Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Economics through the medium of Children's TV

I think kids need to be taught the basics of modern economics at an early age. I certainly remember the episode of Postman Pat where Pat striked for fair pay with his union. Pat, sitting, unshaved next to a flaming bin with his trusty black-and-white cat still going into work.

"SCAB!" he shouts, vociferously. "SCAB!" as Jess saunters in. She doesn't mind. She's on triple pay for her efforts, that mercenary feline.

And the episode where that Polish immigrant undercut Mrs Goggins' pay because he didn't have to work for minimum wage

But then got busted by the Border police in one of the most mundane raids of all time. Eventually, they gave the job back to "The Gogginator", but only after she had campaigned for months on an unfair dismissal charge. She was eventually awarded £200,000 plus legal costs.

And that episode of Thomas the tank Engine where rising fuel costs caused Thomas to run a restricted service, and was frequently delayed, leading to a downturn in passenger numbers, leading to less money...

It was a vicious cycle and eventually Thomas' line was axed by the Fat Controller, who had incurred loses frequently on that journey and couldn't stand it anymore.

The most heartless one was when the Teletubbies’ acres of land were bought up at a reduced price by a home-builder who saw an opportunity, and although they had legally only signed away equity, they couldn't afford the court cases to fight it (Having spent the income on Tubby toast and custard) and were promptly kicked off when the owner got planning permission.

Dark days. It's a housing estate just outside Bristol now.

I remember when How 2 did a brief section on the Keynesian model of modern economics, and compared it to the more outdated economic models, such as Smith's 1776 work "The Wealth of nations" (My favourite book older than the entire nation of America).

And of course, Art Attack and SMart were frequently trading blows over who could best explain the fluctuations in trading price of significant artworks to kids.

That episode where Neil Buchanan used the great Titians to explain supply and demand to the audience was great, particularly when he explained artificial inflation through deliberate lack of supply. He related it to the 1973 formation of OPEC in a manner best described as masterful, before showing how oil prices quadrupled from three to 12 dollars a barrel (Those heady times before now) thank to OPEC's embargo of the US (We of course, remember this was because of the US opting to support Israel.)

Of course, this isn't happening any more (To be fair, based on my track record of factual accuracy, you can be fairly assured it wasn't happening before now either), so I have taken it into my own hands to put out a modern day lesson:

Carl the Cowboy, Bob the builder's new arch-nemesis, who undercuts Bob's best offers for local development projects, yet delivers a shoddier job on the final result and takes significant risks on health and safety, but is still raking it in, forcing Bob, the conscientious workman, to start taking jobs cash-in-hand and evading the taxman to make ends meet, having already let go of several key staff, including Wendy, who's administrative role was deemed superfluous in the modern, cut-throat world of building. Eventually, this leads to a tax investigation on Bob for failing to provide adequate receipts for the purchase of bricks (A schoolboy self-assessment error) and eventually, the closing of Bob's business. Bob, driven to depression, joins on as one of Carl's contractors.

So it's missing the happy ending, but hey, I'm hardly Oliver Postgate.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Political Metaphors Through the Medium of Camels

Camels, as we know, are divided into 2 groups, the Dromedary camels (Single-humped) and the Bactrian camels (Dual-humped). What is less well known, is that these two groups have formed a divisive relationship and frequently get into gang warfare between eachother. It was featured in "Ross Kemp on Gangs".

The Dromes gathered on the dune. They had immediately claimed the high ground, whilst the Bacs had to form a group at the base of the sand-mountain. The Bacs prepared for battle, and pulled out their switch-blades (Since the even-toed ungulates found it hard to use alternative stabbing devices, excluding knitting needles) whilst the Dromes gathered the mental resolve to defend themselves.

Suddenly, from nowhere, a lone Dromedary camel appeared on the horizon, galloping towards the skirmish. "Wait!" he cried, when he was suitably close. "Wait! Look at yourselves! You're camels! What does it matter if we have one hump or two, we're all camels together! How can camels develop without unity!? A united Desert us surely a better Desert!" he exclaimed, because he was a particularly forward thinking camel.

The camels stared at eachother for a moment, when suddenly a Bac spoke out. "Typical Dromedary response to their failing leftist agenda!" and the Bacs murmured in agreement. "This is the expected response of the left-wing!"

A Drome took affront at this, and yelled back "Under Bac leadership, the budget deficits have been huge! Whilst under Drome leadership, the Desert has actually MADE money! You rely on us to keep this Desert afloat!"

Well, the Bacs were taken aback by this attack against their leadership-record, and launched a verbal assault back at the Dromes: "At least our leaders haven't been impeached for sexual misconduct whilst in leadership!"

Well, the Dromes weren't having any of this slander thrown at them, and heartily responded "At least OUR leaders haven't deserved to be impeached! I refer you to resignation of your leader after several key documents were stolen from OUR camel-offices by men in the pay of YOUR leader!"

By now, the original Dromedary who had called for unity had been pilloried on all sides, despite his failing being the failure of the Bacs to agree with his message of camel-unity for a better Desert. So he started break-dancing and spinning on his hump whilst the Dromes and Bacs fought it out in the background.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Birds falling out the Sky

Apparently, in Arkansas, birds have started plummeting out of the sky, dead. Many theories have been put forward to explain this, including "Fireworks, which have previously killed very few birds, have caused entire flocks to drop dead for no new reason." and "The Apocalypse is nigh".

I reckon it's a communal existential nihilism, as the flocks have, as a group, discovered their own mortality and how meaningless their own existence really is, and plummeted out of the sky. Killed by self-awareness. We never should have translated Nietzsche into Bird. I always said "This can only have negative consequences, stick to lighter stuff, like Wodehouse" (Pigeons love their Wodehouse) but they just didn't listen. Look at us now.

Apparently, fish have been washing up on the shore, dead. Some people have blamed pollution, but I reckon sharks have evolved to spread the message of their own hopeless lives to the fish, causing them to slide into a fishy spiral of depression and eventually take their own lives, making easy food for sharks. Philosophical hunters are nightmares, the lions famously lured the zebras into a cult society which ultimately ended with a group-suicide amongst the zebras to be closer to their eternal ruler. A nightmare.

I can just imagine them now.
"Haha, Shark, didn't catch me that time!" giggled Fish as he swam away.
"You're still going to die, Fish. You are a mere mortal. You cannot evade death forever. What is the purpose of your existence? Will you ever change anything? Or is the world without you the same as the world with you!?" yelled back Shark, which, although a long sentence, still carried well underwater.
"Perhaps he's right," thought Fish, swimming away. "Is there any point to it all? Why do I exist? Oh, goodness, it's all so meaningless! I know, I'll have a word with Dave, he'll know."
"Dave! Dave!" yelled Fish
"Oh, alright Pete? What's up?" said Dave, font of fishy-wisdom
"Dave, I'm having an existential crisis! What is the purpose of me?! What is the purpose of us!? Do we exist for a reason!? Will anything we do change anything ever?!"
"WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" cried Dave to the school of fish. "Quick, let's end our misery now!" and they flung themselves onto the beaches like D-Day landers.

Or not. I'm not sure.