A free market odyssey: classroom Adventures with Jonathan Gullible.

Author:Schoolland, Ken
Position:ECONOMIC EDUCATION
 
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  1. Introduction

    Throughout history and around the world, satire has been an effective means to circumvent bureaucratic resistance to ideas. While governments frequently oppose free markets and utilize government schools to undermine independent thought, a satirical approach has made gains in the most rigid of cultures.

    In America, we turn to the likes of The Daily Show and the recently ended Colbert Report for news rather than turning to mainstream broadcasters. Why? Because people enjoy laughing as hosts like Trevor Noah, his predecessor Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert mock the "serious" establishment, exposing its irony and hypocrisy.

    In the economics classroom, my book, The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey, offers a similar appeal to this spirit of rebellion. In the manner of a traveler, as in Gulliver's Travels and The Little Prince, the hero of this story finds himself stranded on a remote Pacific island where he encounters bizarre practices that mimic those of contemporary society in a humorous and instructive way. It is a tale in forty-one brief chapters that takes this stranded young sailor on a series of curious encounters through the countryside, city streets, and eventually to wisdom and rescue.

  2. What Makes Jonathan Gullible an Effective Teaching Tool?

    When delivering any message, the key to audience acceptance is to avoid being preachy and dogmatic, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery established this style with his marvelous book, The Little Prince, making profound points about philosophy and life with simple scenes and questions. To have universal applicability and to let the readers make their own connections, the setting is neutral, intentionally a distant location and era.

    Jonathan Gullible introduces more than ninety economics concepts, taking up issues such as the tragedy of the commons, farm policy, rent control, inflation, minimum wage, licensing, eminent domain, moral hazard, and manipulative taxes. Free trade and protectionism are explored through a retelling of the humorous stories of Frederic Bastiat, the nineteenth-century free market French economist.

    The book is structured to address issues of increasing complexity along the journey, reflecting a progression of analysis that occurs for students in an introductory economics course. At first, the book takes a pragmatic approach to the provision of goods and services. The second stage increasingly draws students into an examination of arguments about the value of individual rights and property rights. Ultimately, the story presents students with philosophical ideas derived from Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and others, contrasting democratic authority with personal choice and responsibility. To summarize the lessons in the book, Jonathan provides an epilogue, "My Philosophy of Liberty," which is also available online as an eight-minute animated video that has been translated and produced in forty-four languages.

    There are three basic formats of the book, suited to different audiences: (1) the colorful, hardcover, illustrated youth edition with audio CD; (2) the simple black and white paperback university edition; and (3) the extended educators' commentary...

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