Laughing at Macroeconomics: A Cartoon Introduction

BY Paul Solman  January 4, 2012 at 2:35 PM EDT

Cover of By Paul Solman and Elizabeth Shell

Unemployment rates, inflation, poverty, exchange rates — all familiar topics for readers who frequent this page. Normally, these are no laughing matter. But cartoonist Grady Klein and stand-up comedian Yoram Bauman (who should also be familiar to those who come here often) have teamed up to draw giggles out of the dismal science.

“There is a parallel between what we’re doing with this cartoon book and an economics class textbook,” Klein told us. “A textbook must be comprehensive and show all the vocabulary, for example, of a subject. What we can do with our book is say, ‘Here are the most important concepts,’ and then go have fun with them.”

In volume two of “The Cartoon Introduction to Economics,” available Tuesday through Hill and Wang, Klein and Bauman tackle macroeconomics — issues that affect the entire economy at the country and global level. (Microeconomics, the study of how you and I and business act, was the topic of volume one.) Virtually nothing is off the table — knights in shining armor, two-headed monsters, aliens, Nobel-prize winning economists and farm animals floating away in hot-air balloons are just some of the ways Klein and Bauman try to make the subject accessible.

“I thought these books would be a good idea because economics is seen as being very dense and challenging. I had a sense there was something under the hood that was very exciting — a subject matter that can be presented in a really fun and interesting way,” Klein told us. “This book was written for anybody who wants to know more about economics.”

In a news cycle full of seriousness, we thought we’d provide a comic break. Click through our audio slide show below to hear from Bauman and to see some of the cartoons that explain how economies grow and collapse, why environmental economics is important and what macroeconomists consider their quest for the holy grail.

Along these lines of macroeconomics, here’s a quick Q-and-A from a reader:

Name: Howard Burt

Question: What can we do to narrow the disparity between the top 1 percent and the rest of us?

Paul Solman: We could tax the 1 percent more. I’m not advocating this, mind you; just answering the question.

Slides excerpted from THE CARTOON INTRODUCTION TO ECONOMICS: Volume 2, Macroeconomics by Yoram Bauman and Grady Klein, to be published in January by Hill & Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Text copyright 2011 by Yoram Bauman. Artwork copyright 2011 by Grady Klein. All rights reserved.

This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown- NewsHour’s blog of news and insight. Follow Paul on Twitter.