Last year, the folks at EconStories released a video that finally answered the age-old question, "What would it look like if godfather economists John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek got into a rap battle?" (For those who slept through econ, Hayek was one of the 20th century's leading defenders of free-market mechanisms to promote economic growth, while Keynes focused on using government policy to counteract slumps in the business cycle.) This week, they returned with a sequel, bringing Keynes and Hayek back for some more ideological head-butting. Hayek: "Real growth means production of what people demand. / That's entrepreneurship, not your central plan." Keynes: "My solution is simple and easy to handle. / It's spending that matters, why's that such a scandal?" And so forth.
It's worth noting, as Slate's David Weigel does, that the video was produced in association with the Mercatus Center, a think tank on whose board sits Charles Koch. The video's politics aren't hard to tease out: the libertarian Duke professor Michael Munger has a cameo as a security guard, there's a Ben Bernanke lookalike smoking a cigar and laughing evilly, and it's pretty clearly Hayek--whose supporters "tend to be libertarian in outlook," as The Boston Globe's Josh Rothman puts it--who carries the day.
Actually, Russ Roberts, the economist who co-wrote the lyrics and shares executive-producer credits on the video, would be the first to tell you he's got a dog in this fight. In a recent interview, Roberts told The New York Times that "I'm a Hayekian, but [director] John [Papola] and I feel very strongly that we should be fair to Keynes… He has good rhymes, he looks good on camera and he's got the better physique." So there you go.
Many of the people weighing in don't have a problem with the video's slant. Weigel calls it "a little unfair," but adds that "it's probably more fair than the coverage of these ideas in daily politics." Felix Salmon at Reuters writes that "Hayek gets the better of the fight -- but Keynes gets to make all his best points."
David Frum, though, takes somewhat lengthy exception. In a post at FrumForum, the former George W. Bush speechwriter argues that the video falls short at addressing "the actual burning question of the day: How do we recover most rapidly from the worst economic calamity to hit the US since World War II? To this, the modern Keynesians have an answer. To this, the modern self-described Hayekians don't." And if the EconStories team wants to make Hayekians out of Keynesians, says Frum, they can't gloss over that issue.
(If you clicked on this article hoping to hear some rap that was actually, you know, fun, we're sorry, and here's some Gucci Mane.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.