Quote of the day, “spirt level” edition

You’re probably like most people on the internet, in that you don’t read Eric Crampton’s Google feed*.  If so, that’s a damn shame, because you nearly missed out on this comment regarding Xavier Marquez’s epic(ally long) post “Equality and Domination” (worth reading in its own right):

I also worry that eliminating status competition on the income margin pushes it to less productive margins. If we’re hard wired to be status seeking, isn’t it generally a good thing that that’s channeled towards producing economic value for others rather than towards military exploits, feats of warmaking valor, potlach, or other more destructive forms?

Now, “acquiring wealth to seek status” isn’t isomorphic to “producing economic value for others”, but it’s far more closely connected to beneficial social outcomes than, say, sending other people’s kids off to fight on behalf of Hamid Karzai’s merry band of thugs.  In almost every non-fictional case, if someone would rather pay you to do <foo> than keep their money, <foo> is a pretty useful thing to do.


* According to Google Reader, the latter has twenty fewer subscribers than this blog, so at least twenty of you need to get with the programme.


2 Responses to “Quote of the day, “spirt level” edition”

  1. November 5, 2010 at 18:50

    Their hatred of status and all things associated with it is one of the many ways that the left gets it mind-explodingly wrong.

    Show me a species whose members don’t seek status in some way and I’ll show you a group of dying misfits with no place in nature.

    • November 5, 2010 at 23:04

      Their hatred of status and all things associated with it is one of the many ways that the left gets it mind-explodingly wrong.

      I don’t buy the premise that leftists hate status. If anything, they’re playing the status game one meta-level up. For example, if The Spirit Level takes off and starts influencing large groups of people (or, say, policy), Wilkinson and Pickett have set themselves up as wise and benevolent technocrats, pointing out the flaws of society and nudging it in a more positive direction. That’s hardly a low-status position.

      When people blather on about “inequality”, what they’re usually trying to do is shift the status function away from places where they’re not strong and towards places where they are. The merchant classes did it during the Enlightenment: status shifted away from having lords for parents and towards having loads of money. What gets me about Eric’s comment is that it makes clear the fact that status-seeking is usually harmful: money-as-status is only interesting because most ways of making money involve a net win for both parties.

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