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March 17, 2010 > Economics and hip-hop

Economics and hip-hop

Submitted By Catherine Behan

Put together a professor passionate about communicating economic issues to a broad range of people and a filmmaker who spends his 3 hours of commute time each day learning about economics and what do you get? An economic rap video, of course! A video that Ke$ha-the top artist on Billboard-was excited to see.

Today economist Russ Roberts and filmmaker John Papola released Fear the Boom and Bust at Econstories.TV ( They hope the video will both entertain and engage people - particularly younger audiences - as the world weighs economic theories about how to find our way out of the economic crisis.

"With the economy in turmoil we thought it was important to get people to think about how the economy works," said Roberts, senior scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. "Why are there recessions? Why are some worse than others? How do you get out of them? Is that question meaningful--can politicians and central bankers steer the economy?"

In "Fear the Boom and Bust," John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek, two of the great economists of the 20th century, come back to life to attend an economics conference on the economic crisis. Before the conference begins, and at the insistence of Lord Keynes, they go out for a night on the town and sing about why there's a 'boom and bust' cycle in modern economies and good reason to fear it.

Here is the refrain:
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.

'Fear the Boom and Bust' is the first of many economics videos and lessons planned for, a place to learn about the economic way of thinking through the eyes of creative director Papola and creative economist Roberts.

Roberts and Papola said they wrote the song to capture two very different perspectives: Keynes's view that the economy can fall prey to animal spirits and slump through a viral fear of the future and Hayek (Keynes' contemporary and friend), who blamed poor monetary policy.

"We're living out the same debate in modern times," Roberts said. "So we thought it would be timely to hear from Keynes and Hayek again, especially in a format that might draw people to these issues in a way that is more inviting than a dry textbook or essay."

John Papola is an award winning producer/director in broadcast entertainment and marketing. He is currently a creative executive at Spike TV in their industry-leading brand group. The financial and economic crisis and a general concern for the future that comes with being a new dad sparked an intense interest in economics and the business cycle.

Russell Roberts is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Distinguished Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He is also host of the weekly podcast series, EconTalk and blogs at Cafe Hayek. His latest book is The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity (Princeton University Press, 2008). Told in the form of a novel, it's the story of how prosperity is created and sustained, and the unseen order and harmony that shape our daily lives.

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