by astanhaus

Originally submitted for an Economic Literacy independent research project with Professor Christopher Ragan at McGill University.

Starring: more alive & dead men, Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Pete Campbell & Bertram Cooper, a trip to Europe, and fate.

Legacy Leaving Personalities

If I could grant three wishes to a genie, one would be for my fave tv show Mad Men to be real.  If that can’t be done, my back up wish is to have my pick of the costume closet.

Now known as Sterling, Cooper & Partners (sorry to ruin it for those who are still catching up. Actually no, this is your punishment. Where have you been? Under a rock?) Mad Men’s ad agency is full of memorable characters. I’ve been reading up on some big-named economists and found each has a SC&P equivalent.

Friedrich Hayek is the equivalent of Bertram Cooper, the cooky senior partner of SC&P. Originally from Austria, Hayek taught at The London School of Economics and The University of Chicago. Not so great in the classroom with his heavy accent, he is recognized most for his memorable monetarist writings. He thought that any awkward economic situations stemmed from miscommunication and coordination problems. Ideally, the free market had clear signals, so all “actors” could make fully informed decisions. No word on if Hayek also walked around in his socks and had a Rothko in his office, but I like to think he did.

“In the long run we are all dead.” Nope, not a quote from Roger Sterling on LSD. But John Maynard Keynes has some one-liners as good as Roger Sterling.  Such as, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” and “Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.” Keynes broke the mold with The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money in 1936, because policies to fix the Great Depression were obviously not working. The economy needed a jump start. People didn’t have any money to spend, so weren’t buying anything and factories were producing accordingly (AKA not producing). Keynesian stimulus was born (AKA fiscal policy (AKA  government spending to reinvigorate employment #s)). Mad Men would not be the same without Roger Sterling, and so too, would the world not be the same without the original Keynesian.

Psst: Watch Keynes & Hayek rap battle, pt.1 here and pt. 2 here.

John Kenneth Galbraith is just as good as Don Draper at telling a story. Canadian turned American Ambassador to India, Galbraith was an economist with an unusual # of best-selling books. Influenced by Keynes, his writings mashed the best of econ/politics/culture. 1958’s The Affluent Society is awkwardly true today. America loves to invest in consumables and not in the people’s future (AKA education). Key phrase, “Private opulence and public squalor.” Kinda disregarded by academic economists, I bet they were just jealous. He controlled the message like Don, as Galbraith’s books filled both Presidents’ and  peoples’ bookshelves.

Milton Friedman is like the ever-present Pete Campbell. Friedman was a monetarist/free-market-lover à la Hayek and so too taught at The University of Chicago. Friedman’s The Theory of the Consumption Function, was a hit with economists because it explained the permanent income hypothesis and the importance of forward-looking consumers. His other hit with the economically-inclined was A Monetary History of the United States 1867-1960; while disputable now, the main take away was that the amount of $$ in a system affects the choices of economic “actors.” In addition to his serious economic work, he was a popular preacher of his theories’ political advantages. Yep, he could dominate a conversation just like Pete.

Modern Personalities

Repeat after me…

What to say when, over cocktails, someone mentions…

their upcoming trip to Europe: it’s so nice to not have to switch currency from one country to another, thanks to Canadian Italophile Robert Mundell’s optimal currency area.

fate is being at the right place at the right time: that’s wonderful, just like having Great Depression expert, Ben Bernanke, at the Federal Reserve during 2008’s Great Recession.

the negligible difference between smartphones: hm, yes they are similar, but not the same. Olivier Blanchard would point to the importance of monopolistic competition in driving the demand for smartphones.

their speeding ticket: Hope you learned your lesson that some rules are just meant to be followed. Like John Taylor’s rule, every central bank follows it to set its interest rates.

the latest vampire best seller: I wish Raghuram G. Rajan’s “Has Financial Development Made the World Riskier?” was a bestseller pre-Great Recession. He had the crisis pegged, but no one listened.

they miss Steve Jobs and his innovations: What about Paul Samuelson? He’s the Father of Modern Economics and we all know “the children” who run our economy need guidance, only a father could give.

the new menu at your favourite restaurant: Did they finally changes the prices too? Reading Gregory Mankiw recently made me realize how prices are sticky due to “menu costs.”