Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology > Special People Are Not Special, Irreplaceable or Even Competent

Special People Are Not Special, Irreplaceable or Even Competent

One of the more peculiar aspects of modern financial capitalism is its effect on the price of art. Today, it is not unheard for a painting by an artist who died a century ago to fetch many millions of dollars. While the effect of financial capitalism on art prices raises many questions, one of them is often ignored or seldom asked.

How can the works of a person who lived, and died, in near poverty many decades ago command millions of dollars today?

Proponents and supporters of capitalism, including its more virulent financial strain, never tire of telling others that capitalism rewards innovation and hard work. They also like to tell others that capitalism is a meritocracy or supports a system based in merit. But how do those belief interact with the prices for art by long dead artists?

Let us start by trying to first ask ourselves why artists like Van Gogh, Cézanne, Pollock and Klimt never made a lot of money off their paintings when they were alive. I am not implying that all of them died in poverty or madness. But it is quite obvious that creators of art pieces that fetch over 100 million dollars in auctions today lived rather modestly or close to poverty.

The supporters of capitalism preach that the free market pays each person according to their worth. So how can the artwork of somebody who lived in near poverty like Van Gogh command over a hundred million dollars today. Why did he not receive a fraction of that sum (even inflation adjusted) in his lifetime? Why was his art unappreciated in his own time? Were the capitalist of that era unable to see the true value of his paintings? Also, capitalism believes that all people are principally motivated by the amount of money made during their lifetime. So how does paying over a hundred million dollars for artpieces many decades after the death of their impoverished creators encourage people to create great art?

But we are still not talking about the real elephant in the room. Why are the paintings of Van Gogh, Cézanne, Pollock and Klimt so expensive? What is the source of their value? Do they confer any superhuman power on its owners? Does owning them confer immortality? Do they even add 2 inches to the length of the owners penis? Can any the owners of these 100 million dollar-plus paintings even appreciate art? And what about paintings by contemporaries of these now-famous artists. How many of them fetch that sort of money? and why not? Were all their contemporaries unskilled or incompetent hacks?

Then there is the issue of art fakes. Why is an almost perfect copy of an multi-million artpiece by a skilled chinese artist worth close to nothing when compared to the original? Does the fact that the original was painted by van Gogh or Pollock imbue it with magical properties or a divine aura? and did Jackson Pollock even paint? And how come all these paintings never appreciate much as long as its creators are alive? My point is that the cost of a painting has no correlation to the skill, insight or creativity of the artist who created it.

So what peculiar rationale underlies the valuation of artwork?

Before we answer that question, let us look at a similar problem in the world of entertainment- specifically the money and fame achieved by a few actors, sportsmen, singers and other celebrities. Why do certain actors command millions of dollars while others who are equally good-looking and talented languish as extras for the rest of their lives? Why did some get the lucky breaks or roles that lead them to stardom? Was it competence or just dumb luck?

Why does somebody who plays in the NBA make so much more than an equally talented athlete in something like say high jumping? And what about those guys who for some reason or another just missed getting drafted by some NBA team? Were they really that untalented or just unlucky? Why do certain sports, such as cycling or golf, now attract much more money than they did a few decades ago? Why does cycling quickly through rural France entitle you to almost 100 million dollars over a decade? Or why does playing golf well let you make over 500 million dollars?

How does any of that benefit society? What about famous singers? Why are mediocre and manufactured singers like Katy Perry or Britney Spears in the same income range as far more talented ones like the late Freddy Mercury or even someone like Eminem? How do people like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian make millions off being famous for inserting empty wine bottles in their vagina and having rough sex with a black athlete respectively?

Clearly there is a massive disconnect between the value of what these so-called “special” people provide and their remuneration. What are we paying them for anyway? and who is really paying them and why?

But is this disconnect restricted to art and entertainment, or is it more pervasive? How do CEOs and the senior management of corporations make millions regardless of whether the company they are supposed to run well is making a profit or loss? Do they even understand the products or services provided by the corporations they benefit from? Or take professors and senior faculty at the supposedly prestigious ivy-league universities. How come massive increases in funding to these elites since the 1980s by depriving others of it has not yielded any real breakthroughs.

Sure.. we get lots of irreproducible research, exaggerated press releases, colorful brochures and magazines, polished presentations- but where are the breakthroughs. What about all those new generations of antibiotics, new drugs to treat common types of cancers with minimal side-effects, batteries with very high power densities they keep on promising? What about controlled energy-positive nuclear fusion? Where is all the stuff they have kept on promising for the last 30 years?

What about all the promises made by politicians? Did Bush43 fulfill any of the promises made to the idiots who voted him in twice? What about all the talk about hope and change by Obama? Would Clinton be seen differently if he had not been accidental beneficiary of a freak combination of geopolitical, economic and technological windfalls? Would we worse of if we elected chimpanzees and dogs to political office? Then there is the issue of bankers and other people involved in the higher echelons of the financial sector. Who gets those jobs and how? What do they do anyway? How hard is it to make lots of money when you make it irrespective of whether your clients lose or make money?

Here is my take on all of this.. Human societies (whether they are feudal, capitalistic or communist) are basically giant stagnant ponds that support the growth of liars, fakers, con-artists and other assorted parasites. Special people are just those parasites who got especially lucky and successful by scamming, manipulating and extorting others and hiding from the consequences- not unlike many parasitic protozoa and worms. However this problem cannot be fixed, at least not easily, since the very existence of large stagnant ponds creates opportunities for parasites to evolve and perfect their craft. One of only two ways to fix this problem to any significant extent involves changing the very nature of human societies, either by force or accident. Another way, is to permanently drain the stagnant ponds, even if doing so kills everything else in it.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. Marcus666
    January 15, 2014 at 3:22 am

    The only question is: how do you not become a victim of those “special” people. Everything is a lie. If you turn on the tv you see a never ending stream of commercials for detergent. How many times do you buy detergent in a year? 2$/yr? How do they pay those commercials? The only way of winning is by not playing.

  2. Webe
    January 15, 2014 at 3:50 am

    All your questions relate to the difference between value and price. This distinction forms one of the main themes of classical political economy (and is an important theme for Marx). In our positivistic times people never tire of reminding you that language is how it is used (so there is no such thing a right/wrong), justice is what has been codified in law (no right or wrong outside those small letters in big books), and the value is the price (no such thing as value outside money exchanged). Of course this does not comport well with our everyday experience.

    The price of any asset is based on a bidding war between potential owners: The bid is based on their beliefs about price-appreciation, revenue generated, and access to credit. There might also be some relationship with fundamental value, but that is always very much remains the question.

    The landlord or earl or banker or whatever always has the highest income on the estate. Why? Well he needs a lot of income to ward off potential threats to his ownership. If those who pay for the use of the asset he owns (land, means of production, credit) ask themselves how valuable the owner and the ownership is to them, the obvious answer would be that the value is negative and and that they would be far better of without the owner (who has rarely actually created the asset). Which leads to the conclusion: most pricing is based largely on socially reinforced distortions.

  3. IamMarktoo
    January 15, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Luck would be my first answer. Two would be suckers. Had a little of the first (trying to optimize that side) and been a little of the second (trying to downsize this). Learned there are a lot of trustifarians out there pretending to be poor like me. Always wondered how they could keep it up on “so little” till I realised they had so much. Could drive someone to poverty keeping up when you don’t understand. What a sucker I hear the web say.

  4. Yusef
    January 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    But we are still not talking about the real elephant in the room. Why are the paintings of Van Gogh, Cézanne, Pollock and Klimt so expensive?

    I recommend the documentary The Rape of Europa, focussing on the systematic theft and pillaging of European masterpieces for the benefit of the private art collections of the Third Reich.

    Most of the upper echelon Nazi monsters were art collectors.

    Interestingly, the famous gold portrait by Klimt, worth about 135 million dollars at present, is of a jewish woman, Adele Bloch-Bauer.

  5. January 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    How do you think happy people become and remain happy?

    How do you think could become happy one day?

    Most people fake happiness. I don’t think that I could be ever happy.

    • January 15, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      And why are beautiful things beautiful?

      • LOL
        January 15, 2014 at 3:31 pm

        It took me quite a while to realize that kneehowguy is a troll.

        I think his post on masturbating gave it away.

        https://dissention.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/nsfw-links-jan-4-2014/#comment-18228

      • EvilOne
        January 15, 2014 at 6:39 pm

        What would be the point of trolling a seldom commented site?

      • January 20, 2014 at 7:46 pm

        I’m totally not a troll. Hey he talked about dick hardening drugs, getting his asshole/prostate fingered, and drinking/doing drugs before sex- so why not? All of those things apply to masturbation as well.

      • January 20, 2014 at 8:08 pm

        Assanova gave me the link to this blog- and at the time after reading a bunch of worthless PUA stuff at the time I felt that AD’s blog was the only cost effective answer to the problem of being unattractive and getting rejected by girls. I don’t know if other escort users who have the same attitude.

        Alot especially older white men escort users feel that are in some sort of white knight fantasy with the escorts… thinking at least in some part of their mind that the escort loves him. Reading the blog was a breathe of fresh air, much better than talking to Asian/Indian stem apologists who basically say shut up be like your parents and work harder, do more math/science/programming, and you never should complain about your failures with women or treatment based on looks/race or else you are weak.

  6. P Ray
    January 16, 2014 at 12:26 am

    I don’t think that I could be ever happy.
    People want you to “be happy” so that you don’t have questions about double standards, unfairness or lack of accountability.
    The biggest proponents of this mentality are those in the social sciences, who have done very little worth a damn.
    Consider the source of the exhortation “be happy” before taking their (usually worthless) advice.

  7. January 16, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    “You get paid by doing or making something people want, and those who make more money are often simply better at doing what people want. Top actors make a lot more money than B-list actors. The B-list actors might be almost as charismatic, but when people go to the theater and look at the list of movies playing, they want that extra oomph that the big stars have.”

    http://paulgraham.com/gap.html

    • EvilOne
      January 16, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      Will people create wealth if they can’t get paid for it? Only if it’s fun. People will write operating systems for free. But they won’t install them, or take support calls, or train customers to use them. And at least 90% of the work that even the highest tech companies do is of this second, unedifying kind.

      All the unfun kinds of wealth creation slow dramatically in a society that confiscates private fortunes. We can confirm this empirically. Suppose you hear a strange noise that you think may be due to a nearby fan. You turn the fan off, and the noise stops. You turn the fan back on, and the noise starts again. Off, quiet. On, noise. In the absence of other information, it would seem the noise is caused by the fan.

      At various times and places in history, whether you could accumulate a fortune by creating wealth has been turned on and off. Northern Italy in 800, off (warlords would steal it). Northern Italy in 1100, on. Central France in 1100, off (still feudal). England in 1800, on. England in 1974, off (98% tax on investment income). United States in 1974, on. We’ve even had a twin study: West Germany, on; East Germany, off. In every case, the creation of wealth seems to appear and disappear like the noise of a fan as you switch on and off the prospect of keeping it.

      There is some momentum involved. It probably takes at least a generation to turn people into East Germans (luckily for England). But if it were merely a fan we were studying, without all the extra baggage that comes from the controversial topic of wealth, no one would have any doubt that the fan was causing the noise.

      ===========================================================

      Female preferences once they can earn their own money comes to mind. And their effects on males.

      It is obvious you cannot think past the facade. Who cares about what happens to anything or anyone in the undetermined future.

      PS: The former east Germany, present day Germany, the UK, Italy, the USA are all examples of fragile and dying societies. Some die before others.. that is all.

      • Webe
        January 17, 2014 at 2:31 am

        An actor who is paid $100 billion is not creating $100 billion of wealth — he is merely accumulating a title to a lot of wealth. All land ownership (except for improvements) and mineral rights are stakes to pre-existing wealth.

        Nobody talked about wealth creation before the eighties, so there was no “wealth creation” in Italy ever before the least 30 years. People used to talk about producing wealth, accumulating wealth, and many other terms, but the term “creating wealth” is strictly tied to the idea that by LBOing some corporation and buying back stocks after reorganizing/downsizing the operation you are magically creating value for stock holders savy enough to sell before the operation goes bust from the debt it is carrying. But it’s not creating wealth or value, it’s creating price and extracting value, shifting the wealth around.

        In de Middle Ages they built cathedrals, which were substantially public wealth, many of the contractors/builders as well as labourers were essentially donating time and resources. Most wealthy societies have invested in public goods and public wealth (infrastructure, irrigation, canals, education, institutions, etc., or military technology and power) and have benefitted from social cooperation and somewhat equitable social relations. Societies where wealth is very skewed tend to be stagnant — a few very rich plantation owners, etc., little public wealth or social cooperation, generally poor (and almost no middle class). Historically speaking it simply isn’t true that successufl societies are mainly propelled by not confiscating private fortunes. Many societies have flourished after debt cancellations and wars in which substantially all wealth changed hands.

        It is a hallmark of special interests to pretend that they do not understand the difference between renteniering (hoarding pre-existing wealth for private gains) and producing things of value — that is only because they naturally fear that a change of ownership would disadvantage only themselves. People outside the 1% who act as priests to aid and abet the existing order are some combination of corrupt and moron. Nobody is more easily replaced than the class of owners. Real assets rarely evaporate when the owner gets lost.

      • EvilOne
        January 17, 2014 at 2:40 am

        There is some momentum involved. It probably takes at least a generation to turn people into East Germans (luckily for England).
        —————————————————————-
        It is obvious you cannot think past the facade. Who cares about what happens to anything or anyone in the undetermined future.
        ——————————————————————

        https://dissention.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/mgtow-in-low-fertility-societies/

        All developed, and almost all developing, societies are grounded in the continuity of a very specific male mindset. It is best described as a scenario where the vast majority of guys will slave away, sacrifice and generally endure abuse for a reasonable chance at getting some mediocre pussy, some respect and children.

  8. January 20, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Hey AD,

    What do you think of people who tell you

    a. Practice gratefulness

    b. Practice forgiveness

    c. You misery/bitterness are because of your immaturity (proceeds to talk about a cancer patient who suffered more physical pain than you)

    or…

    d. compares your pain to a seemingly much smaller insignificant pain in their life (such as a pretty girl complaining about not getting a guy she wanted / guy cheating on her)

    e. Declares that your treatment in life had nothing to do with you race but your attitude (proceeds to talk about a brown guy who is uglier and happier than you)

    Here are my answers.

    a. Why?

    b. Once again, Why?

    c. Why should I care about what you think? You don’t seem to care about care about me.

    d. Who cares? As far as I am concerned the rest of the universe exists only as long as “I” exist.

    e. Really.. you mean over a billion people have the exact same attitude?

    • January 20, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      f. oh, and people who say that you are not entitled to anything, and that you should be happy with whatever kind of girl you can get and whatever kind of sex you can get.

      g. people who say that looks don’t matter bro, it’s all in your game/personality/swag/ w/e bullshit they make up

      h. people who just decide to call you a loser for complaining about these things.

      My answers..

      f. Fair enough. Then I do not have to care whether all those people keep on living. Maybe it is best that they are all dead.

      g. Sure.. why not. Anything that makes you happy.

      h. Those who do not benefit me or cooperate with me are less than immaterial.

      • January 20, 2014 at 7:42 pm

        >”Here are my answers.
        a. Why?
        b. Once again, Why?”

        What they would say is because you are being grateful/forgiving “for yourself” so you can “get out of your own way”

        “So well, AD why aren’t you getting out of your own way so you can experience contentment and happiness” or “happiness is a skill you need to hone, AD, you need to practice forgiveness and and gratefulness studies say people who are forgiving and grateful are happier” something like that

        And

        k. What if people said “well, you should be apologetic for approach girls because your brown skin is unattractive and you bring negative feeling from your presence- why not get out of their way so they can get the kind of man they are trying to get? ” lol you came in with a bad product- so its your fault for the bad results why don’t you stay in your place— that kind of reasoning

        letters i and j bit the dust b/c i looks like “i” from “i am”

  9. January 20, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    oh, as a male feminist, I was shocked to read this:

    http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/imagine-the-sky/

    were you one of her beloved customers???

  1. January 14, 2017 at 6:19 pm

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