‘Fear the Boom and Bust’: A Rap Anthem for the Economy

Economic theory can be pretty dry, but set it to a beat with a coupla gangsta economists in a hotel lobby and suddenly, it’s the most interesting thing you’ve heard all day.

Source: youtube

Making the rounds on YouTube is “Fear the Boom and Bust,” a seven-minute rap videofeaturing actors playing two of the most prominent economists of the 20th century: John Maynard Keynes, an early proponent of deficit spending, and F.A. Hayek, the Austrian economist who suggested low interest rates can make a boom but left low too long, it can turn to bust.

The plot goes that the pair are attending an economics conference on the current economic crisis. They go out the night before and rapping ensues:

We’ve been going back and forth for a century
[Keynes] I want to steer markets,
[Hayek] I want them set free
There’s a boom and bust cycle and good reason to fear it
[Hayek] Blame low interest rates.
[Keynes] No… it’s the animal spirits

Kudos to “Keynes” for being able to work in “aggregate demand”:

I had a real plan any fool can understand
The advice, real simple — boost aggregate demand!

And for putting it in terms everyone can understand while using the word “paradox”:

Savings is destruction, that’s the paradox of thrift
Don’t keep money in your pocket or that growth will never lift …

And for his catchy tagline:

Say it loud, say it proud — we’re all Keynesians now.

“Hayek” has some pretty good comebacks:

Your focus on spending is pushing on thread
In the long run, my friend, it’s your theory that’s dead
So sorry there, buddy, if that sounds like invective
Prepare to get schooled in my Austrian perspective

Oh, snap!

Points for use of the word “malinvestments:”

The place you should study isn’t the bust
It’s the boom that should make you feel leery, that’s the thrust
Of my theory, the capital structure is key.
Malinvestments wreck the economy

The video is the brainchild of John Papola, a director and producer who was inspired by Ron Paul's campaign to start reading about the economy — downloading audio books and podcasts to read on his commute from New Jersey to New York City every day.

"Personally, this is my magnum opus of the past two years of commuting!" Papola quipped.

Papola, a self-professed fan of Hayek's free-market economics, cold-called Russell Roberts, a professor of economics at George Mason University, about doing the project with him after listening to one of his EconTalk podcasts.

"Given the state of the economy, people want to understand what's going on," Roberts explained. "They hear a lot about Keynes and not so much about Hayek. We wanted to present Hayek's views while being fair to Keynes as well. And we wanted to try to do it in a visually compelling way to grab people's attention and entertain."

And, in the spirit of full disclosure — a rare thing in these sort of projects, Papola says: "We are thoroughly free marketeers. But we wanted to do it in an honest way to give Keynes a fair hearing."

Papola said it was tricky getting the right actors to play Keynes and Hayek — to get the complexity of the lyrics and inflections just right. But, his wife found the perfect pair in Billy Scafuri (Keynes) and Adam Lustick (Hayek), who are improv comedians with the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Fun, yet informative, “Fear the Boom and Bust” calls up memories of that little bill, sitting there on Capitol Hill, and that elusive place, “Conjunction Junction,”from the animated educational series "Schoolhouse Rock" in the 70s and 80s.

I’ll never forget their function.

The full lyrics and as much extracurricular reading as your free-market mind can handle are available on their Web site, Econ Stories (www.econstories.tv).

Stay tuned: Papola and Roberts plan to post videos of interviews with modern-day economists about the theories presented in the video. And, they're already working on their next video project, which is under tight, ahem, raps. Papola would say only that it delves deeper into one of the issues in this video.

Everybody, all together now:

We’ve been going back and forth for a century
[Keynes] I want to steer markets,
[Hayek] I want them set free
There’s a boom and bust cycle and good reason to fear it
[Hayek] Blame low interest rates.
[Keynes] No… it’s the animal spirits

Watch the video:

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