What Can Vampires Teach Us About Economics? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast
Do vampires employ an optimal strategy in choosing their mates? Would a zombie invasion help create jobs? And what would happen if vampires didn’t have to attack humans to get blood?
These are some of the pressing questions we ask in this week’s episode, “What Can Vampires Teach Us About Economics?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)
It was inspired by a book called Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires, and the Dismal Science a collection of 23 scholarly essays edited by the economists Glen Whitman and James Dow. (Here’s the table of contents; here are some excerpts.)
Whitman teaches at California State University, Northridge, and also writes for TV. His chapters in the book focus on romantic relationships (“Human Girls and Vampire Boys,” Parts 1 and 2) and resource management (“Tragedy of the Blood Commons: The Case for Privatizing the Humans.”) In the podcast, Whitman talks about the economics of the undead as well as how his academic work merged with his own dating life.
You’ll also hear from Enrique Guerra-Pujol, a professor of law at the University of Central Florida, who argues that vampires are driven to violence by the absence of a legal blood market:
GUERRA-PUJOL: Economists often talk about market failures when certain voluntary transactions impose costs on others or on society. Here I’m talking about legal failure. What I mean by that is when the law, for a wide variety of reasons, prevents transactions from taking place in the first place, prevents market transactions. And what it really comes down to, is this intuition that, you know, if vampires had the choice to buy blood, they would probably do so.
Guerra-Pujol’s solution to vampire violence?
GUERRA-PUJOL: As a legal scholar […] I think the solution is there right under our nose. It’s let vampires buy blood.
You’ll also hear from Steve Horwitz, a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University, about an essay he co-authored (with Sarah Skwire) called “Eating Brains and Breaking Windows.” It uses the premise of Frederic Bastiat’s famous “Parable of the Broken Window” to ask whether a zombie apocalypse could actually be good news for the economy, as some people argue that war or a natural disaster can be.
Here’s hoping that if you spend Halloween as a vampire, zombie, or werewolf, you will now be armed with a bit of economic background to make your portrayal even more convincing.
Special thanks to Simon Adler for help in producing this episode.