An economist, a songwriter, and a puppet-maker walked into a recording studio. What do you think came out?…An economics puppet rap battle, of course.
One of the most dangerous stories at the heart of 20th century economics is the depiction of humanity as rational economic man. In my book Doughnut Economics I decided he needed a portrait so I drew him, standing alone, with money in his hand, ego in his heart, a calculator in his head and nature at his feet. He hates work, he loves luxury and he knows the price of everything.
Now here’s the most fascinating (and unnerving) thing I discovered while researching the history and influence of this character. The more that economics students learn about him – from Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3 of their studies – the more they say they value traits such as self-interest and competition over traits such as altruism and collaboration.
The implication? Who we tell ourselves we are shapes who we become.
Over the past year I have been contacted by many economics teachers around the world – especially those in secondary schools – who want to encourage their students to critique this text-book model and offer them a far more nuanced understanding of human behaviour.
So that got me thinking…
I teamed up with the brilliant puppet designer Emma Powell and the ingenious musician Simon Panrucker and, with funding from the Network for Social Change (big thanks, folks!), we created this video – Economic Man vs Humanity: a puppet rap battle.
We’d love to see it in use in classrooms, conferences, reading groups, community groups, and shared widely on social media, on web platforms, on teaching resource sites.
If you are a teacher, please do use it to start a debate in your classroom (the video ends with a question for that very reason). You can also download the lyrics of the rap, complete with historical and theoretical sources for all the key quotes and concepts that they contain. Why not get your students to write their own economic rap battle – here’s the fantastic backing track for anyone who wants to rap along.
And if your students want to dive further into the back story and future possibilities of Rational Economic Man, then I recommend Chapter 3 of Doughnut Economics, which was the basis for the whole project.
If you are a student, please do share the video with your fellow future economists, get your teacher involved, and help kick off a much-needed discussion.
And if you host a web discussion, a new economics resource site, a community network, or a teachers’ forum, you are very welcome to feature the film on your site – we’d love to hear what you do with it.
And if you are simply curious, you’ll love this peek behind the scenes to see how the rap battle got made.
Sit back and enjoy the Puppet Rap Battle – sing along, pass it on, and let’s say farewell to Rational Economic Man. Today’s students know that it’s time to create a better portrait of who we are for 21st century economics.
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