all just a little shallow - preferring the slightly witty and the terminally inane to deeply considered and thoughtful commentary on the human condition. Except you, of course, dear reader. You are a paragon of thoughtful consideration, accurate analysis and don't mind my meanderings round the less savoury realities of economics.

But this shallowness of others (it's a bit like those who, despite being wholly unaffected by advertising, call for controls because the poor uneducated proles will be taken in and made to buy bad stuff like pop, crisps and fast cars) is really rather important. Not because there's a school of economic thinking ('behavioural economics' these folk like to call it) that likes to argue that, far from being rational and incentive-driven beasts, humans are emotion-driven and irrational. As ever with hypothesis-derived, evidence-light economics our dear old friends at the New Economics Foundation are there with the behaviour stuff - anything to have a dig at incentives I guess (even when there's a paucity of solid evidence supporting the jolly hypothesis that we aren't all selfish, greedy bastards after all).

But I digress - shallowness is everything and shallowness is good. Not, of course for us dear reader, even though we don't read the Guardian and know everything about everything as a result. What shallowness is about is a realisation of the utter cosmic futility of what we each do with our lives - an idea that eludes Guardian-reading statists (perhaps the only thing they share with Zaphod Beeblebrox). And if it's futile, why shouldn't we pass our time with idle pursuits - watching silly games on the telly, laughing at crap jokes, shortening our lives by drinking, smoking and scoffing luscious fat-laden goodies and generally not being in the slightest bit serious about it all.

So if I'd rather sit in the shed, bottle of whisky in one hand, Romeo y Juliet in the other and watch re-runs of Benny Hill on the little portable telly that's my business and, as importantly, is as significant an act as the activist's endless mobilising and organising, the political hack's leaflet distribution or the lefty academic's discussion about how they would organise it so much better than the uncontrolled actions of individuals would ever achieve (if only you'd give them the chance).

Just because "people-who-know-better-than-us" say we're shallow, selfish and will die young doesn't make our actions irrational. In truth our selfish behaviour is rational and, when we engage in communal or collective activity, that's rational too. Those who deny rationality to argue that decision-making is somehow tripped by emotional triggers are the same people who believed "The Hidden Persuaders" and that the medium is the message.

And the word for such people is....wrong.


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