Economics and literature

by on October 2, 2003 at 8:03 am in Economics | Permalink

I just received my copy of The Literary Book of Economics, compiled and edited by Michael Watts of Purdue University.

I love the book, it contains excerpts from literary works that present economic themes. On opportunity cost, you get to read Robert Frost on “The Road Not Taken”.

On equality, you get to read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, one of the most biting critiques of egalitarianism ever penned. The story is truly short, just a few pages, do click on the link and read it if you have the time.

Here is the opening to the story:

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Or are you familiar with the economic proposition, sometimes associated with Aaron Wildavsky, that the demand for safety rises with wealth and income? British poet Alexander Pope first stated that idea in 1737, for his short poem “Imitations of Horace,” click here.

You don’t have to read this book in one fell swoop, it offers 348 pp. of wonderful browsing. In addition to the authors cited above you get John Milton, Ayn Rand, Thomas Mann, John Steinbeck, Victor Hugo, and George Orwell. Highly recommended.

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