Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Great American Lie

Something that never fails to stun me is every time someone makes it obvious that they believe the meritocracy myth: an underlying assumption that whatever succeeds in America does so because it is good, because it is better than the ones that didn't make it. In fact, the meritocracy myth seems so woven into the fabric of American culture that people are often irritated and defensive if you should suggest that it is a lie. It's such a serious and pervasive lie, that I've come to think of it as the Great American Lie. Little kids hear in school, "If you work hard, you could be president of the United Sates!" You know what? Bullshit. It's sad, because if you believe the lie, you're forced to conclude that wealthy white men are better than everyone else, because that's who becomes president time and time again. In the music business, it's amazing how bad much of the best selling stuff is. I'm so glad I have an economic justification for this in Chris Anderson's excellent article. We're starting to see a glimmer of hope that maybe people are figuring out that obscure stuff can be good, too. I was talking about all of this with a friend of mine, and he reminded me that people like to conform. We're social creatures, and we love hits because they are something we can share. So the demand curve is not going to go flat, nor should it, but it will be wonderful if we can learn to judge for ourselves what should go to the "short head" of the curve, instead of believing the great lie as told by by radio, magazines, and TV.

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