Every once in a while, I try to read something educational for recreation. Sometimes it’s about how the news media works, or art history, or the biographies of those I admire. This time, I decided to learn about Economics. Thankfully my local library had a book on it in the graphic novel section. The book is called “Economix:How our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work) in Words and Pictures”. Which I thought was very informative to someone who had the barest understanding of Economics, or even how the US economy functions.
Discussing the Economy can get very heated sometimes. Some facts I think everyone can agree on are: 1) The US has a mixed Economy (sections of it are heavily industrialized and usually regulated, while other sections of it are left alone which may include Agriculture), 2) Compared to more deprived countries the US actually is better off BUT, 3) A series of poor planning and bad decisions has led to a bad time for most Americans.
What I started off knowing was the Supply/Demand paradigm, that countries import and export goods they lack or want or both, and that in 2008 the Government bailed out a bunch of companies with taxpayer money. I knew much more (but still very little) about the Political process of electing representatives and passing bills than what makes a healthy Economy. What makes “Economix” so informative and engrossing, is how well Micheal Goodwin explains everything in the book. Some things were understandably a little dense, such as specific terms or high principals used in Advanced discussions. More than 98% of the book, should be easy to understand for people who passed Middle School.
Goodwin starts at the beginning of colonial times to set up the pre-industrial era and how Capitalism began. Here he talks about merchants making goods to sell and competing with each other for profit. Most of the time is actually spent in the past since things were relatively simple in those times, which make it the ideal place to explain the basics of Economics. Knowing about US history (or just paying attention in class) was a bonus in these chapters.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the book are the historical quotes coming from respected Economists, Presidents, and Historians.
Things get more complex and dirty in the Industrialized chapters. Supply and demand wasn’t enough, and people learned that they can use Politics to help the Economy (or their wallets) grow. This continues for several decades as it’s not something the Government was prepared or equipped to combat. Things turn around under Teddy Roosevelt, stabilize close to the 1950s, and spiral down to now. There are pages and pages covering the in-between of course.
One of the core concepts Goodwin tries to instill is that, it’s all about people. People make, buy, sell things and make bad decisions. If their Economic situation is good, the Economy is good. If things are bad, the Economy will suffer. The Rich and Powerful will usually not care and even cause these downturns. Letting the Economy do whatever is more often than not the worst idea. Dictating every little thing it does (Fascism) works alittle better, but carries alot of problems. Keeping Corporations in check with regulations, paying people fair wages, saving moderately and investing responsibly work the best. Go figure.
Goodwin also explains how different economies work, such as a war-driven economy like Fascism; to Socialism and others. Some things we keep hearing in America are “Laissez-Faire”, “Small Government”, “Social Darwinism”, and “Free Market”. The idea if we don’t hinder companies with rules and regulations they will compete, produce better goods for us to buy, and bad companies will go under. Which is why it’s called an idea, it’s hypothetical. What happens if these companies merge instead of competing, buy off the Government, slash wages and produce crappy/unsafe goods? Which happens alot. If we listen more to guys like John Keynes and Paul Samuelson, these things wouldn’t happen. But we don’t, because their teachings don’t make us rich overnight and we love the idea of Freedom, Freedom, Freedom.
I grew angry several times reading this book, before calming myself down and continuing my reading. So many simple and true concepts have been ignored and history forgotten because people get greedy. Which led to a mini realization; Economics is at its base simple. Tax people WITH money, spend more in bad times and save in good times to balance things. Don’t give huge taxcuts to Corporations, slash wages to maximize CEO bonuses. Most importantly; if Companies need bailed-out for their bad decisions, negotiate the bail-outs with terms to control them from repeating their mistakes. All of this should be common sense to adult professionals, not just to a 20-something with a part-time job.
I plan on buying this book, and checking out the other books in the recommended reading to learn more. As informative as “Economix” is, it really is the base to build on, something to get you started. I mentioned that things got more complicated in later chapters, that is because the world become more complex as well. That isn’t going to deter me though.
If you’re curious about Economics, but afraid of taking a class or studying on your own; I recommend this book completely. Also, go to your local library to see if there are other educational graphic novels. Comics are great for tales of Superheroes beating criminals to a pulp, but the potential for so much more is there.
20 thoughts on “How I Learned About Economix”
Great article. I also checked out this book from my local library a while back, and I agree that it is very informative and a good introduction to economic history and theory. I think some parts of the book suffer from the biases of the author; I respect the author’s viewpoint, but I think the strong bias distracts from the overall educational quality of the book. The book is a great example of how comics can be educational and persuasive.
One of my favorite books on economic history and theory is Robert Heilbroner’s THE WORLDLY PHILOSOPHERS: THE LIVES, TIMES AND IDEAS OF THE GREAT ECONOMICS THINKERS. It’s well written and provides a lot of history on economic thought, although the book is a little dated and doesn’t address recent economic events. http://www.amazon.com/Worldly-Philosophers-Economic-Thinkers-Seventh/dp/068486214X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400163884&sr=1-1&keywords=the+worldly+philosophers
I’m trying to read CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by Thomas Piketty; the book is causing quite a stir in economic circles right now. Piketty would agree with your idea of taxing wealth to correct economic inequality. http://www.amazon.com/Capital-Twenty-First-Century-Thomas-Piketty/dp/067443000X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400164161&sr=8-1&keywords=capital
It’s not really my idea tho, nor is it just an idea; it makes the most logical sense. “Tax people who have the most money”. Common sense I think, yet the Gov. keeps giving them tax cuts. Wonder if there’s some bias in that decision…
I found the author’s politics alittle distracting, but then I realized right or wrong he has grounds to interpret things in his way. He swayed me alittle in that respect.
I didn’t mean to suggest that you originated the idea, only that you advocate it as a policy. The great thing about economics is that very bright, decent people can draw different conclusions about policy solutions using economic data, and I do respect Goodwin’s viewpoint, it’s just I enjoyed the history and economic information portions of the book more than his opinions.
I see a lot of “Fair Tax” banners near me. Of course by “Fair” they mean a “flat rate” which is exactly the opposite of “Fair”.
A fair tax and a flat tax are similar, in that each one would probably simplify the tax code, but they are different.
A flat tax would be everybody paying the same percentage of their income. People against this say that if you make $25,000 a year and the flat tax rate was 10% and you paid $2,500 in taxes it would be harder than, say a person making $1,000,000 a year and paying $100,000 in taxes. That would actually be fair to everyone. It seems like everyone wants to be treated the same except when it comes to paying taxes, than it’s make the rich pay more because they can afford it. Seven states have a flat income tax already.
A fair tax is a national sales tax where we would only be taxed on what we spend not on what we earn.
Ok, I made an ass of myself by assuming something.
Well a flat tax is not fair if it forces the middle class into the poor house. If the money doesn’t come from people that have money to burn it will come from people that work at Walmart and Mcdonalds doing 7 day 16 hour a day work weeks and living in roach motels (with zero savings). I don’t think I would call that fair because the biggest reason they are poor is because they weren’t accidentally born into a family that provided a silver spoon in their mouth. Life isn’t fair. Being born in rural Alabama or a Chicago ghetto isn’t fair. So taxing the people that 99% of the time had a head start in life via their parents is fair (it is called balancing the scales).
Fair tax actually seems like a good idea now that I’ve taken my head out of my ass; on the other hand it is seems impossible to generate the same kind of money on purchases as the Fed. government already does on income.
Yeah it’s really hard to say which is the best system and I hope I didn’t come off too political cause i just come here for the comic stuff but I just wanted to point out the difference. I’m almost on my soapbox so I’ll just leave it there:-) .
Getting back to comics, I would love to read a comic book co-written by the Denny O’Neil and Bill Willingham, in which Green Arrow and Hawkman hang out at a bar and debate the pros and cons of various proposed taxation policies for the entire issue before beating up the Clock King and Gentleman Ghost on the last page. I can’t be the only person who would love to read that comic, right? 🙂
Hahaha No you wouldn’t Reed! 🙂 sounds good
You didn’t make an ass if yourself. Fair tax and flat tax aren’t the same thing.
You didn’t come off as too political. The article is political by nature.
And to follow Reed’s lead, I think Green Arrow would argue that $2,500 means more to a family of 3 or more only bringing in $25,000 a year than $100,000 does to millionaires. Millionaires don’t have to fret over the same kind of basic needs as a poor family: Maintaining a means of transportation, education, heathy food (not canned, frozen or boxed corporate crap), healthcare, clean environment for children. If a poor family’s car breaks down or if someone becomes very sick or is severely injured, that family is fucked and this is where $2,500 comes in real handy.
Now, from a rudimentary standpoint, 10% sounds fair on paper. Just like when we were in elementary school and they taught us that if you have a pie and 10 students, you cut the pie into 10 equal slices and that’s fair, right? Well, outside that classroom in the real world, if you have a pie and 10 people, you have to take other things into consideration: how many are children and how many are adults? How many people weigh 100 pounds and how many weigh 200? Because what’s fair is for everyone to get what they need. A 200 pound man is gonna need more of that pie than a 40 pound child. Doesn’t mean that we as people aren’t equal, but rather that our needs are not.
Sounds amazing. How about cross fire style debate show where Batman & Iron Man on one side against Captain America & Superman debating between classical vs modern liberalism and then settle it by playing 2 on 2 basketball for whatever team gets to 300 first. The winning team become President/Vice President
300 eh? So the team with the most stamina wins, ha.
I mean you can’t really have cap and superman play to 21 that’s too easy. Plus Tony get’s to wear the Armor especially now that it’s grafte inside his body. Batman is just gonna half to suck it up.
That would be a coolest, most original comic book ever… 🙂 This could be the bold new trend of comics; instead of constantly killing off/resurrecting superheroes, they can let the heroes debate political issues and participate in intense sporting events to decide who gets to lead the nation.
Again why comic companies aren’t chomping at this bit to get me on their payrolls is beyond me
On another note. The Pope said that wealth should be “redistributed” recently. Who’s a good Christian now.
Did you hear that the Pope is going on a pilgrimage to the Middle East without his bulletproof car?! I’m not a Christian, but I love the new ideas this Pope is bringing to his office and his people, not to mention the level of reform he’s imparting unto the Church. This guy has balls the size of Rome.
I’m actually kinda worried for him. The masses tend to murder people who spread peace, tolerance and understanding: Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, John Lennon, the Kennedy’s, Bob Marley, Abe Lincoln… It’s a long list.
I hadn’t heard that yet, but I’m not surprised. He is a good man first and a Pope second, which is how it should always be. Hopefully his example will last longer than he does because it is going to take decades to change people.
Pope Francis is an amazing human being. I hope that he has a long and blessed papacy.
Agreed Sir Beebe.