Why are cartoons such a popular explanation of economics right now?

(cross-posted from

Amity Shlaes, in her current Forbes column, Economics by Cartoon, points out that the cartoon Quantitative Easing Explained and the rap debate between Keynes and Hayek have received 3.5 million and 1.7 million hits on YouTube, respectively.  I’ve mentioned these videos here and here.  (Just checked – the QE cartoon is up to 4.0 million visits.)

Over 5.7 million hits on YouTube video explanations of what is going on?  Why?

Economic development makes every country healthier and richer

Cross post from

Incredible visualization of 200 years of economic development and improvements in health around the world.  A professor creates an entertaining visual of how health and wealth has increased in 200 countries over 2 centuries.  Does it all in under 5 minutes.  In 1810 all countries of the world were poor and sick.  The industrial revolution started many countries up the health and wealth climb.  World War I and the influenza epidemic knocked everyone back.  The great depression moved many countries back in wealth but not in health.  After WWII, lots of countries really took off.  There are big disparities in 2009, but the improvements everywhere from 1810 to 2009 are mind-boggling.  Few countries are left in the poor and sick area.  Most people live in the middle of wealth scale and most of the people on the planet are at the upper end of the health scale.

The million dollar question?  What drives the improvement?  Watch it twice to see if you think that economic development is the driver for all of it.  Compare what you know about when countries started adopting the capitalist, industrial approach to their economy.

Lessons?  Take your pick.  War is bad for everyone.  Epidemics are really bad.  Economic growth helps everyone.  More economic growth would close the gap between top and bottom.

Biggest factor I see in the video?  Economic growth from capitalism means a country can afford better infrastructure and disease prevention meaning everyone is healthier.  If we can keep from killing ourselves from another world war and keep from killing the economic engine that got us here, the future is brighter than today!

Hat tip Exurban League

The recession officially ended in June 2009

The people who make the official call for the start and end point of recessions, which is the National Bureau of Economic Research, announced on September 20 that the recession officially hit bottom in June 2009.  We need to look at what that actually means.  The bottom point of the economic cycle is considered the end of a recession.  The Bureau calculated the low point, or the trough, was in June last year.  Since then the economy has been recovering, although slowly. …

Data on unemployment & GDP changes available on-line

If you are so interested, lots of economic data is available from the federal government on-line.  Two items of interest to me are unemployment data and GDP changes.  Those are fairly major pieces of the economic picture.

Unemployment data:  Alternative measures of labor utilization – table A-15 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Of particular interest are U-3 and U-6. The most quoted information is the U-3 measure, which is a calculation of unemployed people as percent of the civilian labor force.  This is the official number you hear about. The broader data is the U-6 measure. That is based on the total number unemployed plus people only able to work part-time, plus people who want to work but have dropped out of the market.  Or at least that is my casual interpretation of the data.

Changes in GDP:  Percent change from preceding period in real Gross Domestic Product – table 1.1.1 from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

There are several frequently requested tables from the BEA.