Creative Destruction vs Team Rodent

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!


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