All the cool kids are doing it


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Selling out isn't just for indie bands anymore. Now everyone's doing it, as Rick Perlstein points out in his review of The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America.

"[Daniel] Brook, citing the social critic Brendan Koerner, calls college debt America's new 'ambition tax.' Inspired by Brook, I coined some other new taxes bequeathed to us by the demons a triumphant Goldwaterism has set lose. There is, for instance, the 'idealism tax.' In 1980, a University of Chicago student paid a $5,100 tuition--and, if her heart called her to teach in a Chicago public school, earn two and a half times that: not impractical. Now the relevant numbers are $31,500 and $38,500. Brook's stuff on teachers and even mayors priced out of the cities they serve is devastating."

And it's not just those of us who have the poor judgment to go to private schools. 

"Put simply, in a society where to fail in business is to make economic survival impossible, fewer and fewer are willing to take the chance. Where are entrepreneurs better off? Dreaded Old Europe, according to the quite conservative Financial Times: 'With its low [real estate] costs and generous welfare net, Berlin is an entrepreneurs' heaven, where barriers to entry are low and failure rarely entails personal ruin.' Brook claims, counterintuitively, that America's self-employment rate is lower than it has been in decades. What if you do give it a go? '[T]he holes in the American safety net, health care chief among them, make entrepreneurship and family life mutually exclusive.'"

I read last night that Finland supports the arts, on a per capita basis, 200 times as much as the United States. In lieu of that kind of support, or of the indirect support of a social safety net (music fans are aware of the devastation that occurs when an uninsured musician gets sick), it doesn't surprise me at all that bands are taking advertising dollars. Publications, television, and radio--even public radio--have been ad-supported for years, and they arguably have more inherent conflict with the model. In the absence of a more progressive tax structure, it's a substitute for higher taxes on business, and I find it hard to begrudge bands for selling their work instead of selling their dreams. As a wise man once put it, "It's not selling out, it's buying in."

PS: Universal health care is not the solution, because it causes terrorism (h/t Talking Points Memo).


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