A Very Good Year for Economics Videos, Especially Cartoons

Short video clips are a good way to get students interested in economics and help them understand the basics. I especially like the Golden Balls video for teaching game theory and Milton Friedman’s classic telling of the pencil story for teaching price theory. The videos of Gerald Ford telling a joint session of Congress to “Whip Inflation Now”and of Arthur Burns telling a congressional committee that he would not increase the money supply are really good for macro.

2010 was a great year for new videos especially new cartoons, about which Amity Shlaes just posted a thoughtful article, Economics By Cartoon .

Here are some new videos which I think would be useful in the classroom if placed in context and used to generate discussion.

Quantitative Easing Explained. Already a classic, a friend first sent this to me by email on Nov 14, when it “only” had 100,000 downloads. It since went viral with 4 million downloads. Purists will note that it doesn’t get everything right, but the overall message is clear and correct; it will be good for generating class discussion, though it is particularly brutal in places. As Amity Shlaes points out, cartoon economics allows for a more basic “no holds barred” discussion with good “off the wall” questions, just the kind you want in an introductory economics class.

The Wrong Financial Adviser Created by my Stanford colleague and Nobel prize winner Bill Sharpe, this one uses the same cartoon making program used to create Quantitative Easing Explained, but, rather than taking on the Fed, it takes on financial advisers who charge too much and don’t deliver much value to investors. It has not gone viral yet, but it should because it satirically conveys important truths about investing. Combined with Burt Malkiel’s new little book Elements of Investing, with Charles Ellis, it will help students remember the lessons beyond the classroom when it really matters.

Bernanke on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This video includes a fascinating segment from two different episodes of 60 Minutes, in which the chairman gives two different answers about whether quantitative easing is printing money. Having students sort this one out will be a good “big think” exercise.

Unmasking Interest Rates, Honky Tonk Style. Produced by Paul Solman, this PBS video covers the monetary policy debate as of January 2010 and thus before QE2. It is pretty long for playing in class unless you edit or only play part. Here is a shorter version of the musical parts where (after a short intro by me) Merle Hazard sings “Inflation or Deflation”

Movie trailers can also prove useful if explained and put in context. The Inside Job Trailer and the Waiting for Superman Trailer are both very good as they address current events with deep economic significance. There is also a good clip of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde from the movie Inside Job.

Finally I cannot forget to mention the very popular Hayek-Keynes rap “Fear the Boom and Bust” which came out in January 2010 and now has 1.7 million downloads.

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