The People’s Romance is a scale social good. Conspicuous non-conformism is a congestion good.

Inspired by this dichotomy from Robin Hanson.

UPDATE: In “Predictably Irrational” Dan Ariely describes an experiment in which he had a group of people at a restaurant/bar to order their drinks, with the randomized conditions being whether they did so by announcing their choice or silently marking it on a piece of paper. It turns out that rather than imitating the choices of the “first person in line” (read the book to understand the back-reference), people tend to avoid repeating choices that others have made. Furthermore, people who choose differently to avoid sharing the same selection as another at their table report less enjoyment of it (it makes no difference to the first chooser whether they made their choice verbally or on paper). Ariely found this aesthetically-sabotaging tendency to be correlated with a personality trait called “need for uniqueness” (related to “openness to experience”?). So individualists should dislike themselves for their foolish idiosyncracy. There is an exception for other cultures, in Hong Kong people tended to imitate other choosers, again to the detriment of their reported satisfaction. I wonder what satisfactions people would report if one person made a choice, and then everyone received the same thing so that others did not have the possibility of feeling the same sort of regret for being pushed into bad choices?

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