Monday, July 28, 2014


I recall some offhand remark by Milton Friedman in either Free to Choose or Money Mischief, or possible both, about the "Oz" in "the Wizard of Oz" being a reference to an "ounce" of gold...

... Here it is, a footnote to Chapter 3 of Friedman's Money Mischief:
In a fascinating paper, Hugh Rockoff (1990) persuasively argues that Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz "is not only a child's tale but also a sophisticated commentary on the political and economic debates of the Populist era" (p. 739), that is, on the silver agitation generated by the so-called crime of 1873. "The land of Oz," according to Rockoff, "is the East [in which] the gold standard reigns supreme and where an ounce (Oz) of gold has almost mystical significance" (p. 745). Rockoff goes on to identify the Wicked Witch of the East with Grover Cleveland, the gold Democrat who, as President, "led the [successful] repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1893" (p. 746).

Similarly, Rockoff is able to identify many of the other places and characters, and much of the action, with places, people, and events that played a significant role in the final years of the free-silver movement.

I read that, probably some time during Bill Clinton's first term. But I never saw another reference to the topic till now. Having found some useful-looking stuff on regression in Excel, in relation to the Marginal Propensity to Consume, I followed a few links to Professor Combs of Fordham, and to notes on a course called The Wealth of Words: Economics and Literature:
ECRM 1160: The Wealth of Words:  Economics and Literature

Course Description:

From the writings of Austen to Zola, literature has a great deal to teach us about economic principles.  Some are obvious, such as the theme of social and economic inequality in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath; others are more veiled, such as the allegory of the Federal Reserve System and debates over monetary policy in The Wizard of Oz.  These are only two of many examples where economics and literature intersect.

This course will introduce economic ways of thinking to students interested in the study of literature while opening the literary world to students interested in economics and business.  The course content uses selections of poetry, short stories, songs, plays, literary essays, films, and chapters of novels to demonstrate core economic principles and concepts.  Some examples of topics and titles include the ideology of capitalism (Forster’s Howard’s End); the anti-capitalist sentiment (Lewis’ Babbitt); the non-market economy (Erdrich’s “Francine’s Room”); poverty and income inequality (Wright’s Native Son); monetary policy (Baum’s The Wizard of Oz); urban industrial development (Sandburg’s “Chicago”); opportunity cost (Yeats’ “The Choice”), and social and economic (in)justice (Brooks’ “The Lovers of the Poor”).  The fourth hour will be used to view films, workshop student essays, and visit relevant New York City sites of interest, such as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Ellis Island, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

So there ya go.

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