Tag Archives: The Market

Free Publicity and an Irreverent FCUK

Brilliant — French Connection is using Chatroulette as a source of free publicity.  Always good to see a healthy market at work, and entrepreneurial ways to use public space:

Chatroulette, the random, anonymous webcam chat room that found a huge audience of exhibitionists and voyeurs, has now found itself a marketing partner in clothing retailer FCUK (French Connection UK).

It’s a perfect match. FCUK is notorious for shock-based PR and marketing. And Chatroulette is shocking a lot of visitors.

The FCUK + Chatroulette promotion encourages the first person to prove they have used Chatroulette to set up a date wins $375 of vouchers to spend at a French Connection store on a “real life date-worthy outfit.”

So FCUK gets no-stress publicity and Chatroulette gets a downlow corporate partner.  Sounds good for everyone.

But check out French Connection’s reluctance to commit to the whole thing.  Evidently there is such thing as bad publicity, if the corporate folks violate that sacred trust of irony:

According to an article in AdAge, William Woodhams, director of marketing at French Connection, isn’t too concerned about the possible pitfalls of sending people to hook up with strangers online. He said, “We’ve hijacked the site; we’re a fashion brand and we wanted to get involved in an irreverent way. It’s a fun medium, although it’s also weird, sad and strange. We only put up a small prize, because we don’t want to look like we’re trying too hard.”

If Youtube’s tagline is “express yourself,” Chatroulette’s subtext could be: “You have nothing to lose.”  Commit, French Connection!  Don’t be a hipster.  Belly up to this brave new marketing world, and own it!


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To Develop

This is to develop later, but here’s the model I keep referring to privately when I think about political affiliation:

In the center there’s just a person: oneself. At some basic level, every person is a libertarian. We all want to be free to go about our business as we choose. We don’t want any restraints except the basic ones that facilitate that critical personal freedom.

It’s at this “personal liberty” starting point on the ideology spectrum that people want minimal government — not “Big G,” but decision-making centrality inasmuch as it keeps Pakistan at bay, facilitates trade so we can get the wheat and unbleached, organic coffee filters we require (I know, economists, the market; caveat, caveat).

As I imagine the spectrum, the further “right” you move, the more you believe that your people-counterparts are capable of teaching a thing or two. This backs the idea of a community functioning to raise all members up. There’s a veto (or a Dellinger statement? Will update) in every Con Law textbook describing why taxlike forced-giving inhibits the naturally-charitable mentality most folks in a community assume.

Logically, if someone requires giving, that stunts generosity of spirit, which affects the entire community mentality. But the baseline “humans are social creatures after all” dicta suggests that in fact we’re all naturally inclined to share, having learned pretty early on that sharing makes everything better for all involved.

Left-wise on that spectrum I think there’s a tendency to assume that other members of a prospective community are less strong than the central ego point. This guides that mentality that wants to keep things under a tight rein — e.g., this is why we have so many government czars right now.

Moving right, we expect less formal government and more organic cooperation. As we move left, we expect people to cooperate organically less, so we mandate cooperation more.

Both sides have points in their respective favors. When I think of right-swaying I always think of the Buckley community near and dear to my heart, but the best point I know for left-leaners is legislation like the Americans w/ Disabilities Act. Sometimes central decision-makers can more easily accomplish what The Market won’t demand on its own.

And recall, of course, that centrality-enablers like lobbies are a critical part of The Market cf. how the Constitution structures our gov’t. Atrocities like sugar subsidies aren’t independent of a market; they’re a sort of super-evolution sophisticated to market ebb and flow, they represent uber-growth like cancer.

I’ve said it before, but a big part of why I lean right is that, while perhaps I’d trust some group around me to hold the reins now, there’s always the next group. If I appoint ten (or thirty) “czars,” it’s bc I trust that group to turn the screws today. But who knows who might take their shoes tomorrow? I’d much rather leave it to the individuals; then I know each person is working for his own self interest, and no one will be left out. If all know they can rely on a central decision-maker, many will likely forget to pick up after their own dogs, and other ugly metaphors.

Obvi bipartisanship comes down roughly along these lines. The point of this spectrum model is that I think the difference has to do w/ a person’s faith in his fellows, and his related interest in being involved w/ the relevant community.

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Principles and Popularity

Last night I had a great conversation with perhaps my favorite sheeb in the world about how religions operate, in a business sense.

Evidently the Pope recently announced that the Catholic church would no longer recognize female bishops, and that they are re-enforcing their boundaries to more specifically and emphatically exclude gay folks. My friend was incredulous that the church would alienate “the modern world” by looking so staunchly backwards, driving hordes of moderate papists to hypocrisy.  No one actually accepts such extreme measures, she reasoned. Right?!

I haven’t read the article she read, so I’ve not checked precisely *how* the Pope intends to “exclude” gays, but the mechanics really aren’t the point. The point is that a huge part of religion is in reinforcing tradition and pushing disciples to decide what’s important.

What made the conversation interesting was that, as a Jew, she was aghast that the church would take action that might alienate followers. “They’re bleeding adherents already!” she reminded me — “aren’t they concerned about numbers?!”

Are Catholics concerned about numbers? Or are they concerned with principle? Catholics have been on the prosperous end of the PR train for awhile now, having converted-or-slain en masse often enough in history that now cementing those last few heathens in Africa represents a mere feather in that tall papal cap.

Indeed, Jews self-classify as “orthodox” or “reform” according to how seriously they take that gospel, and whether it comes from Maimonides or Woody Allen. Catholicism represents the “orthodox” end of that stick, leaving dissenters to choose whichever appropriate reformed sect resonates for them.

In fact, now is the time for religions to regroup and re-establish their boundaries. Is it better to be popular, or to be right? For better or for worse, the Catholic church seems determined to eschew popularity for what it deems right.

And, frankly, I’m into that. Regardless of how similar my feelings are to that particular party line, I appreciate the church’s taking responsibility for providing moral guidance at their own expense.  And now, at the precipice of the paradigm shift to come, isn’t this as good a time as any to regroup and reassess?  To draw a line in the sand and encourage idle disciples to choose a side?

What distinguishes religion from politics, or philosophy, or idle musing is that a religion does not operate like a buffet. While it’s tempting to accept some tenets and reject others, that disregards the point of choosing this (to continue this bad analogy) prix fixe core-belief-plus-necessarily-affiliated-conclusions plate in the first place.

The point is to decide what’s important and then conform, to let your belief in X or Y lead you to the proper conclusions and appropriate behavior. Cherry-picking permits a sort of moral relativism that undermines all meaning in life. How can we know what’s real if we don’t acknowledge any boundaries or rules?

Perhaps this absolutist standpoint reveals why, at 26, I’m still struggling with what I believe. I’m still looking for something that speaks directly enough to my core that I’m willing to sublimate the rest of my premises and hand my rational, conclusion-drawing mind over to _that_.

I appreciate that the church has taken this opportunity to formally reject the incentive to blur lines; to inject relativity into what should follow a sort of moral imperative. Whatever Christianity is or is not, it’s critical to any moral — rather than business, or mere philosophy — making authority to police a baseline. “Feel free to reform,” the church is saying, “but fyi here’s what’s important to us.”

It’s refreshing, frankly, to hear the Pope lay it out like that, frank and straight-forward-like, so we can digest church tenets in a sophisticated way, and then freely accept or reject.


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Femme Mafia

I’ve been playing in girlie lit an awful lot recently; it’s subsumed a bit more of my consciousness than I like to admit.  Frankly it’s a little bizarre to hear so much chatter and realize there’s still so much animosity among folk who pretty roundly agree.

This morning I posted at The New Agenda that the iPhone app for “scoring chicks” — since yanked — is a little disgusting.   But realistically there’d be no market for the app if women really found it disgusting.

If men were pretty sure they couldn’t get away with “that” behavior (and, frankly, I can think of many more piggish things than using this app) then no one would buy it, right?  So while it’s men who make up the purchasing demographic, it’s women’s choice not to put our collective foot down that perpetuates such market.

It doesn’t matter why we choose not to get involved — we have many bigger fish to fry, or smart women don’t find themselves meeting men who might use a line like the app’s gross suggestions — the point is that we make a choice to shrug it off, and maybe enough women respond positively that men are intrigued enough to buy.

That’s the tension with feminism.  It’s about opportunity.  Look at the numbers.  Women have opportunity.  We have the opportunity to make life choices, and we make them. When other women or employers don’t respond to those choices with open arms it seems silly to blame them.  Willingness to assume a “victim” mentality irritates me in general, and there’s a really fine line between being objectified and objectifying oneself.

The ad clipped below captures the whole of that tension:

None of my female Muslim friends are close enough friends for this kind of disclosure; my experience with Hijab-ed sexuality is limited to books in the Reading Lolita in Tehran vein and one traumatic, fiercely-intimate massage in Morocco. That is to say: I have no idea how much an abayah is choice, tradition, feminine, and how much of it is oppression.

The ad itself is sexy and effective — I want to be more like that woman, from the skivvies and kohl out.  But is there any more perfect symbol than the abayah to represent that tension between what we want and what is imposed on us?

For the same tension closer to home, see this Dove ad:

It’s a fine line indeed.  I’m absolutely not suggesting that women experience no objectifying pressure.  What I’m suggesting is that the pressure is not entirely external.  And I’m suggesting that, to some degree, we embrace it.

Or maybe not.  Again, the tension.  Every time I encounter street jeers I want to ask the men whether that’s ever scored a date.  To some extent it really is just objectifying women, and it’s not about hope or interest.  Maybe it really is just about striking back against repressed feelings of rejection.

Look again at the Dove commercial.  Inasmuch as objectification stems from an aggressive defense mechanism it doesn’t come from men. It comes equally from women.

This is no novel conclusion. My takeaway?  It’s the residual willingness to assume a “victim” mentality that does the objectifying. It just seems so pointless to keep talking about a “glass ceiling” when in fact we should embrace the opportunity we have to make choices, acknowledge that there’s no single valid choice, and move forward.

I adore debate. There’s nothing I love more than moving the ball down the field. But this taste of gendered debate gets tiring quickly. I can’t help but feel like it’s just as sexist to pledge merit-blind support for someone because of her gender as it is to discriminate along the same lines.

It should be about being the change you want to see in the world. I will always resist the temptation to replace merit with simply card checking the right cache.

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Lifted whole cloth from National Review’s “The Corner” (not block quoted to preserve internal quotes):

What Is Masonomics? [Veronique de Rugy]

While there is much debate these days about the current state of macroeconomics (among other places here and here), there is also a debate going on among George Mason University economists about what Masonomics is about, if anything. Does it mean anything to study and teach economics at George Mason University? And if so, what is it?

There is no doubt that George Mason University is a very special place. Where can you find such a high quality of economists and scholars, almost all of them, united in the fight for freedom and the pursuit of ideas, engaged in academic and policy research? Mason counts economists like Peter Boettke (Austrian Economists), Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution),Bryan Caplan (econ Log), Alex Tabarrok (Marginal Revolution), Robin Hanson(Overcoming Bias), Dan Klein (Econ Watch Journal), Thomas StratmanDon Boudreaux(Cafe Hayek), Russ Roberts (Cafe Hayek) and more. George Mason University also shelters nonprofits like the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center. For sure, all these people are different, and yet, so similar. How?

So yesterday, Tyler Cowen tried to answer this question during a lunch talk. This morningArnold Kling reported on Tyler’s comments.

Six attributes of Masonomics:

1. Signalling and self-deception
2. _____ and neuroeconomics
3. Markets always fail
4. Politics is not about policy
5. cultural relativism
6. Try to connect economics to life. As a researcher, you want your research to influence your own opinions and approach to life.

And because Mason is this kind of place, this afternoon, Pete Boettke responds to both Cowen and Kling with an open letter. His response is worth reading for anyone who is engaged in the fight against big government and engaged in the fight for freedom. A small piece:

Yes, Tyler signaling and self-deception abound, but one must always remember that when we talk about signals we also have to talk about not only noise, but also interpretation of the signal. Informational signals are sent, but interpretation and judgement is required to turn that information into knowledge.  Finally, with respect to the claims being made, we have to remember that much of the claim to a unique Masonomics as laid out in the lecture were worked out not in scientific journals, but in blogs and in conversations, etc. We are not talking about unique and significant contributions to the “republic of science” that have met the tests of plausibility and intrinsic value before the declaration of originality can be made. Some of the points have met that test, others have not. Truth in advertising might require that a distinction should be made. Economics is both a public intellectual arena and a scientific discipline. Economics science is advanced within the discipline, not in Washington, or in newspapers, nor in blogs —- no matter how interesting the conversation may be.

Also it’s a must read piece for anyone who wants to learn about the impressive intellectual tradition of George Mason University. And the debate goes on.

In the words of Jeremy Rabkin: God bless George Mason Law!

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Journalism Lay-offs Chill Death Row Challenges

Talk about the “seen” and the “unseen”! Death row challengers may require passionate journalists to tout their cases as much as they need lawyers to argue their pleas. When journalists (and lawyers!) are consumed w/ keeping their jobs and covering for laid-off colleagues, no one speaks for death row:

Stories that were being written three years ago that supplemented the legal work undertaken by innocence projects are just not appearing, said the director of Florida’s Innocence Project. The cuts have also hit anti-death penalty campaigns seeking to exonerate prisoners who have already been executed.


This makes me want to start a count of all the “unseen” effects of the recession. If everyone works overtime just to keep their noses clean then the creative projects once fueling the market fall apart. So it goes.

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The End of Craigslist Prostitution

I have to admit I’m a little sad about this post from Above the Law.  Not that I’d ever partake in the darker side of Craigslist.  I’m just always melancholy when the moral police step on the toes of people who vote with their feet.  There has always been a thriving market for the world’s oldest profession, but Craigslist has withdrawn even its tacit support:

llinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says that Craigslist is getting rid of its “erotic services” ads and will create a new adult category that Web site employees will review.

Apparently Ms. Madigan would rather have people publicly trolling the streets rather than meeting by choice and mutual consent in private apartment buildings.

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