‘Have Wit, Will Travel’: The Life of an Economist And Stand-Up Comic

BY Paul Solman  July 11, 2011 at 2:00 PM EST


Economics was dubbed “the dismal science” by 19th century English intellectual Thomas Carlyle. The reason: the Reverend Thomas Malthus’ grim prediction, around 1800, that population would inevitably outstrip food supply, since the former grows geometrically (1,2,4,8…), the latter, arithmetically (1,2,3,4…). Happily, agricultural technology has thus far proved Malthus wrong. But “dismal science” has stuck, despite the unimaginable prosperity since the wrong Reverend opined. Presumably that’s because the so-called “scientists” – aka economists — have repeated one unhappy truth ever since: technology may work wonders, but you still can’t have it all. Or, for some, much of anything.

Another reason the word ‘dismal’ seems apt: the sense of humor of the economists themselves. Or lack of same. It was a moment of comic relief, therefore, when first we encountered “standup economist” Yoram Bauman and were able to feature him on the NewsHour.

Making Sense

Recently, we learned that Yoram was headed to China for a stretch to explore the country’s approach to the environment…would he be interested in chronicling the trip on video for Making Sen$e? we asked. The answer was yes. Could he cobble together something in Seattle to introduce the trip? Sure.

Here, then, is the first installment of “Yoram Bauman: Have Wit, Will Travel.”

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions _Follow Paul on Twitter._