Economists, Crises and Cartoons

32 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2010

See all articles by David M. Levy

David M. Levy

George Mason University

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies

Date Written: January 10, 2010


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 nontransparency. Many of the images show madness caused by alchemy, the hidden or "occult."

Suggested Citation

Levy, David Milton and Peart, Sandra J., Economists, Crises and Cartoons (January 10, 2010). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 10-07, Available at SSRN: or

David Milton Levy (Contact Author)

George Mason University ( email )

Carow Hall
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
703-993-2319 (Phone)

Sandra J. Peart

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

Jepson Hall
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

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