Saturday, December 01, 2018

All My Economics Jokes

I mentioned, here and on FaceBook, a new addition to my very small collection of economics jokes, not jokes about economics but jokes that teach economics. Enough people were interested so I decided to post all six of them:

1. Two economists walked past a Porsche showroom with an elegant sports car visible through the window:

First Economist: "I really want that car."

Second Economist: "Obviously not."

2. An economist and a businessman were walking in the wood when they encountered a large and hungry bear. The economist turned to run.

Businessman: "You don't think you can outrun a bear, do you?"

Economist: "No. But I might be able to outrun you."

(Contributed by Dennis Hanseman, editor of my Price Theory)

3. What is sweeter than honey?

Free vinegar.

(From a Middle Eastern cookbook by Claudia Roden)

4. An economics professor is in a car driven by one of his students; she asks him to put on his seat belt.

"Why do you want me to put on my seat belt?"

"To make it less likely that you will be injured in an accident."

"Then why don't you take yours off?"

(From Allen Sanderson)

5. Jose had robbed a bank in Texas and fled south across the Rio Grande with the Texas Rangers in hot pursuit. They caught up with him in a town in Old Mexico, only to discover that Jose spoke no English and none of the pursuers spoke any Spanish. They drafted one of the locals – the school teacher – to act as a translator.

“Tell Jose that he must tell us where he has hidden the loot from the bank robbery.”

“The gringos say to ask where you have hidden the loot.”

“Tell the gringos I will never tell them.”

“Jose says he will never tell you.”

The Rangers pull out their six-guns, cock them, and point them at Jose.

“Tell Jose if he does not tell us where he has hidden the loot, we will kill him.”

“The gringos say if you do not tell them where you have hidden the loot they will kill you.”

Jose begins to tremble with fear.

“I buried it by the old oak tree on the other side of the bridge.”

“Jose says he is not afraid to die.”

(my favorite—I don't remember where I got it)

6. The zoo director noticed that one of the elephants was coughing. So he decided to add vodka to this elephant's bucket of water. The next morning that elephant was completely healthy, but the other three elephants began to cough.

(Russian joke, contributed by Anna Krupitsky on FB a few days ago)

Explanations are left as an exercise for the reader.


John Dougan said...

Still my favorite

The young economist looks down and sees a $20 bill on the street and says, “Hey, look a twenty-dollar bill!”

Without even looking, his older and wiser colleague replies, “Nonsense. If there had been a twenty-dollar lying on the street, someone would have already picked it up by now.”

(this version via

Anonymous said...

1: revealed preference

2. comparative advantage

3. value depends on price?

4. income vs. substitution effects

5. arbitrage?

6. I don't know... is the implication that the other 3 elephants were stealing the first one's water all along, so the attempted fix had unintended consequences? Not sure what general concepts this illustrates other than the general complexity of markets.

Austin Bitter said...

@anonymous If I'm not mistaken for #6 the first elephant was genuinely sick and the vodka helped him, but the other elephants realized they could get some vodka if they acted sick, so they acted sick.

alawless said...

Three economists, a Keynesian, a Monetarist, and a Free-market Capitalist, are shipwrecked alone on a desert island.

The Keynesian proposes:

"Let us designate the sea shells on the beach as our currency. We can then use them as a medium exchange and trade them to one another for the goods and services we'll provide to each other and, eventually, we'll have a whole society here!"

The Monetarist agrees:

"A fine idea, but we must be sure not to allow the inflation rate of our sea-shell currency to exceed 2% per year."

They turn to ask the Free-marketer of his opinion, but he had already built a raft of the shipwreck debris strewn around them on the beach and was sailing away.

Jay Maynard said...

I don't get #4.

William H. Stoddard said...

#4: If he's wearing the seat belt, he's less likely to be hurt in an accident, so his motivation to drive carefully is less, and he's more likely to get in an accident. (I believe this was empirically tested back before seat belts were legally required.) If she isn't wearing the seat belt, he might drive more carefully out of fear for her safety.

It's effectively a subsidy on risky driving, and you get more of what you subsidize.

William H. Stoddard said...

I think #3 is parallel to the joke about the drunk looking for his keys.

newt0311 said...

#5 Principal Agent problems.

Clearly the best of the bunch.

Perry E. Metzger said...

One of my favorites, slightly sanitized:

Two economists of a certain school, Adam and Bob, are walking down the street and see a pile of dog poop. Bob says “I’ll give you twenty thousand dollars to eat that pile of poop.” Adam does it, gets paid, and they keep walking. After a while they see another pile of poop on the road. Seeing an opportunity for revenge, Adam says “Tell you what, I’ll give you twenty grand to eat that pile of poop.” Bob does it, Adam gives him back the money, and they keep walking. After a while Bob says “I’m feeling pretty sick, we both ate poop, and neither of us is any richer.” Adam answers “You’re missing the bigger picture. We’ve increased GDP by forty thousand dollars and created two jobs.”

Bill Drissel said...

Economics Joke # 1 contrasts expressed preference with demonstrated preference. This is the reason I severely discount any study, survey etc that reports expressed preferences (including surveys of prospective voters before elections).
Bill Drissel
Frisco, TX

LH said...

@Perry E. Metzger

That was great. I'm definitely going to use that one in the future.

Chris said...

I reckon 6 is demonstrating the Austrian idea that a failing company (sick) needs easy credit (not the right medicine) to help them in the short term but will just make more zombie companies (alcoholics) when everyone adapts their business practices to profit from easy credit until you have everyone as alcoholics and ultimately cause more damage.

Xerographica said...

The first is my favorite. Here are a couple relevant ones...

Q: How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Irrelevant - the light bulb's preferences are to be taken as given.

"There is a story that has been going around about a physicist, a chemist, and an economist who were stranded on a desert island with no implements and a can of food. The physicist and the chemist each devised an ingenious mechanism for getting the can open; the economist merely said, "Assume we have a can opener"!" - Kenneth E. Boulding

Didn't you say your preference is for Google to inform you why your ears are burning? Just in case Google drops the ball... More #Tags Please!

Justyna said...

What's the principle behind 6th?
I get it that the elephants wanted free vodka but the only economic term that comes to mind is "supply creates its own demand". I wouldn't be surprised if I completely missed the mark though, I don't really know anything about economics.
But I would really like to find out if anyone's willing to share the answer.

Speedypaper said...

My favorite one is #2.

TheGreatIndoors1979 said...

I thought #4 was based on statistics: if more people won't wear seatbelts and the number of car accidents remain relatively unaltered, then the percentage of people involved in accidents wearing no seatbelts would be lower.