Carnival Of The Capitalists: Economics Reality TV

A third post that intrigued me was Bill Cholenski’s post at Catallarchy on the PBS history reality shows. Bill’s list of the free-market/Austrian/Hayekian principles that people would learn from these experiences is good:

1) They allow one to observe the subtle changes in the way a person thinks and acts when placed in a different environment. (Maybe that’s the same thing).

2) They allow one to catch a glimpse of “Crusoe economics”.

3) They allow one to observe the subjective nature of value.

4) The obvious one, of bringing “history alive”, or something like that.

Forced to grow their own food, and live in relatively harsh conditions, with scarce resources, a family in Frontierhouse needed to prioritize, and decide how to spend their time, labor, and resources. Since there were several families, they were able to trade with each other (and a simple trading store 10 miles away) for resources, products and services. Importantly, they then had to live with the consequences of their actions. While no-one starved, choosing poorly, or making mistakes, meant the difference between a plentiful and varied diet, or a monotonously deficient one.

I’d put it differently: faced with scarcity and a constrained set of tools with which to address that scarcity, these people get the benefits of experiential learning about trade, creativity, entrepreneurship, technological change, and reciprocity in a repeated-interaction community. And I think Bill hits the nail on the head about how there’s no one there to bail them out of the consequences of their choices.