Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cartoonomics or Federonomics

Amity Shlaes writes: 
  • John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman preached different philosophies but shared one thing: a withering contempt for students who couldn't keep up with the rest in a seminar. There is a lively debate about whether Friedman himself would have supported QE2. I believe not. But the Friedmanian emphasis on monetary policy helped to make Ben Bernanke's QE2 possible. 

  • The seminar culture carried over to the salon of general economic discussion. Journalists don't clarify. Instead, they become graduate students, journeymen who pander to the masters, professional economists. No one dares to suggest that if high-end theory is so difficult to understand it may not be the best theory. No one dares admit he is less than 100% sure, to quote Mr. Bernanke in his recent 60 Minutes appearance. To talk in anything other than Keynesian or monetarist terms is to ensure you'll be shut out of the salon. 

  • Hence the cartoon. This medium calls the academics' bluff. Cartoons do not even aspire to the salon. What a cartoon video says, in effect, is: "I don't care if I'm called stupid; I'm a cartoon. What I care about is trying to discuss the economy in plain English." Readers and viewers are so relieved to be free of the obligation to appear erudite that they turn to the cartoon in droves. The same phenomenon has produced another unlikely economic messenger: a rap video. A mock rap debate between John Maynard "Let-the-Spending-Soar" Keynes and the Austrian School economist Friedrich "Too-Much-Aggregation" von Hayek has received 1.7 million hits on YouTube.

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