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reason (8:40:58 AM): i was afraid you were going to say that you bought low and sold high. what's the inner economist's most important message to congress (briefly)?
Cowen (8:42:17 AM): Humility would be a good start. Cut spending is another. Worry about nuclear proliferation. Institute greater accountability.
reason (8:42:28 AM): you write "delusion is one secret to a good marriage." what is your wife's biggest delusion about you?
Cowen (8:42:54 AM): Let me ask her right now...
"If it's a delusion, how would I know about it?" she says.
I would say her biggest delusion is that she pretends not to know what her biggest delusion is.
reason (8:44:31 AM): there's an old song by the modern lovers that goes, "pablo picasso was never called an asshole." yet many of the people who collect his work are. that is, they don't really care about the work itself. rather, they care about the status owning it may signal or confer. is there anything wrong with that?
you're a collector. what are the inner economist's rules to collecting art?
Cowen (8:45:36 AM): I don't think there is anything wrong with buying art for status. And a lot of so-called status-buying is really buying for self-image, not just or mainly to impress the neighbors. We all identify with something or other. what's wrong with identifying with Picasso? I'd love to own a print from the vollard series.
The rules depend what you buy. One big rule is to beware of fakes, and research what you are buying. Buy art for love, not for resale, it is hard to beat the market unless you have the eye of a genius. And specialize your collecting and get to know your area very, very well. Also: it's as much fun to collect something cheap as expensive, in most cases.
reason (8:46:40 AM): what does it mean that a picture's value changes dramatically if it is revealed to be a "fake"—or to have been painted with the help of a camera obscura or some other mechanical tool?
Cowen (8:47:56 AM): I don't think the value of Old Masters would fall if [David] Hockney's hypotheses (now mostly discredited) about how they were made were confirmed. But no one likes an outright fake. It reminds the buyer he was a fool, even if the apparent quality is high to the naked eye. This shows again that art is about self-image.
reason (8:47:52 AM): the key then is pleasure? finding something that expresses something about you that you enjoy doing?
Cowen (8:48:30 AM): key to what? happiness is not the only value. for instance, some people want to be a certain way, even if it doesn't make them happier.
reason (8:49:32 AM): you give rather unusual advice to restaurant-goers. i'll paraphrase it as being: buy the most disgusting thing on the menu, especially organ meats. are you in the pocket of the powerful organ-meat lobby? explain why you think it's a good idea.