Keynes-Hayek rap battle: The fix is in

Hot chicks and a fiscal stimulus vs. free-market throwdown? What could be better? Or worse?

By Andrew Leonard
Published January 26, 2010 11:15PM (EST)

How the World Works understands that a "rap battle" video between two men that fails to include footage of nubile young women partying down while the protagonists trade their taunts would stand guilty of betraying some of the core values of the genre. But "'Fear the Boom and Bust,' a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem," is guilty of a different kind of disloyalty. John Maynard Keynes is famous for a lot of things, but dallying with the ladies is not one of them.

So if Russ Roberts and John Papola were serious about historical fidelity to the lives and philosophies of Keynes and his great rival, Friedrich von Hayek, the libertarian don of the "Austrian school" of economics, they could have at least thrown one hot young guy into the limo to guzzle martinis and look adoringly at the master of fiscal stimulus.

But fairness to the historical record is not exactly the point of this admittedly amusing and extremely well-produced video. You don't need to know that Roberts describes himself as more-or-less philosophically Austrian or that the George Mason economist blogs at Cafe Hayek to guess that the playing field is not going to be equal in "Fear the Boom and Bust." All you need to do is ponder the repeated refrain, which has Keynes declaring, "I want to steer markets," and Hayek responding, "I want to set them free."

While I can well imagine Hayek saying the latter, I just don't see Keynes declaring the former. Keynes believed in government intervention when markets fail. There's a big difference between activism designed to reduce the human misery caused by a malfunctioning economy, and a preference for full-fledged socialist planning. Indeed, Keynes believed that intervention was necessary to keep economies away from the kind of economic disaster that would lay the groundwork for an even more disastrous Marxist approach.

Whatever. Personally, I'd rather get a Jay Z endorsement than a shout-out from Ke$sha, but all things considered, the Tik-Tok singer's approval will probably play well with the crucial preteen demo. Party on!

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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