EconStories.tv – Keynes vs. Hayek

by August 13th, 2011 - Culture » Film and TV » Politics »

EconStories.tv is the offspring of award winning video director John Papola and Russ Roberts professor of economics at George Mason University.

I remember being skeptical when I saw a link to their first video, “Fear the Boom and Bust” an economic rap battle between John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek, but after bopping through the video it was immediately clear that the video was the first to achieve the long sought after goal of Infotainment, so skillfully blending both information and entertainment without sacrificing either.

For those who are not familiar with either theorist, John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek are the two most prominent historical figures of competing economic theories: top down central control in which an all knowing government directs the flow of money to steer the economy vs. a laissez faire approach that recognizes that no one person or entity can understand the complexity of the needs and desires of disparate individuals.

One minute into the first video and it is already the smartest, wittiest creation on the earth, Hayek finding a copy of Keynes’ “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” in the hotel end-table where a Bible would normally be found before getting a call from the man himself inviting Hayek to come out drinking, “Hey listen…party at the FED…20 minutes…lobby”.

Those are fantastically woven references and the rest of the video doesn’t let up, breaking into a splendidly composed rap battle of economic theory with great performances by both actors playing Keynes and Hayek.

A second video, “Fight of the Century”, has been released, improving on the original to become more than just infotainment, but actually a legitimately good rap song. Rap battle meets committe hearing meets boxing match and the committee chairman/referee adds a stunning new voice singing the refrain:

“Which way should we choose?
more bottom up or more top down
the fight continues…
Keynes and Hayek’s second round”

In that I agree very passionately with the general premise of Hayek’s philosophy that no one is smart enough to dictate the lives of others, I actually got chills during some of his lyrics in the video.

“The lesson I’ve learned
is how little we know.
The world is complex
not some circular flow.
The economy’s not a class
that you can master in college.
To think otherwise
is the pretense of knowledge.”

I won’t actually pretend to say that stanza is better than sex, but it is as good as SOME sex I’ve had…which is still pretty damn awesome.

The producers of these videos are open about favoring Hayek, but give both sides equal time and I find it hard to point towards actual bias. The first video ends with Keynes hungover from binge drinking, trying to cure himself with more alcohol. The second ends with Keynes being knocked out, but being proclaimed champion nonetheless, garnering the attention of the press while Hayek was pushed to the side before finding conversation with thoughtful individuals. These are metaphors that may be seen as biased, but I find it hard to dispute the basic reality that they are referencing.

Econ nerds and political geeks will gripe and fight from these two camps, but the beauty of these videos is…their beauty, visuals that are a joy to watch, music that moves, and lyrics that will spur thought and conversation for the average viewer without necessarily choosing teams, safe from the dangers of simply becoming “slaves of some defunct economist.”

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