Economix

When I discuss the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with folks, I usually point them to the following three on-line comics:

These three comics go over the details of health insurance in the US, the problems that Obamacare was supposed to solve, how well it solved them, where there was room for improvement, and the Republican response.

Of the three, the last is the most outdated even though it’s the most recent, since it doesn’t include the multiple proposals that were voted down after the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare) failed to pass.

You don’t have to agree with the author of those comics, Michael Goodwin; no one is obligated to agree with anyone’s perspectives, much less those expressed using illustrations (by Dan E. Burr). I refer to them because they’re easy to understand and offer some common ground on which to come up with new ideas.

Michael Goodwin is the author of the graphic “novel” Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work), in Words and Pictures. (I put “novel” in quotes because it’s not intended as a work of fiction. Perhaps “graphic book” would be better.) It goes over the history of economics, from the theories to practice, defining terms along the ways.

I learned quite a bit from Economix. Here are three highlights:

  • the difference between socialism and communism
  • the economic justification for fascism (basically it puts a country on a permanent war economy)
  • that many current economic ideas used to shape current policy are based on models that even their creators insisted were crude approximations

The book was published in 2012 and its description of the national and global economy stops in 2011. It’s still an invaluable perspective on “how the heck did we get here?”

Again, I don’t expect everyone to agree with what Michael Goodwin says. In particular, he does not spare criticism of Ronald Reagan (though he’s no big fan of the economic policies of every president since Nixon). I suggest the book because it breaks down complex topics into easy-to-understand pictures, and offers a common reference for discussion.

In short, if you don’t know economics, I strongly recommend you read this book. I certainly wish I had it by my side as I struggled with (and failed) my Economics 101 course back in 1976.