Glamour and Policy – Virginia Postrel in the Wsj

Michael Giberson

Have you noticed images of wind turbines appearing in ads for everything from cars to banks to university programs? For many people, wind turbines have a kind of stately grace, a beauty, a high-tech glamour. In the Wall Street Journal, Virginia Postrel claimed that wind power (and high-speed rail) gets a public-policy boost from the techno-glamour sheen that attaches to the technology.

There is an on-going policy debate over how to support wind power, but glamour presents special challenges for policy analysis.  For many people, these images generate a strong positive emotional response and the only real question becomes how to make it work.  As Postrel said, “You can’t counter glamour with statistics.”

There is more to the analysis than Postrel packs into her WSJ column.  But supplement it with some ideas on the biology and psychology of beauty – on this point Denis Dutton’s talk on a Darwinian theory of beauty is interesting – and you begin to see the special challenges of policy analysis when applied to the techno-glamorous.