Economists, Crises and Cartoons

31 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2010  

David M. Levy

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies

Date Written: February 4, 2010

Abstract

Economists have occasionally noticed the appearance of economists in cartoons produced for public amusement during crises. Yet the message behind such images has been less than fully appreciated. This paper provides evidence of such inattention in the context of the eighteenth century speculation known as the Mississippi Bubble. A cartoon in The Great Mirror of Folly imagines John Law in a cart that flies through the air drawn by a pair of beasts, reportedly chickens. The cart is not drawn by chickens, however, but by a Biblical beast whose forefather spoke to Eve about the consequences of eating from the tree of the knowledge. The religious image signifies the danger associated with knowledge. The paper thus demonstrates how images of the Mississippi Bubble focused on the hierarchy of knowledge induced by non-transparency. Many of the images show madness caused by alchemy, the hidden or "occult."

Keywords: John Law, Alchemy, Mississippi Bubble, cartoons

JEL Classification: B11, B31, N23

Suggested Citation

Levy, David M. and Peart, Sandra J., Economists, Crises and Cartoons (February 4, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1547886 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1547886

David M. Levy (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice ( email )

MSN 1d3 Carow Hall
4400 University
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies ( email )

Jepson Hall
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

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