David R. Henderson  

Hayek at a Rock Concert

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My all-time favorite article by Hayek is his 1945 classic, "The Use of Knowledge in Society." Although he doesn't mention the term "local knowledge" in that article, that is the term we Hayekians have adopted to refer to his "knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place."

On Saturday night, I drove to the Salinas Rodeo to see a performance by Credence Clearwater Revisited. (I give it an A, by the way.) Sitting there listening, I remembered one of my favorite passages from Stewart Brand, ed., The Next Whole Earth Catalogue, 1980:

Peter Spectre went to a Frank Zappa concert in Amherst, and in the middle of it, someone in the balcony threw a whiskey bottle at Frank Zappa and hit him in the arm. Zappa instantly stopped the music, called for the houselights, hauled his stool to the middle of the stage and said, "I'm not playing another note till the c**ks**ker who threw that bottle is in jail." Peter thought, "There goes the concert." But as soon as Zappa spoke, the people in front started looking back because they knew that was generally where it had come from and of course the closer people were sitting to the thrower the more specifically they knew where he was and they looked in that specific direction and the people next to him and in back of him looked right at him and within 4 or 5 seconds everyone in the whole place was looking at one guy, and the cops went over, picked him up and took him away. He didn't say a word. Zappa order the houselights down, went back to his guitar, and finished the concert.

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COMMENTS (8 to date)
El Presidente writes:

At least we agree on music. :-)

Wonderful anecdote.

Dano writes:

That fits with a recent New Scientist article Why cops should trust the wisdom of the crowds. Apparently, most mobs are orderly, it is only when authority steps in to control things that mobs become unruly.

(HT Reason's Hit & Run Blog )

[html typo corrected--Econlib Ed.]

asdf writes:

[Comment removed for supplying false email address. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring this comment. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog.--Econlib Ed.]

Bob Murphy writes:

That's awesome. I've often wondered why comedians don't use such an approach with hecklers. It seems so anonymous to yell something from the middle of a crowd, but as you note, the people right next to the heckler know who's doing it.

Duncan writes:

I once saw DC band Fugazi do the same thing with someone who threw a plastic glass full of beer onto the stage at one of their concerts. The culprit was identified, invited up to wipe up the mess, then thrown out by the back door by the bouncers. He did escape arrest, though.

Mike Rulle writes:

I love applying Hayek too. But what would a "Keynesian" response be? I am not sure.

fundamentalist writes:

Decades ago I spent six months in Tehran where traffic is among the worst in the world. Most people had insurance, but refused to file on it because their rates would go up. So when an accident happened, and I had several, a crowd would instantly form and debate who was in the wrong. Those involved in the wreck would just stand around, maybe argue with the crowd, but mostly wait. The crowd, often 30 or more people, decided who was in the wrong and how much he had to pay the victim. On one occasion, I just took out all of the paper money in my pocket and held it out, my Farsi not being to good at the time. A young man picked out the amount that the crowd had decided I owed the victim and gave it to him, then the crowd dispersed.

saifedean writes:

"But what would a "Keynesian" response be?"

I think I know: "Print a trillion dollars. Buy a trillion whiskey bottles and give them to everyone in the crowd to smash them. This will restore animal spirits and turn this into the greatest concert ever, of course. And here's a bunch of math that proves it..."

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