I've rarely read two books that can comment directly on each other the way Creative Destruction by Tyler Cowen and Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen do. Cowen argues in a relatively scholarly work that trade generally increases cultural benefits, instead of decreasing them. Hiaasen says that Disney is a blight, a destroyer, and a homogenizer of the worst sort - they are nice. I find it fascinating that Team Rodent directly illustrates many of Cowen's points. Disney moving into Orlando completely shook up the local culture, just as Americans moving into a foreign country often do. Disney World brings a huge amount of money to Orlando, mostly in the form of tourists - the equivalent of the population of California visits Disney World every year - which is targeted by tourist traps ringing the park. The people of Florida now have a much bigger economy, much more choice; and some of them, like Hiaasen, clearly resent the cultural change. The question is whether the change was worth it. If your cultural choices originate either in a stretch of farms and swamp pre-Disney, or in the cluttered sprawl around Disney World, then there is obviously more, varied choices in the sprawl. It's hard to put a value on them, though.
Team Rodent's opening example is the transformation of Times Square from a haven for sex shops to a safe family friendly shopping destination, centered on the Disney store and theater. Except for that nasty sex shop that is still hanging on a block from the Disney store. I think Cowen has it largely right - Disney is there, but so is the sex shop, and a consumer has a wider choice because of it.
Hiaasen is a reporter that lives near Key West, and despises the sprawl, congestion and traffic from Disney World and the resulting tourists to his town. I think that most business people would disagree. I sense, however, a missing piece in Cowen's positive assessment of trade. Stress. What does the stress of choice do to the individual?
I'm discovering why I value books like these - analysis is hard!