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Samizdata quote of the day

“The fundamental story about consumer taste, in modern times, is not one of dumbing down or of producers seeking to satisfy a homogeneous least common denominator at the expense of quality. Rather, the basic trend is of increasing variety and diversity, at all levels of quality, high and low.”

Tyler Cowen, Creative Destruction: how globalisation is changing the world’s cultures, page 127.

6 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • permanentexpat


  • Millie Woods

    Here’s my anecdotal evidence of the truth of this quote.
    I frequently cross the US/Canada border to fill up the car – petrol prices in the US – even heavily taxed NY state are cheaper by about one dollar a gallon than in completely energy sufficient Canada. While there I pop into Wegman’s supermarket in Niagara Falls, NY to stock up on goodies either not available to me in Canada or only found in trendy foodie boutiques in far away Toronto.
    The point I want to make is that this cornucopia is readily available in Niagara Falls, NY, which is decidedly not up market. That to me is the glorious aspect of globalisation. I only wish we had more of it chez moi!

  • Laird

    I this this is one aspect of the “mass customization” concept propounded (separately) by Stan Davis and Joseph Pine, and there does seem to be a lot of merit to it. However, I’m not sure it’s accurate if you broadly define “product” to include entertainment. Witness the extraordinary growth of the “reality TV” genre.

  • Laird

    Obviously the second word should have been “think”.

  • Pa Annoyed


    I suspect that’s only the most common example of exactly the sort of saying that this comment-of-the-day is responding to.

    We always bemoan how there’s nothing on TV nowadays, not like there used to be. My father tells me of the golden era of Monty Python and Dad’s Army and Steptoe and Son, and so on. And we all nod in agreement. But then he also tells the story of having found some old newspapers used to line a carpet laid decades ago, and how he decided to check what was on TV back then. Turned out, it was uniformly crap. Hours and hours of stuff you wouldn’t turn the TV on for. As he pointed out, stuff like Monty Python wasn’t actually that popular at the time – the big hit comedy of the day was ‘Terry and June’ a bland household sit-com that I recall being unable to sit through because it was such unbearable pap. The memory plays tricks.

    All areas of production always make a mixture – the largest part being cheap and low quality, with the quantity made decreasing as the quality increases. There’s probably a mathematically interesting curve involved. And of course people’s tastes vary (I’ll probably get some T&J fans complaining) with some liking what others hate. There’s probably some contribution from everybody’s favourites tending to be specialised tastes. So if you remember the best bits from over thirty years, they always add up to more than the comparably good stuff that’s on now, but that’s possible only because of merciful forgetfulness.

    I personally can’t stand “reality TV”, but I regard that as par for the course. My only real objection is that ‘Big Brother’ has taken what was supposed to be a horror and neutralised it as a symbol by turning it into prole feed. Who’s bright idea was that?

  • Lascaille

    Laird, but the reality TV shows are largely confined to a small subset of the (now very large) number of channels…