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I remember when How 2 did a brief section on the Keynesian model of modern economics, and compared it to the more outdated economic models, such as Smith's 1776 work "The Wealth of nations" (My favourite book older than the entire nation of America).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

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