Why We Have Markets – Harvey Weinstein Made A Mistake Over Lord Of The Rings


A useful little indication of why we have society organised around a series of markets, not as something run by the one single decision making authority. People make mistakes. To err is human and all that and that disposition toward stupidity doesn’t disappear simply because someone’s in an office armed with the force of the law. We thus need and desire a system which allows mistakes to be made – for they will be, whatever else we do – but also discovered, rectified and cleaned up after.

Like, say, this idea for Lord of the Rings as a single two hour piccie:

A new book by British film writer Ian Nathan, Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson & The Making of Middle-Earth, reveals that Weinstein thought the New Zealand director had “wasted” $12m in developing a two-movie script.

Weinstein told Jackson he had to make one two-hour film or he would be replaced by Shakespeare in Love director John Madden, or Tarantino.

“Harvey was like, ‘you’re either doing this or you’re not. You’re out. And I got Quentin ready to direct it’,” Ken Kamins, a producer who worked for Weinstein on the project, told the author.

Kamins persuaded Weinstein to allow Jackson and Walsh sell their treatment elsewhere. New Line Cinema picked it up and Tolkein’s book was turned into a hugely successful trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).

Have to admit, rather like the idea of Tarantino doing it. The soundtrack would have been interesting at the least, perhaps Gollum would have taken smack, who knows?

But imagine a system in which we had the one cultural commissar, state planning of what movies were made by whom? It has, after all, happened in more than one country. If it were Weinstein who were that bureaucrat then that would have been that then, wouldn’t it? One single two hour movie and that’s yer lot.

Instead, in a market system, we get the interplay of ideas and those willing to stick their money into a vision get to reap the rewards – and also count the costs of their losses. By such does the system advance of course.

That Harvey Weinstein was about to make a mistake here is exactly why we should have a market based system – it’s the only one which doesn’t impose mistakes but allows people to both make them and also navigate around them.