By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Opportunity Cost of Popular Culture

I read recently a remark that should have been self-evident: popular culture is a good guide to what people really think, to what people really care about, to what people really expect from themselves and others. If so, we are in trouble.

Economists love to talk about opportunity costs: the cost of any choice includes giving up the benefit of the option you rejected. When our minds are filled with the absurdities of so much of popular culture, we are paying a high opportunity cost: "Boy George" displaces Dante, Sexstar "Madonna" displaces Mozart, Michael Jackson displaces Vergil, etc. The word "displace" is very apt--we can interpret the prefix "dis" in this case as meaning a turn for the worse.

Let's take time to consider the opportunity cost of so much of the popular culture that we consume. What are we giving up, how much time of our limited lives are we willing to spend on the utterly nonsensical, if not outrightly harmful or toxic? Make a list in your own mind of the absurdities of popular culture that have become (maybe, involuntarily) part of your own vocabulary and of your own repertoire of memories and images. Then tally up the opportunity cost--what these images and memories have displaced from your life and your thoughts.