The Old-New Way to Understand Capitalism

In the 1950s, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation worked with Warner Brothers to develop a cartoon series that would provide an economics lesson to the many viewers throughout the United States. The purpose was to teach Americans – children and adults – the values and benefits of Capitalism as opposed to Communism.

The three cartoons provide a simple story line that targets a critical aspect of the Capitalist Economy.

By Word of Mouse (1954) is another very humorous, yet focused, effort. In this outing, a mouse named Hans from the German town of ‘Knockwurst on Der Rye’ travels to America. His purpose is to visit his cousin Willie and learn about the free-market Capitalist system of economics. Based on his cousin’s interest, Willie takes him to see a professor – another mouse – at Putnell University, aka Old PU. The professor speaks at length through a series of short, targeted explanations about Capitalism in what I would describe as everyday words. Meanwhile, Sylvester chases all three of the mice through the lecture halls of the University.

In Heir-Conditioned (1955) Sylvester plays the pet of an old woman who has died and left him upwards of $3 million. Elmer Fudd plays the part of Sylvester’s new financial advisor who provides him insight on how to utilize the wealth to his advantage in business and industry. Meanwhile, Sylvester’s alley cat friends are all looking for ways to get their hands on the money for themselves. Initially, Sylvester is all too eager to turn it over to them. But after several madcap misadventures, Sylvester becomes much more alert to the value of investing.

In the final cartoon of the series named Yankee Dood It (1956) Elmer Fudd portrays the ‘King of the Industrial Elves’. After a roll call of elves, it’s determined an entire division of elves are missing because they are still working for the shoemaker in the story “The Shoemaker and the Elves”. The King visits the outmoded shoemaker’s shop that borders on slave labor of the elves. There, the King extols the virtues of mass production and capitalist reinvestment in the business to aid in its expansion.

With all the lackluster “edumakation” going on today, it is necessary to return to the fundamentals of learning through enjoyment of the process as much as the content.

Let’s take 23 minutes and remind ourselves just what the Capitalist system is meant to be and can be.  (If you are interested, you can find these three cartoons online, just not through the links I provide as they are still under copyright.)

Let’s also remember we are the ones who need to rid ourselves of the corrupting influences of greed and lust for power.

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