Steve Jobs and the End of History

STEVE JOBS AND THE END OF HISTORY….Tyler Cowen points to a cute little research paper today that attempts to figure out which of AC/DC’s lead singers was better, Brian Johnson or Bon Scott. “Better” has a fairly idiosyncratic meaning here, though. Long story short, Robert Oxoby of the University of Calgary ran one of those little classroom bargaining exercises so beloved of experimental economists everywhere, except this time he did one trial while playing a Johnson tune and a second trial while playing a Scott tune. Result: without getting into the gruesome details, the students were less economically efficient when the Scott tune was playing. Matt Yglesias comments:

I think the trend toward economists studying silly topics may have gone too far. Don’t we still need people to look into minor questions like how do changes in income tax rates effect GDP growth?

Now, this seems like a very responsible position to take. Back to work, economists! And yet, consider this. Sure, Oxoby was just having some fun with his paper, but he still claims (though one might well be suspicious here) that his results were statistically significant. If that’s true, it means that something as trivial as playing a slightly different kind of music in the background induced substantially inefficient economic behavior in his subjects. That kinda makes you wonder just how efficient all the rest of us are, doesn’t it? Perhaps the iPod will eventually doom capitalism as we know it.

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