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A Review of Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics

By Aaron Ewing

Senior Engineering Student

Reviewed January 17, 2017

 

Homer Economicus is a short book featuring over 20 different authors, each giving the reader a humorous introduction to the field of economics using the television show The Simpsons as their primary example. The book ingeniously instilled an instinct into its audience of each of its topics, giving a basic understanding of each topic to the reader through a clear and simple lens to view through. In this manner, Homer Economicus is a push for economic freedom.

There is nothing specific to The Simpsons that makes it a good resource for explaining economic topics; a show like Futurama or Bob’s Burgers would be able to do the job just as well. What is unique about The Simpsons is that everyone knows about it, can relate to

it and the show easily depicts various economic concepts throughout the Simpson universe.

I found the first few chapters to be a nice refresher of my introductory economics college course, and I appreciated the book’s ability to explain to the economically ignorant throughout the entire book. The second section delves more deeply into common topics of economics and attempts to explain them, such as monopolies, exchange versus use value of money, and what entrepreneurship is. If this book had a weak section, a part where the concepts were sometimes muddled and the pages somewhat dry, it was here. At no point was the content over my head, and the examples provided throughout the book made the content lighthearted and much more comprehensible.

Another major feature was that this book is written by nearly two dozen different authors, giving each chapter of the book a slightly different look and feel. I felt some authors were more skilled than others, but overall each chapter was able to hold to a similar layout with one another while maintaining their unique creativity in each chapter. All the chapters were sewn together neatly, and there was a helpful note/reference section in the back that I constantly kept flipping to, which shows that the editor, Joshua Hall, did his job well.

I believe that Homer Economicus represents a push for economic freedom. The following quote was a segment in the conclusion of the Prohibition chapter. “People have to realize that prohibition is unworkable and that it is actually counterproductive to the goals of the prohibitionists themselves. They have to realize that people are less safe with prohibition than with a free and open marketplace. Finally, people must realize that prohibition is an unnatural type of law that threatens freedom and can be easily replaced by the market” (Mark Thornton 149). As can be seen from this passage, there is a strong and vibrant love for economic freedom within the pages of the book. The chapter about the prohibition is an area where the desire for economic freedom can be clearly seen, but the feeling seems to propagate throughout the entire book. Even though the entire book is made up of several different authors, all with different economic views, they all seemed to encourage economic freedom.

In the last section of the book, somewhat hot topics such as immigration, the effects of the prohibition, and gambling in casinos were raised. Almost all of these topics were viewed in a positive light; In fact, the entire book was positive and full of talk about economic freedom with the best example being the very last chapter which discussed how the lives of Americans are getting increasingly better with time. In the section called Markets: Is There Anything They Can’t Do? by Steven Horwitz and Stewart Dompe, there are a few tables that compare life in a household from the 70’s to the late 2000’s. For example, even though the microwave was invented in the mid 40’s, only 1.0% of people had one in the early 70’s; This percentage jumped to 96.4% in 2005. Even though this was largely due to the advances in technology and designing them so they could be purchased at a lower price, the book mentions how it is also largely influenced by how the economy of the United States has improved due to the increase in economic freedom over the years. Just like how it was mentioned in the last paragraph that economic freedom can be seen throughout the entire book, this second example should show that the book as a whole promotes economic freedom, not just the opinion of a single author.

This entire book was designed and handcrafted to help those ignorant on the topic of economics gain a better understanding of it so as to let each person become more aware of the tools necessary to further our society. I believe the audience will appreciate the work and thought behind Homer Economicus. It does an admirable job at giving the material a thorough introduction while providing relevant humor on every page. I believe that if for some reason someone was unable to appreciate the work of the near two dozen authors, at the very least, they could appreciate the humor throughout the book.