Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Economics of HP

A reader in Israel says I should refrain from discussing HP until the international readership of this blog has had a chance to read the book. I then came across a link on Marginal Revolution to an analysis of the economics of the world of HP (Megan McArdle, Guardian July 20). Hm.

Readers who think an article on the economics of magic spoils the fun should not read McArdle. Some unwary Guardian readers seem to have blundered into the article without knowing what they were getting into; the heading

Harry Potter: the economics

Successful magical worlds depend on basic economic principles, and that's where JK Rowling's Harry Potter falls short.

led them astray. Their loss is your gain:

Commenter 713317

You poor woman. Your question is the answer to itself.

You are about things. You want things. You want pieces of paper with high denominations stamped on them. You want shiny vehicles. You want a castle.

You have a very small mind and, as a consequence, a very small world view.

If a person can do magic, why would they want physical things? If a person know the secrets of the universe, of what interest are mere physical objects?

The reason magical people are usually portrayed as poor is because they are mentally about 10 levels above the rat or squirrel like acquisitiveness that is characteristic of most human beings. A rat or a squirrel mindlessly acquire physical objects and bring them back to the nest. Nobody really knows why. They just do.

I think this is a terrible article.

Why do people have to try and destroy everything. Could you imagine if some little kid just wanted to go to McDonald's once for an ice cream? Can you imagine what this writer would say? Save it for another occasion. It's just not appropriate to talk about a book like this in this way.

[and so on]

So. If you can imagine some little kid wanting to go to McDonald's for an ice cream, savaged by a nasty, calculating Economist economist who only wants pieces of paper, shiny vehicles and a castle, you will probably NOT read the article wanting to read everything McArdle ever wrote, wondering why you never heard of her and wishing she would turn her hand to fiction, and you will probably also not read Jane Dark's review pairing HP & the order of the phoenix with Joe Strummer: the future is unwritten (British Prep School Boys Against Evil) wishing more film reviewers knew their Fredric Jameson. Wir sind für Sie da. Ihr Paperpools Team.


Leitmotifish said...

When I started reading I already knew my response would be "But this is a children's books!!! (you freak who might be eaten by your cats if you keep this up) and then I noticed she predicted that reponse by saying:
"Children are great systemisers, which is why they watch the same shows and read the same books over and over again: they are trying to put all the details together into a coherent picture. "I could do things no one else could do!" is a great thrill; but so is "I know how this works".

and now my response is: This is a book for kids TODAY. Have you met kids today. most kids do want to do what no one else could do, not TOO many kids want to know how this works. Praticularly not if it is a brand name. They would probably only want to know how this works if that would help them understand how something else works, something they can sale, or that would be on the SATs.

This is a children's books for children. The translations are always original and friendly to the language, the wording solutions are always creative, and that's more than enough for the kids I babysit. I actually read Harry potter when I was a kid, so I think I would know if she was right about what kids want.

And All of these (obviousely crazy adult) commentors on HP should stop.

p.s, I did think the fifth book was TOO unreasonable though, even in the Hebrew.

Stuart said...

Her comments about the fiscal economics might be a little overreaching; I am certain there would be a law of some sort that would appear, like a coin from behind an ear, to validate the Weasleys' poverty, but her thoughts on the economy of effort involved in magic throughout the HP books are fascinating.

I had a shifting and nameless unease about the systems of talent and magical ability in HP, and to read this brings the problems sharply to light.

It reminds me of an early (and later abandoned, I feel) explanation of magical effort in the Discworld books of Terry Pratchett. Let me go look that up...ah, here we go:

"But frankly," he sighed, "no spells are much good. It takes three months to commit even a simple one to memory, and then once you've used it, poof! it's gone. That's what's so stupid about the whole magic thing, you know. You spend twenty years learning the spell that makes nude virgins appear in your bedroom, and then you're so poisoned by quicksilver fumes and half blind from reading old grimoires that you can't remember what happens next."

The comments on that article are quite, quite priceless.

"Post-Google" by TAR ART RAT said...

hmm, k. how does talking about real(istic) complex systems which rule our lives destroy the magic?
in a way it sort of amplifies the interest... On another note, my aunt, who is a big Harry Potter fan, once told me that she believe in faeries... but she didn't (seem to be so inclined) before she started reading HP... perhaps the economics of HP is actually a helthy balance to the fantastical world of HP.

Joseph Ryan said...

Regarding HP:

It seems like a real mania has gripped a lot of people. One day I will have to get around to reading HP.

Regarding your ‘Cracking up’ post:

I was just watching a documentary (last night) about the relationship between amalgam fillings and mental disorders. I don’t know if this will be of any help to you, but you can watch the story here if you’re interested (I don’t know what to think of the guy, i.e., Dr. Hal Huggins):

Here is some audio from a study into the effects of mixing amalgam on dental nurses: