Chapter 2: On Economics, Leisure and Much More
1 Alessandro Balestrino INTRODUCTION Sometimes even economists, dismal as they may be, go to the cinema in their free time. A straightforward application of the law of large numbers tells us that, given enough cinemas and enough economists, at least one of them must have watched Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona (2008) directed by Woody Allen. In fact, the author of this chapter did – which proves the proposition. He liked the film, and was intrigued by the way in which the director had portrayed the different attitudes to leisure of Europeans and Americans: the former are quite a relaxed lot, who enjoy their creativity and take their time to do what has to be done, while the latter always look busy, hurrying from one task to the other without pause. This is in fact an old theme in the arts, and Allen has at least a significant predecessor that he himself mentioned in interviews: Henry James, one of the most important authors in English literature. James was American, but lived most of his life in London, and a large part of his novels and stories are centred around the contrast between America and Europe. Sometimes this contrast is about the attitudes to leisure: for example, in Washington Square, written in the late nineteenth century, he describes the United States as a country where a man who does not earn his income is not well considered in society – this is of course as opposed to the European ideal of the gentleman who lives...
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