banksy red balloon
Art: © Banksy. Image: © Dominic Robinson via Flickr.

Some bloke cut up his Banksy art to try and double its value

(spoiler: it didn’t work)

When the artist cut up a £1 million piece of his, it doubled in value. So someone did the same with their Banksy print - and reduced the value from £40,000 to £1.

What it means: If you think about it, it must actually be pretty frustrating to be Banksy, a famous UK-based graffiti artist. Imagine creating art that is all about wanting to stick it to upper-class rich people, and then watching those same people coo about how awesome your stuff is and sell it among themselves for thousands of pounds. Even when Banksy literally destroyed one of his pieces by getting it to self-shred, the picture just doubled in value. (But only when Banksy did it - as the poor sod who cut up his own print discovered.)

The oddness of this whole situation is actually a great example of how free markets - where things are bought and sold without government interference - (should) work. It seems logical that things should be more valuable if they’re made with lots of expensive materials or took a lot of time and effort to make or are just really useful. But Banksy’s shredding of his painting involved none of those things. Instead, the shredded painting became more valuable because enough people decided it should be.

Basically, more people wanted that painting than could have it, and the way a free market chooses who gets it when this happens is by making those people compete with money, where the one willing to spend the most wins. This is known as the law of supply and demand. (Law in the poetic, not legal sense. Plenty of economists have pointed out its flaws.) The supply is how much stuff there is, the demand is how many people want that stuff. In a perfect world, bigger supply = price goes down, bigger demand = price goes up.

You might think this all sounds kinda obvious, there’s actually no reason why we should swap things among ourselves in this way at all. Lots of economist have proposed different ways of sorting out who gets what. For example, we could switch from a system where people buy things to one where nobody owns anything and everything is rented and/or shared. Or we could say that stuff should go to the person who needs or wants the thing the most, rather than the person who can pay the most money (like with the NHS). There are endless possibilities, basically.

Read our explainers on economic choices and property rights.

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Reader Comments

  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?