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Few labor markets are as dysfunctional as the market for creative labor. Writers, musicians, graphic artists and other creative workers often produce because they feel they have to, driven by a need to express and discover themselves. Small wonder that creative workers are willing to produce art for lower wages than they’d accept for other types of work. This leads to a vast oversupply of creative work, giving publishers, labels, studios and other intermediaries a buyer’s market for creative labor.
For the most part, arts policy pretends this isn’t true. When economists and business-people talk about labor markets, they lean heavily on the neoliberal conception of “rational economic actors” who produce when it makes sense to do so, and move on to another form of work when it doesn’t. Homo economicus is a nonsense — behavioral economics has repeatedly demonstrated all the ways in which “economic actors” don’t behave the way economic models predict they will — but it’s especially absurd when applied to creative labor markets.