Control Freaks

October 28, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

There’s much to be said for control. “Create Your Own Economy,” says Tyler Cowen in a book of the same name.  Lane Kenworthy (here) summarizes part of Cowen’s argument:
Imposing order on information is psychologically satisfying. The increase in our ability to control the amount, the content, and the timing of information and entertainment we consume may be just as valuable, in terms of our well-being, as the increase in the amount of information to which we have access.
But do we really want to turn our lives into those Holiday Inn ads that promised “No Surprises”? 

Halloween is coming, and if you go to a costume party or wait for kids to come to the door for candy, you know you’re going to see people in costume.  That’s fun.   But last night I found it more amusing to see costumes in surprising places. 

You don’t expect to see a knight waiting for the downtown express.


When you’re walking to Times Square, you don’t expect to be approached by three gorillas.


These ghouls were just outside the entrance to the subway.


If I had seen these girls at a costume party, I would have shrugged – some girls in store-bought costumes. 


But seeing them in such an incongruous place – the stairs to the subway – tickled me.  And maybe when they got to the top of the steps they were tickled to see those zombies, more so than if they’d seen them at a costume party. 

Control is nice, but it isn’t everything.  You can’t tickle yourself.  (I don’t know, maybe Tyler Cowen can.)

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