Rap to Take on Smith and Hayek

George Mason economics professor has won many fans with playful videos, but a Roosevelt U professor and his students have produced a response -- and fans of the Austrian school may need to cover their ears.

May 6, 2015
 
Roosevelt U video

The economics department at George Mason University has long been known for its scholars affiliated with the Austrian School, which includes many devotees to the work of F. A. Hayek. And while Hayek might be old-school, one Mason economist, Russell Roberts, has built a huge YouTube fan base with videos about the theories of Hayek and his rival John Maynard Keynes. While both economists' views are given time in the videos, many think the content favors Hayek.

Here's the first of the George Mason videos:

At Roosevelt University, an economics and social justice class taught by Stephen T. Ziliak decided it was time to challenge the George Mason view of the world. So this week, the class is unveiling a rap video in which an economics class based on traditional free market-oriented ideas leaves students texting or falling asleep -- until they rebel against that orthodoxy. They get in some swipes at Ivy League professors (and the “dude from George Mason”).

Some of the lyrics:

It’s clear your markets are free of justice
Looks like your supply curve needs some adjustments
We need benevolence and sympathy in the mix
These textbooks are corruptin’ our moral sentiments
We need O.G.s in here, like Smith, Marx and Lerner
Heterodox economics is the real table turner
Get back to the real world, no catallaxy
Spontaneous order, can’t put me in a Cadillac, see?
Check Ferguson, Garner and Rodney King too
People can’t work when they face black ’n’ blue!

Here's the video:

We reached out for a review to Roberts at George Mason. He says he's sticking to his views, and suggested that his view of Adam Smith, for example, is quite different from that of the Roosevelt students. “The irony is that I don't like the economists' obsession with efficiency. There's nothing about that in Adam Smith,” said Roberts. “Smith cared a lot about justice, as you can see in his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments….  Having said that, Smith did believe that economic liberty was a good thing and that many government interventions served only to help vested interests. When we look at the world around us and we see economic tragedy -- high unemployment, for example, or poor economic opportunity in, say, Baltimore -- the fundamental question is whether we have too much capitalism or not enough, too much government or not enough.”

Ziliak responded: "Roosevelt students do not believe that Smith was all about efficiency and mindless applications of the invisible hand; we are pointing out throughout the song that Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments is needed to combat textbooks claiming such. Likewise we are pointing out that Hayek's so called victory in the rap videos (and in Mason economics) leaves no room for social justice of any kind."

 

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