Friday, 20 May 2016

Homer Economicus - The Simpsons and Economics

I've just finished reading this book, which was edited by Joshua Hall (West Virginia University) and included contributions from many authors, including Jodi Beggs (of Economists Do It With Models fame) and Art Carden (famous to me at least for this poem on How Economics Saved Christmas).

Each chapter uses examples from The Simpsons to illustrate economic concepts and how they apply to the real world. Overall the book is pitched at readers who have some passing familiarity with 100-level economics - if you have no understanding of economics at all, this probably isn't the place to start. However, for those who can at least recognise the concepts of supply and demand, opportunity cost, and monopoly, and especially for those who are also fans of the show, this book is a good read. You may be surprised how many economic lessons you can draw from the show.

The highlights for me were the chapters on unintended consequences (by Art Carden), labour markets (by David T. Mitchell of the University of Central Arkansas), and behavioural economics (by Jodi Beggs). I especially enjoyed being reminded of a lot of the most amusing parts of episodes from the early seasons, before I started on my economics journey.

Joshua Hall also has two earlier research papers on using The Simpsons to teach economics (first in the Journal of Private Enterprise; and second in The American Economist - I don't see an ungated version of the second paper anywhere, sorry). See also this paper from the Journal of Economic Education by Andrew Luccasen and Kathleen Thomas (both Mississippi State University). They are all well worth reading. You can also hear Joshua Hall talking to Tom Woods about economics and The Simpsons here. Enjoy!

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