Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another Economics Joke

I collect economics jokes, not jokes about economics but  jokes that teach economics. It is a very small collection. I had three when I wrote my Price Theory, all of which I included. I later discovered a fourth in a middle eastern cookbook by Claudia Roden:
What is sweeter than honey?

Free vinegar.
I have just found a fifth in Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, following his definition of  frosk as a slap:
"My father was so mad yesterday," said little Morris, "that five separate times he wanted to give me a frosk."

"How do you know it was exactly five time?"

"Because I counted."

"What did you count?"

"The number of times he hit me."

"I thought you said he wanted to hit you."

"I did. Would he have hit me if he hadn't wanted to?"


Julien Couvreur said...

We need more of those :-)

Anonymous said...

But that's assuming there's a one-to-one relationship between the number of occasions on which the father wanted to hit him, and the number of occasions on which he actually did. The latter may be a subset of the former. All asking 'would he hit me if he didn't want to' is make a case against the former being a subset of the latter.

Shaddox said...

dgbridger: And that introduces the question what exactly it means to say he "wanted" to deliver a slap. You could say he wanted to give more slaps, but he thought that would hurt too much so he didn't do it. All that really means is that he took more information into consideration and determined that he actually didn't want to slap again. Unless he was physically stopped by some external force, I would argue that he did exactly what he wanted.

David Friedman said...

It's a joke that encapsulates the idea of revealed preference. More precise analysis is not, I think, helpful--but feel free.

Or, better yet, contribute some better economics jokes of your own.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this one teaches economics, but I'll offer it:

A man in a restaurant is offered ice cream after his meal. He asks what flavors they have, and is told, "Vanilla or chocolate," and he says, "A bowl of chocolate." The server says, "Oh, and I forgot, we also have pistachio." The man says, "Well, in that case, I'll take vanilla!"

Anonymous said...

my prof. had one, you probably know it: ''three econ professors meet at the votes...'' that's it.i guess it's more of an oral joke and relies on the right delivery.

Anonymous said...

This one is from Central Asia:

TJIC said...

Never thought I'd see the principle of revealed preference alluded to in a punch line!

Power Child said...

Re: the "getting hit by dad" joke:

I think what distracted people from the revealed preference aspect of it was the foregrounding of the number of times the kid got hit, which instead invites the listener to focus on the causal hierarchy (Dad might want to give his son a frosk 10 times but only act on it 5 times, but if Dad gives his son a frosk five times then he must have wanted to at least five times, etc.).

A reworking might eliminate the number aspect entirely. It could go like this:

"Man, my dad really wanted to give me a frosk today."

"How do you know? Did he say that?"

"No, he just hit me!"

Now the focus of the joke is back on the intention vs. the action, and the absurd part (the part that makes it funny) is that the thing the son cares primarily about, enough to report to his friend without prompting, is that his dad wanted to frosk him rather than the fact that he did.

Sorry to overanalyze humor, I know that ruins it...but hey maybe now you'll think of an economics joke.

Mike Hammock said...

Here's one I heard years ago, although I don't know where. It's both a joke about economists (of the "ha ha economists are dumb" variety) and a joke with some actual economics in it.

Two guys are visiting a country of cannibals, and they stop by a butcher shop window. In the window are signs advertising cuts of meat. One says "Writer's brains: $10/pound". Another says: "Mathematician's brains: $30/pound". The third says "Economist's brains: $100/pound".

The butcher steps out of the door to sweep the street in front of the shop, and one of the travelers says "Wow, are economists' brains really so desirable? I guess everyone thinks they have really smart, fancy brains."

The butcher scowls. "Are you kidding? Do you know how many economists it takes for me to make a pound of brains?"

jimbino said...

Farmer A sees Farmer B out plowing and covets his old horse. He offers $20. Sold. But then Farmer B starts to wonder why he was so interested in that old nag, to the point that he offers $30 to buy it back. Sold.

But that gets Farmer A to wondering why Farmer B was so eager to get it back, to the point that he offers $40. Sold.

Same thing once more, so that Farmer B ends up with his old horse for $50.

Then a city sliker, having overheard all these transactions, figured the horse must be really special and bid $60 to take it off Farmer B's hands. Sold.

Then Farmer A, coming by the next day, sees the horse missing. Informed of that final sale to a stranger, he complained, "Why'd you do such a blame-fool thing as that? We were both making a good profit!"

When I told this joke in the past, I followed up by asking how much Farmer A and Farmer B had each gained or lost. Most folks had to take a shoe and move it around to try, often unsuccessfully, to figure it out.