Monday, February 12, 2007

Big Brotheronomics

A friend from the AEI forwards me this piece Kevin Hassett has written for them about how the increased substitutability of celebrities should compel them to improve their behaviour. This evidence from the NBA is the main empirical basis for his claim:

"To find out, Kendall gathered data on unsportsmanlike "technical" fouls for many years. He then performed a statistical analysis to identify what set the bad boys apart. While Kendall analyzed behavior across the entire population, his list of the worst offenders is a Who's Who of sportsmanship's greatest embarrassments, including such players as Rodman, Charles Barkley and Rasheed Wallace.

The results were striking. Income matters, but substitutability appears to matter more. If you want to know who will be a bad actor, look to a player's salary rank on a team. The player with the highest salary will behave the worst.

If you have two identical players, one who makes $10 million and is the third-highest-paid player on a team, and another who makes $10 million and is the highest paid on his team, the latter will behave much worse. The fellow with the top salary believes he cannot be replaced and abandons self control."

I'm not so sure it will work out the way Hassett predicts in the wider celebrity labour market. I think that perhaps he overestimates the extent to which the audience actually dislikes the bad behaviour of celebrities, except at the extreme end of the spectrum, as many of the most tenuous talents in the UK rely upon such incidents to keep them in press coverage. While he predicts this will cost them careers there are too many examples, Kate Moss is a prominent one, of it doing no such thing and plenty of Z-list celebrities for whom the scandal is the claim to fame. As those who are most substitutable are most in need of press coverage whether positive or negative the net effect of substitutable celebrities would seem uncertain.

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