The Playgoer: Scenes from the Crunch: or, Art as "Intangible Investment"

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Scenes from the Crunch: or, Art as "Intangible Investment"

What Business Week is calling the "Creative" category of jobs--"designers, actors, artists, athletes, dancers, musicians, reporters, editors, writers, photographers, and everyone else that goes along with that"--has taken an 11.5% dip in the last 8 months. That's bigger than the overall employment averages.

Interestingly, we're in this boat along with some real techies, like software engineers and computer scientists. Why?

What unites all of these groups is that they are all producers of “intangible investments.” That is, engineers, scientists, computer software engineers, artists, designers, and so forth all create long-lived intellectual property which has the potential to contribute to the economy. This includes new software programs, new products, new pieces of art and so forth. Writers produce written works of various degrees of usefulness, but in the aggregate are beneficial.

With the exception of software, the government statistics for GDP pick up very little of these intangible investments. That is, they pick up the part of spending which supports current consumption, but not the part which benefits the future.

Nothing new about actors out of work, I know. But important to have it reaffirmed that this is not business (or even lack of business) as usual.

And nice to know "the future" is among the first casualties of our economic system.

(Hat tip, Richard Florida.)

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