From There to Here, from Here to There Economics Is Everywhere

A recent paper by Miller and Watts explores the economics content of children’s books written by Theodor Geisel, a.k.a Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg, and Roseta Stone (Oh, the Economics You’ll Find in Dr. Seuss! (pdf)). (Hat tip to Catherine Rampell of the NY Times’ Economix blog for bringing it to my attention.)

As you might imagine, the paper is eminently readable. Among its contributions is a table listing all the books published under all of Geisel’s pen names and the economics concepts Miller and Watts argue they illustrate. The text makes the case in greater detail, citing plot lines and passages and linking them to economics.

For instance, Miller and Watts cite as an example of asymmetric information the fact that the Cat (in the hat) knew he could clean up his playful mess rapidly using special technology but the kids did not.

Well, there are lots of good tricks one can do with Cat in the Hat and other Seuss books. Miller’s and Watts’ trick is cute, but I’m not sure I buy that there’s much economics in an idea if there is no economic consequence. For instance, there is asymmetric information everywhere, in nearly every story. Does that make all such stories relevant to economics? I don’t think so. Nevertheless, I applaud Miller and Watts for a fun piece of work. Perhaps there is a little (just a little) economics in some of Seuss’s stories. Anyway, it’s a neat way to think about the concepts.

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