Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Darwin Economy and school uniforms or Arms Races Everywhere

Just a very short post to add to my last one about Robert Frank's The Darwin Economy. It occurred to me yesterday that another example of a rule to prevent an arms race is the school uniform.

Even at the time, from the ages of 12 to 18, I was aware and generally grateful that the mandatory uniform rule freed us from pressure to wear fashionable and expensive clothes. My small town school was no centre of fashion in any case, but the ordinary peer pressures of adolescence might have made us feel we had to spend money on expensive clothes to remain cool. Because the uniform placed us all on a level playing field, we didn't need to worry about it. Any competition shifted to the PE class, in which some boys would have expensive new football jerseys, and I did there sometimes feel embarrassed by my humbler gear.

This is interesting as a common sense example of an intervention to prevent a kind of arms race, albeit at a modest level. I was content with the uniform for those vulnerable years of early adolescence, but wouldn't have worn it voluntarily if it hadn't been mandatory because this would have drawn derision from my peers.

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