Billy Paul — Let the Dollar Circulate

I reached out to #EconTwitter and asked what songs they like to use to teach different topics in their classes and the results did not disappoint:

Since I’m not a macroeconomist, I have very little content on the macro side from tv and movies, but apparently music covers a lot of macro topics. The first suggestion was this 1975 Billy Paul song, Let the Dollar Circulate which begs for money to start flowing through the economy and wonders why things have slowed down (Is it all because of Watergate?). Paul notes that “Things are gettin’ higher, makes it hard on the buyers”  (inflation is happening) and “Unemployment on the rise.” The song was released at the end of the 1973-1975 recession. I was curious what unemployment and inflation looked like in the 1970s leading up to the recession, so I went and put together a FRED chart for you:

Thanks to Leo for the song suggestion!

Hard Knocks — Carl Nassib Teaches Compound Interest


Athletes are notoriously bad at saving money and making smart financial decisions after coming into their fortunes. Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman with the Cleveland Browns, discusses the power of compound interest with other rookies. His goal is to convince his teammates not to go out and spend $10,000 on a needless purchase because that means they are giving up a lot more money later in life. While 10% may be an unlikely interest rate, the power of compounding interest is one of the key principles in financial literacy programs.

Kiatnakin Bank — Saving for your dream

This young Thai kid dreams of being an astronaut and making great scientific discoveries, but he’s got to save enough Baht (Thai currency) to be able to afford to the telescope. For reference, 2500 baht is about $75 US. The young boy is tempted by ice cream, street food, video games and toys, but he maintains his frugalness and saves up enough to buy the telescope. After enough time, he rushes to the store to buy the telescope, only to find out that the telescope now costs 3500 baht. The message is clear, inflation occurs and makes the value of money deteriorate over time. This Thai bank is encouraging savings to help combat that.

Thanks to Peach Tantihkarnchana for the clip suggestion!

Adam Ruins — Rent Seeking & Taxes


Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.

In this segment, Adam reports on the frustrations of taxes and why we don’t see return-free filing in the United States. Because of lobbying efforts by major tax software companies, the tax system is kept just complicated enough that consumers will purchase their products.

Shawshank Redemption — Cigarettes as Money

In this short scene, Red pays an inmate to smuggle contraband with cigarettes. Cigarettes are used as money a lot in prison and it is shown throughout this film. This scene can be shown to talk about medium of exchange, commodity money, bartering, etc.

Thanks to James Tierney for the clip and description.

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