Obama and the End Of Bling

It was only a matter of time till someone wrote this piece, in this morning's Wall Street Journal:

The recession is cramping the style of hip-hop artists and wannabes -- many of whom are finding it difficult to afford the diamond-encrusted pendants and heavy gold chains they have long used to project an aura of outsized wealth.

In an attempt to keep up appearances, celebrity jewelers say rappers are asking them to make medallions with less-precious stones and metals. Some even whisper that the artists have begun requesting cubic zirconia, the synthetic diamond stand-in and QVC staple.

Mickey Kaus uses this as an occasion to revisit some ancient (by Internet standards) debate with Megan and Ta-Nehisi about whether President Obama would change black culture. But I think it's really pretty clear that this WSJ article is completely unrelated to that debate. For one, I can't find any mentions of Obama in the piece. Good ol' Occam's Razor suggests that an article about the recession changing consumption habits is probably just an article about the recession changing consumption habits, and not an article about the first black president and his relationship to black culture.

For another, the Journal is not making some cultural argument that rappers are less interested in jewelry, but is instead making the far more intuitive claim that less money means less expensive jewelry. So if you want to reach for an sophisticated-sounding takeaway here, it's that fake jewelry is an inferior good for which demand increases as income falls.
 

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(Lil Jon's world record-breaking necklace via the Journal.)
Presented by

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

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