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Dan Klein on Moneyball

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My GMU Econ colleague – and EJW [2]‘s – Dan Klein sent me by e-mail his thoughts on the movie Moneyball.  I share Dan’s thoughts with you here:

I [Dan Klein] confess that I’m a sucker for Brad Pitt (esp. Troy and Legends of the Fall). I enjoyed Moneyball.

It’s got a remarkable amount of econ/pro-commerce stuff in it, as well as Smithian themes about moral sentiments in commercial society.

They throw in a lot, and it often felt clumsy. Sometimes the dialogue even speechifies. But many of the topics touched are topics usually far beyond the reach of a movie, so it strikes as very original. The whole is remarkably bold.

There is no love interest, which was good.

Here’s a quick list of some of the topics it touches (and always in a good, if clumsy, way):

•    Radical innovation, especially as born of extreme adversity (see Reuven Brenner).
•    The hostility to radical innovation, especially at a deep level of selfhood and of the cultural ecology (Schumpeter 1911/1934).
•    Some speechifying by the Red Sox owner about how the resistance problem also applies to government.
•    Honest profit (which is in part based on prices) as a validation of personal worth.
•    But also honest profit as less than paramount. In the end Brad Pitt got the validation but declined the offer.
•    The destructive element in creation, but moreover the destructive impulse, as he was, as it were, getting back at baseball (Schumpeter again).
•    Thus, also, success in rivalrous competition as one avenue to personal redemption.
•    A general sense that the system is ineluctably vast and anonymous, that each person is situated within a vast and mysterious set of forces. That people don’t really know what will happen, or why, and must stoically accept constraints.
•    Technology and nerd smarts; “skill-biased technology” issues.
•    How better methods discover value and help those otherwise less valued.
•    Family as naturally cardinal and often challenged by the forces of modern/commercial society.

Now I really want to see this movie!