Writers and status

The problem isn’t that writing generates status, but rather that this status is grossly out of proportion to the wages they are earning in the market. Amongst other problems, this selects for people who value status over wages (often because they are independently financially secure). In this light it’s not surprising the community has become so geographically concentrated – there are enormous rewards to living with the people the most recognize and grant this status. This is not unto itself a problem until that concentration is part of greater demand for what is already some of the most expensive real estate in the world. I’d wager there are more than a few writers with non-trivial followings out there whose Brooklyn lifestyle is a net monetary loss every month. Thats bad, but honestly I think its even worse than it sounds.


Status rewards incentivize geographic concentration, which will in turn intensify herding behavior. If the bulk of your compensation is in-group status, you’re going to want to spend as much time with that group as possible. Your social life will become more important than ever. That also means, however, that anything that might risk disdain or ostracism within the group is to be avoided whenever possible. This means opinions, particularly on subjects that don’t directly impact your life, will tend to become more and more homogeneous over time. It also means hypotheses born of motivated reasoning i.e. the next mayor will be super progressive or want to “defund the police” can acquire a life of their own and quickly evolve from idea spoken aloud in a Brooklyn cocktail bar to universally accepted truth within an insular community. This classic herding phenomenon is relative to the broader world in this case because this particular community spends its working hours delivering the news to us.

Here is more of interest from Michael Makowsky.


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