Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Several years ago I read Snobbery: The American Version by Joseph Epstein where he described a scenario of a man stuck in traffic. The man spied a "My son attends UCLA" bumper sticker and thought "what a schmuck" because his own car bumper sticker proudly declared "My son attends Harvard".

Snobbery has many levels.

My book boyfriend Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist, writes about "signaling" as a kind of personal advertising. He says the cost or difficulty is the whole point of signaling and it is the reason why signaling sends an effective message. If flowers were free, or everyone knew the right kind to send, most women would not be very thrilled to get them. And if everyone could work their way through Harvard Business School with ease, the degree wouldn't mean so much.

But here is my favorite part of the passage:
In elite British boarding schools it is considered desirable to receive either top marks or very bad marks. The stupid people are thought to be clustered in the middle. They tried to do well and failed. They couldn't figure out that it would have looked better not to try in the first place.

Not trying that hard and now proud of it,
I am,

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