Thursday, September 18, 2008

Burn After Reading

I saw it Saturday. Highly recommended. It’s like Fargo set in the halls of power, or at least sort of near them. If you have a black sense of humor (and if you don’t, what’s up with that?), then go see it. What the Coen brothers do best is comedy, and they’re back in familiar territory.

I admire George Clooney and Brad Pitt because they could play hunky leading roles in every movie, but instead they occasionally choose to make asses of themselves in a goofball movie like this. Both are hilarious. But I think what I enjoyed most about the movie was its depiction of political/bureaucratic decision-making…

Okay, a short digression. I think libertarians as a group gravitate toward two different, and somewhat inconsistent, attitudes toward government: government is bad because it’s evil, and government is bad because it’s incompetent. Those libertarians who fall in the former group are mostly concerned with deliberate misuse and abuse of power for personal gain. They often end up being conspiracy theorists. Those in the latter group are concerned with the poor incentives in government to do anything right. They rely a lot on public choice theory.

As readers of this blog can probably guess, I fall mostly in the latter category, though I’ll admit the former is sometimes right. But whichever attitude is more accurate, they lend themselves to different forms of entertainment. The government-is-evil attitude can make for great drama, but the government-is-incompetent attitude goes down best with comedy. Burn After Reading is amusing because the government agents in the movie are not highly motivated, hyper-competent experts; they are lazy, clueless, and kind of sad – like everyone else in a Coen brothers comedy, perhaps more so. In this regard, pay special attention to the minimal but brilliant supporting role of J.K. Simmons.


Anonymous said...

Brad Pitt can be so funny, as long as he's not taking himself too seriously... i could see how this movie would make good use of his, habitual, spastic arm movements

Anonymous said...

R GR8 Depressions Sicklical? Do they happen every 90-100 years? I was taught that enough GOVERNMENT regulations R 'N place to prevent it from ever happening again. If government is the problem how can it also be the solution? I need an answer because I read about how horrible things got during the GR8 Depression, and w/ what's happening with the collapsing financial institutions & markets it's keeping me awake @ nite. I've herd that comedies are more popular in hard times as people seek release and escape from their miserable daily lives. There's always the Daily Show w/ Jon Steward for some additional laughs. He likes to make fun of politicos, so it's libertarian in that sense. Sometimes, I want to "burn while reading" if the literature is bad enuf.

Anonymous said...

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. warned that if Congress failed to pass the $700 billion plan, it risked causing a recession and increasing joblessness. - nytimes blurb

What the hell is this all about? As an economist, why are you not blogging about this? My first instinst is to tell Paulson to shove the plan you know where. My second and third instints are much the same.

Glen Whitman said...

I've never promised to blog on everything economic! As it happens, I have little expertise in macroeconomics, monetary economics, or finance. I have some opinions on the current crisis, but nothing that would add substantially to what's already being said by other econo-bloggers with greater expertise.

Rebecca said...

Sweet And Low


Sweet and low, sweet and low,

Wind of the western sea, ,

Low, low, breathe and blow,

Wind of the western sea!

Over the rolling waters go,

Come from the dying moon, and blow,

Blow him again to me;

While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.


Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,

Father will come to thee soon;

Rest, rest, on mother's breast,

Father will come to his babe in the nest,

Silver sails all out of the west

Under the silver moon;

Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.

-----by age of conan