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April 10, 2005

Yet Another Joke About Economists And Shit

Via Maxspeak, here's an article about a Harvard economics professor allegedly stealing manure from a horse farm:

Stable manager Phillip Casey says Martin Weitzman, Harvard University's Ernest E. Monrad Professor of Economics, has been stealing manure from Charlie Lane's Rockport farm for years.

This reminds me a joke!

Two economists were walking down the street one day when they passed two large piles of dog shit.

The first economist said to the other, "I'll pay you $20,000 to eat one of those piles of shit." The second one agrees and chooses one of the piles and eats it. The first economist pays him his $20,000.

Then the second economist says, "I'll pay you $20,000 to eat the other pile of shit." The first one says okay, and eats the shit. The second economist pays him the $20,000.

They resume walking down the street.

After a while, the second economist says, "You know, I don't feel very good. We both have the same amount of money as when we started. The only difference is we've both eaten shit."

The first economist says: "Ah, but you're ignoring the fact that we've engaged in $40,000 worth of trade!"

Of course, this joke only makes sense if you know that economists tend to believe trade is always good, no matter what the circumstances. In this case, an economist would say the trade actually was mutually beneficial, since both parties clearly felt it was worth $20,000 to them to see the other one eat shit. Yet neither one was out of pocket any money at the end.

Posted at April 10, 2005 07:36 PM | TrackBack

This restores my faith in humanity. I've been in danger of putting economists on pedestals of incredible (value added) height. I've also been looking for someone to haul manure. I'm not fussy and, more importantly, I have no prejudices against loathsome, privileged, rich thieves whose life work is dedicated to sucking the life blood out of people.

Posted by: Harry at April 10, 2005 10:14 PM
I have no prejudices against loathsome, privileged, rich thieves whose life work is dedicated to sucking the life blood out of people.

Frankly, prejudice against loathsome, privileged, rich thieves whose life work is sucking the life blood out of people is the only REAL racism left in America.

And yet the left is silent. I guess by now I should be used to their endless hypocrisy.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 10, 2005 10:18 PM

Devil's advocate: Interesting, but if you bought a flavored Pepsi you might regret it afterward as well. Yet, it still adds to GDP.

Posted by: Lee at April 11, 2005 01:14 AM


Yes... but also no.

While flavored Pepsi does TASTE like shit, it's already part of the American economy before your example (the Bizarro-world in which people actually DO buy flavored Pepsis) takes place.

Shit, by contrast, belongs to no one-- it's better to consider it to be an unclaimed national resource than a consumer product.

Of course, that opens up a whole new can of economic worms.

Posted by: Matthew Sullivan at April 11, 2005 07:18 AM

Actually, from what I remember from intro econ, GDP can be defined as everything purchased in a given year, as well as everything produced. On balance, they will be equivalent.
I don't think it matters that shit belongs to no one. For example, you could go to the forest and collect flowers and then sell them. Or make a sculpture out of peat. Or...harvest wind energy with your windmill to produce electricity. So in this case, you can say that because the economists found the piece of shit, it's a commodity.
If you said it was a public good, then I doubt it economists would count toward GDP. If you sold someone the Grand Canyon for $100, that $100 bucks wouldn't be counted toward GDP.
By the way, this may all sound nerdy, but I was an economics major at college. I'm not saying that I know anything about economics anymore, but it at least allows me enough knowledge to make nerdy arguments...

Posted by: Lee at April 11, 2005 10:55 AM

Fair enough-- my mistake.


Posted by: Matthew Sullivan at April 11, 2005 11:48 AM