Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fame and Fortune in Writing

Yesterday I followed a Facebook link to an opinion piece published on the web site of a magazine I read regularly.

Normally such a thing doesn't give me cause to blog, but this one did.  See, a week or so ago a leading economic voice of the right wing, a Harvard professor, and the author of a widely-sold economics textbook (not a trio, that was all one guy) wrote a blog piece explaining why income disparity is a good thing.  Unfortunately for him, his argument was like an unboiled Easter egg--it looked pretty on the outside, but when examined it cracked open and spilled goopy stuff all over the table.  This brought the left wing economists a'circling, and his blog was widely panned by pretty much everybody up to and including Paul Krugman. 

Mid-way lesson learned: don't say stupid stuff on your blog.  Unless you want publicity, that is.  Then again, since there's no such thing as bad publicity, according to whomever said that (some say it was P.T. Barnum, but I'm not convinced), maybe saying stupid stuff on your blog is the thing to do, right?

Incidentally, speaking of publicity, I'm granting neither blog post to which I refer a link from my blog.  Sorry, I just don't think either deserves it.  

Anyway, the link my friend posted was to one of those critiques I mentioned.  It rendered a blistering commentary on the Harvard professor, making out the often-dangerous argument that a man with those credentials is either stupid or unaware.

Only problem was that the counter arguments weren't just wrong; they were unrelatedly wrong.

I'm not sure exactly what it's called in the world of rhetoric, but I call it arguing obliquely.  If you've been around the Internet for a while I'll bet you've seen an example of it:

Post 1: "Sausage patties are better than sausage links."

Post 2: "No, that's silly, because clearly you're unaware that salt, not sugar, goes on grits."

See what I mean?  I leave such arguments never really sure what one has to do with the other.  As a result, I generally leave such a reading assignment fairly certain that I've just lost way too much time that I'll never get back.  The blog post rebutting another blog post left me feeling exactly like that. 

Meanwhile, the original Harvard economist has written a paper that is apparently to be published in a major economic journal (again, no publicity here, for what it's worth).  In the paper, he makes a case about American income inequality and American income maneuverability using American entrepreneurs Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, and J.K. Rowling.

Yes, I said J.K. Rowling. 

I wonder how many people have told him since publication where J.K. Rowling actually came from.

Once again, we're back to don't say something stupid unless you want bad publicity, which might actually be good publicity since bad publicity is actually good.  Above and beyond that basic lesson, though, lie a whole slew of questions about how to achieve fame and fortune as a writer.  Is that only achievable in free markets such as the U.S.?  Is the U.S. really such a free market?  Is it pure accident that one of the wealthiest writers of all time has come from Britain?  Speaking of fame as we were, why is it that so few Nobel prizes for literature have been awarded to U.S. writers?

I don't really have the answers, nor do I have the room in tonight's post to explore the answers to any of those questions as they should be explored.  I will, however, set them aside for better examination later.

I promise.


1 comment:

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