EconStories

FIND THE STORY

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The world economy is in free fall, driven by the buildup of unsustainable debts gone bad. The titans of government and industry didn’t see it coming or played a role in bringing it about. The public is told that the solution is to add on more debt, bailout the worst of the risk-takers and empower the political institutions which helped cause the crisis in the first place. How do you make sense of a world turned upside down? “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” wrote the late John Maynard Keynes. We discovered that beneath the headlines of the global financial crisis was a longstanding debate between two defunct economic titans, Lord Keynes himself and his 1930s rival Friedrich Hayek.

GET TO PLAY

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With the core story in hand the playtime began. How can two dead economists debating complex, technocratic macroeconomic theory be made accessible without making something punishingly dull or dumbing it down to the point of uselessness? The answer, of course, was rap music. So we got defuncty and created a rap song between Keynes and Hayek. After all, rap is lyrically dense, socially conscience, and what group of artists are bigger fans of the gold standard than rappers?

WORK IT

Every campaign starts with a great idea. Still, ideas are 2% and execution is the rest. The key ingredients to this project were a mix of aspirational textbook-grade economics, evenhanded treatment of both sides, tremendously engaging talent, and high end production value for both the music and video. The result were videos which could defy every reasonable expectation for a macroeconomics youtube rap battle. Pop star Kesha put it best: “they’re legit… and it’s really good rap!”.

MAKE AN IMPACT

Creating something unexpected is a great way to encourage people to share the message, and share they did. Despite its dense content and 7+ minute length, Fear the Boom and Bust and its sequel Fight of the Century rocketed to millions of views driven entirely by organic viral sharing. Their success attracted big media attention and multiple features on NPR, Bloomberg, BBC, CNN, Fox and even a one-hour interview with C-Span creator Brian Lamb, bringing the total reach into the tens of millions! Beyond sheer views, the Keynes vs. Hayek rap videos have been voluntarily translated into over a dozen languages, adopted in history and economics classrooms around the world ranging from grade school through university, and have even performed by students for their high school talent show!