Science Goes To The Movies Gets All Macroeconomic On Panem

The latest episode of Science Goes to the Movies is out, and focuses on the film adaptations of The Hunger Games books.

The guest economist is Jared Bernstein, currently with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and formerly the Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser to Vice President Biden.  The hosts and Bernstein discuss the economic history of Panem, the dystopian future nation in the books, and frequently explore parallels between that country, which is ruled by an elite that extracts wealth from the outlying districts, and other current world scenarios.

Those looking for a more ‘scientific’ discussion of the economics of Panem may be disappointed.  As the economic concepts discussed in this episode are almost exclusively macroeconomic, politics (as opposed to political science) is woven throughout the discussion.  That the discussion is with a former senior policy adviser to a vice-president intensifies the interconnections between macroeconomic policy and politics.  If the show were to tackle other recent films that engaged with other branches of economics (such as A Beautiful Mind or The Big Short which deal with game theory and commercial finance, respectively) the programs might play quite differently.

But the basic notion of exploring the economics implied in a dystopian film is sound.  (The same goes for a utopian film, but that’s not The Hunger Games series.)  Unfortunately, it’s rare to find much material on those economies within the films themselves.  Inferences usually have to be made as the economic history of a (fictional) country is usually much better suited for the written word than the screen.  (Of course, there may well be exceptions, and I’d love to hear about them in the comments.)

The next episode of Science Goes to the Movies takes to the ocean, featuring the recent film “In the Heart of the Sea” and one of the legendary Cousteau family.


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