The Sub-Utopianism of the Market
By Bryan Caplan
That sounds like bad news for me, because I’m a member of an extremely small group (membership=1), and my preferences are far outside the norm. Yet I’m regularly delighted by how well the market serves me. In fact, whenever I make a mental note of a product I want but can’t get, it usually only takes a year or two for the market to see to my needs.
Thus, when John Woo’s The Killer went off the market due to copyright problems, it took about a year for another company to reissue this Hong Kong classic. It took about five years for the The Tick to appear on DVD. I even signed a petition to get it released. But at last my pleas were answered.
Now just last week, the market answered my longest-standing unrequited demand. Nineteen years ago, I got Bernard Haitink’s 1988 performance of Die Walküre for my high school graduation. Eight years later, when I had the funds to complete my Haitink Ring cycle, it was impossible to obtain. Even when the internet multiplied my options beyond my youthful imagination, no one was selling Haitink’s Ring.
Until… last week, when I did another seemingly quixotic search on Amazon, and found that EMI had re-released the entire tetralogy (here, here, here, and here). To be honest, I’m so sentimental about this performance that I can’t tell if it is a great recording. But I am sure that it seems great to me, and is infused with nostalgia.
If I were like Waldfogel, I guess I would harumph: “Nineteen years? It’s about time!” But that’s not me. I’m truly grateful that the market would dig up this obscure recording and mail it to me for under half the inflation-adjusted price I would have paid back in 1989. If that’s your idea of “tyranny,” what would count as Utopia?