Fight of the Century

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Education does not only take place in our schools, though we often get caught up debating the merit of governance schemes for our bricks-and-mortar institutions. That is important. While I think digital learning is going to transform our concepts of school and learning, I also think the role of the teacher (the “master” in a way), the adult who hands off a tradition, will always be preserved. The relationship between a kid (and of course even an adult) and a teacher is a special one, which is why we spend so much time, ink and treasure trying to make sure we have effective ones.

It’s also why we often have debates (and residual distrust) about things like distance learning, blended learning models, and all the rest.

On this beautiful weekend, I thought I’d avoid weighing into all that and, instead, share the most effective tool I have seen to explain Keynes and Hayek to my nine-year-old daughter. OK, not that everyone has such goals in mind, but this entertaining video is a very provocative and, in fact, thoughtful representation of a debate that matters to all of us. And, yes, Keynes and Hayek rap about their versions of economic policy, government intervention in the marketplace, and the very nature of markets.

John Papola, a filmmaker and executive at SpikeTV and previously at MTV with a passion for economic theory, and Russ Roberts, Professor of Economics at George Mason University and the J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Distinguished Scholar at the Mercatus Center, have done an incredible job with a topic that can often get longwinded and quickly diverted by misinformation.

There are many great exchanges, but my favorite back and forth is:

it’s just like an engine that’s stalled and gone dark
To bring it to life, we need a quick spark
Spending’s the life blood that gets the flow going
Where it goes doesn’t matter, just get spending flowing

The economy’s not a car, there’s no engine to stall
no expert can fix it, there’s no “it” at all.
The economy’s us, we don’t need a mechanic
Put away the wrenches, the economy’s organic

Keynes and Hayek are not “on the one hand… on the other hand” fence-sitters. Clearly, there is nuance; for example, however, much conservatives want to call Hayek one of their own, I am sure he would beg to differ (see his Why I am not a Conservative). His worldview had too much of the great jurist Learned Hand’s “The Spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right” to be conservative.

They are fast-talking, so if you want a translation, you can get the full text here.

Papola-Roberts are not new at this. This latest video is a great improvement over their already high-quality offering on booms and busts (below).

Does this sort of thing belong in schools? Does teaching economics to a nine-year-old require a rap video? I don’t know about all that. What I do know is that Papola and Roberts have, by providing a primer that is useful and provocative to many audiences, demonstrated that they are very effective teachers.