Fight of the century

The second in the Hayek/Keynes rap battles, Fight of the Century is a worthy successor to the original. This time, they get more philosophical. Here are some of the better lyrics I think.

KEYNES
we could have done better, had we only spent more
Too bad that only happens when there’s a World War
You can carp all you want about stats and regression
Do you deny World War II cut short the Depression?

HAYEK
Wow. One data point and you’re jumping for joy
the Last time I checked, wars only destroy
There was no multiplier, consumption just shrank
As we used scarce resources for every new tank

Pretty perverse to call that prosperity
Rationed meat, Rationed butter… a life of austerity
When that war spending ended your friends cried disaster
yet the economy thrived and grew ever faster

This is one of my pet peeves, people talking about how WW II stopped the depression. Folks lived pretty poorly, there was massive rationing and all of the work went into things that were going to be blown up. It wasn’t exactly productive labor in the long run.

KEYNES
You too only see what you want to see
The spending on war clearly goosed GDP
Unemployment was over, almost down to zero
That’s why I’m the master, that’s why I’m the hero

HAYEK
Creating employment’s a straigtforward craft
When the nation’s at war, and there’s a draft
If every worker was staffed in the army and fleet
We’d be at full employment with nothing to eat

REFRAIN

HAYEK
jobs are the means, not the ends in themselves
people work to live better, to put food on the shelves
real growth means production of what people demand
That’s entrepreneurship not your central plan

Once again, people tend to lose the plot when it comes to jobs. It’s easy enough to create jobs if you’re not worried about what the people are doing in them. Never mind the waste of resources (including their time) involved and how they could have been better used elsewhere.

KEYNES
My solution is simple and easy to handle..
its spending that matters, why’s that such a scandal?
The money sloshes through the pipes and the sluices
revitalizing the economy’s juices

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

HAYEK
You see slack in some sectors as a “general glut”
But some sectors are healthy, and some in a rut
So spending’s not free – that’s the heart of the matter
too much is wasted as cronies get fatter.

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

Exactly! The economy isn’t a thing, it’s a process, it’s us. Try to control it, and you try to control us.

 

KEYNES
so what would you do to help those unemployed?
this is the question you seem to avoid
when we’re in a mess, would you just have us wait?
Doing nothing until markets equil-i-brate?

HAYEK
I don’t want to do nothing, there’s plenty to do
The question I ponder is who plans for who?
Do I plan for myself or leave it to you?
I want plans by the many and not by the few.

As succinct a summary of free market ideals as there is. A point that isn’t made enough is the fact that central planning is a few people making decisions for many. No one has the knowledge to do that well.

We shouldn’t repeat what created our troubles
I want real growth not just a series of bubbles
Let’s stop bailing out losers and let prices work
If we don’t try to steer them they won’t go berserk

KEYNES
Come on, Are you kidding? Don’t Wall Street’s gyrations
Challenge your world view of self-regulation?
Even you must admit that the lesson we’ve learned
Is more oversight’s needed or else we’ll get burned

HAYEK
Oversight? The government’s long been in bed
With the Wall Street execs and the firms that they’ve led
Prosperity’s all about profit and loss
When you bail out the losers there’s no end to the cost

the lesson I’ve learned? It’s how little we know,
the world is complex, not some circular flow
the economy’s not a class you can master in college
to think otherwise is the pretense of knowledge

Zing! People that think they know what’s best are the ones that want to make decisions for everyone. The thing is that those are the same people in the pockets of industry.

KEYNES
You get on your high horse and you’re off to the races
I look at the world on a case by case basis
When people are suffering I roll up my sleeves
And do what I can to cure our disease

The future’s uncertain, our outlooks are frail
Thats why free markets are so prone to fail
In a volatile world we need more discretion
So state intervention can counter depression

HAYEK
People aren’t chessmen you can move on a board
at your whim–their dreams and desires ignored
With political incentives, discretion’s a joke
The dials you’re twisting… are just mirrors and smoke

the market’s a process where we can discover
the most valuable ways to serve one another
we need stable rules and real market prices
so prosperity emerges and cuts short the crisis

A perfect summation of a type of economics that is gaining traction. It makes sense to me, and it surprises me how many people are willing to allow a handful of people make decisions for them. Russ Roberts and John Papoula have done an amazing job making economics more accessible to everyone and laying out the major issues involved. I wish there was more education like this…

You can see the video here:

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *