On the economic necessity of entertainment

Draft 1: This is the first draft of an essay to answer the question, why does the entertainment industry make up such a huge share of the economy. If you have anything to add, please feel free to inform me.

On face value, it would seem that the entertainment industry (e.g. theme parks, movies, television, music, art, toys, etc.) is a bottomless pit in which wealth is given to artists to incite seemingly non-productive activity. Even the knowledge the derives from philosophers and sometimes scientists are not necessary for survival.

For further clarity, in this context, non-productive activity and the term “entertainment,” is meant as activity that produces goods that are not generally accepted as necessary for human survival (i.e. food, medicine, etc.).

While directly there is not necessarily a need for these goods, the indirect consequences of the entertainment industry are enormously positive.

A distinguishing characteristic of man is the depth in its pursuit for enlightenment and entertainment. Arguably, man’s main pursuit is the furthering of his intelligence and happiness. Conversely, other animal’s main pursuit is procreation and survival.

This characteristic allowed for the development of the greatest minds and thinkers in the Universe.

On the surface, it would seem that those individuals that dedicate their life to the arts are diverting resources that could be used to produce medicines and other essentials. Moreover, these individuals could devote their time towards more seemingly “productive” industry’s such as working in a factory.

And on the surface this is technically true. In a report in 2006, by this year the entertainment industry makes up around $1.8 trillion of the economy. That is $1.8 trillion in economic activity that could have been used to give every American health care. Two times over.

This sounds ridiculous but if men were robots, they would be far more productive.

The unprecedented degree to which man desires knowledge and entertainment allowed for the development of the greatest artists and minds imaginable. Without this desire, Leonardo Da Vinci and Lady Gaga would have built houses or sold apples on the side of the road.

However, if the happiness derived from Lady Gaga’s gender-bending is not enough to satiate a utilitarian appetite, then perhaps delving into the indirect effects of the arts will be more palatable.

Men, who exist as external to their position as units in the workforce, desire the acquisition of the arts for their own pleasure, as noted earlier. Therefore, the entertainment industry provides one of the primary incentives for so-called “productive” activity. Without the existence of the entertainment industry, much of the desire to work would cease to exist in parallel.

When sociologists question why entertainers receive such remarkable sums of money, they are too narrowly focussed and miss the critical function that entertainers play in the operation of society by incentivizing the existence of all other sectors of the economy.

So next time you hear Lady Gaga on the radio, you can thank her for being the lynchpin to the economy.


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  • The Law, Frederic Bastiat

    Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

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