From ABBA to Led Zeppelin: using music to teach economics
From ABBA to Led Zeppelin: using music to teach economics
"Dirk Mateer" Archives

American Saturday Night - Brad Paisley

JEL: f o r   

She’s got Brazilian leather boots on the pedal of her German car
Listen to the Beatles singing Back in the USSR
Yeah, she’s goin’ around the world tonight
But she ain’t leavin here
She’s just going to meet her boyfriend down at the street fair

It’s a French kiss, Italian ice
Spanish moss in the moonlight
Just another American Saturday night

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

By reflecting on the lyrics in the songs, explain how free trade, limited limited trade barriers, liberal immigration policies, and broader markets, increase human welfare.

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Welcome To The Future - Brad Paisley

JEL: o       

My grandpa was in World War 2
He fought against the Japanese
He wrote a hundred letters to my grandma
Mailed them from his base in the Philippines
I wish they could see this now
Will they say it’s changed a note
‘Cause I was on a video chat this morning
With a company in Tokyo

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

How does technological progress make us better off? Comment by using the two examples provided in the lyrics.

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Welcome To The Future - Brad Paisley

JEL: o       

My grandpa was in World War 2
He fought against the Japanese
He wrote a hundred letters to my grandma
Mailed them from his base in the Philippines
I wish they could see this now
Will they say it’s changed a note
‘Cause I was on a video chat this morning
With a company in Tokyo

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

How does technological progress make us better off? Comment by using the two examples provided in the lyrics.

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Shipbuilding - Elvis Costello

JEL: d       

Is it worth it
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle
on the boys birthday

Its just a rumour that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon well be shipbuilding

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

After reading the reading the lyrics describe the sacrifices (opportunity costs) of going to and preparing for war.

[Provided by E. Frank Stephenson - Berry College]

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She Works Hard for the Money - Donna Summer

JEL:        

Its a sacrifice working day to day
For little money just tips for pay
But its worth it all
Just to hear them say that they care
She works hard for the money
So hard for it honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

This classic Donna Summer song is about a waitress she met at a local restaurant who was working two jobs. Donna could see “she works hard for the money.” Many economists are somewhat puzzled by tipping behavior. The tip is given after the meal – when it has no impact on the service rendered. Yet most people tip in spite of that fact. Explain why consumer’s tip and under what circumstances you’d expect tips to be less and more generous.

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Between Angels and Insects - Papa Roach

JEL: b p     

I just want to be heard loud and clear are my words
Coming from within man tell them what you heard
It’s about a revolution in your heart and in your mind
Till you find a conclusion lost out in obsession
Diamond rings get you nothing but a life long lesson
And your pocketbook's stressing
You’re a slave to the system working jobs that you hate
for that shit you don’t need
It’s too bad the world is based on greed
Step back and see
Stop thinking about yourself start thinking about

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Self-regarding behavior is the cornerstone of economic analysis. Recall Adam Smith's famous quote, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, baker, or brewer that we expect our dinner, but from their own self interest." Would a world full of "Angels" work as well at providing what people want? What about a world full of "Insects?" Papa Roach seems to be saying that "greed" is a problem. Comment.

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If I Had a Million Dollars - Barenaked Ladies

JEL: e       

If I had a 1,000,000
We wouldn't have to walk to the store
If I had a 1,000,000
We'd take a limousine cause it costs more
If I had a 1,000,000 We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft dinner

If I had a 1,000,000 (If I had a 1,000,000)
i'd but you a green dress ( but not a real green dress that's cruel)
If I had a 1,000,000 (If I had a 1,000,000)
I'd but you some art ( A Picasso or a Garfunkel)
If I had a 1,000,000 (If I had a 1,000,000)
I'd buy you a monkey (haven't you always wanted a monkey?)
If I had a 1,000,000 If I had a 1,000,000 If I had a 1,000,000
If I had a 1,000,000 I'd be RICH!

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

This song sings the virtues of having $1M and all that it can buy. However, millionaires are far more common today than when the Barenaked Ladies first released this song in 1992. Use the consumer price index to find the equivalent amount of money you'd need to possess today to buy what $1M dollars bought in 1992. Also, there are several items mentioned in the song that money can't buy. Discuss.

"Dirk Mateer" Archives

Cash Machine - Hard-Fi

JEL: e i     

I scratch a living, it ain't easy
You know it's a drag
I'm always paying, never make it
But you can't look back
I wonder if I'll ever get
To where I want to be
Better believe it
I'm working for the cash machine
Cash machine
Cash machine ...

There's a hole in my pocket, my pocket, my pocket
There's a hole in my pocket, my pocket, my pocket
There's a hole in my pocket, my pocket, my pocket
There's a hole in my pocket
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

This 2005 modern rock hit examines the circular nature of poverty. Recognize the ending? It is a variation of the well-known children’s song, “There’s a hole in my bucket, Dear Liza.” The ballad is especially poignant since if your money is draining out you can never get ahead! Using the most recent edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States determine the personal savings rate. Why does a low savings rate matter?

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Why Don't You Get a Job? - The Offspring

JEL: a e i j 

He works his hands to the bone
To give her money every payday
But she wants more dinero just to stay at home
Well my friend
You gotta say:

I won't pay, I won't pay ya, no way
now now Why don't you get a job
Say no way, say no way ya, no way
now now Why don't you get a job

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Researchers have questioned whether you can design a welfare system that provides a generous safety net, but not so generous that the effective marginal tax rate that the poor face when contemplating leaving welfare is too onerous. Explain why creating the right incentives to get productive people to leave welfare is so difficult.

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Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones

JEL: a d     

When I'm drivin' in my car
And that man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can't get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say

I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Mick Jagger dropped out of the London School of Economics to pursue a career with the Rolling Stones. His decision to quit proves that he learned something about opportunity cost! However, in the song he is never satisfied which is atypical. Most people become satisfied as they do more of something. Explain the theory of diminishing marginal utility and how it is applied throughout the song.

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20 Dollars - Angie Stone

JEL: a d h i 

Can you loan me 20 dollars
'Till I get my check next week
Said I only got 20 dollars
And me and my baby got to eat

Now I'm suppose to take from the child, oh Lord
Make it harder on me just to make it worth your while
Now honey, I don't think so
Cuz you ain't pay me back the ten-spot
From three weeks ago, no

What do you do when you're through
When you're always helping people and
Nobody's there for you (Tell me)
What can I do or say
When you constantly staring in my face

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

This song places the listener in the uncomfortable position of questioning whether or not they should help someone who asks to borrow a small amount of money. This is what is referred to as the Samaritan’s dilemma. Why does the dilemma have important policy ramifications? What does the song say about the dependency created by charitable handouts? Finally, giving is not costless. What are some of the things that are foregone in order to help others?

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No Man's Land - Bill Joel

JEL: h j     

I've seen those big machines come rolling through the quiet pines
Blue suits and bankers with their Volvos and their valentines
Give us this day our daily discount outlet merchandise
Raise up a multiplex and we will make a sacrifice
Now we're gonna get the big business
Now we're gonna get the real thing
Everybody's all excited about it

Who remembers when it all began
Out here in no man's land
Before they passed the master plan
Out here in no man's land
Low supply and high demand
Here in no man's land

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Explain how the forces of supply and demand, steep rent-gradients, taxes, and the Tiebout Hypothesis all combine to drive people away from the more densely populated central city areas (where economies of scale exist) and into the surrounding communities.

"Dirk Mateer" Archives

Luxurious - Gwen Stefani

JEL: a e d h 

This kind of love is getting expensive
We know how to live baby
We're luxurious like Egyptian cotton

Working so hard every night and day
And now we get the pay back
Trying so hard saving up the paper
Now we get to lay back

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Because income is scarce people must trade current consumption for for future consumption. Since 1950, the average age for retirement has fallen for both men and women. In 1940, the average retiree lived for ten years after retirement. Today, the average retiree lives 18 years in retirement.

Comment on how these demographic changes make financing the Social Security system so difficult beyond 2020. Would raising the retirement age for future Social Security recipients be enough to balance the expected shortfall in revenues?

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The Road Not Taken - Bruce Hornsby

JEL: a       

Down in the southwest Virginia town of Richlands
I fell in love with an Appalachian girl
She lived in a long line of little row houses
On the side of an old strip mining hill
She walked along on the jagged ridge
And looked as far as she could see
But the hills out there so up and down
You only see as far as the next big ridge
Everytime I see her face
On the street in the hollow of on the hill
Another time and another place
I feel her in my heart still
Everytime I see her face
On the street in the hollow in the bend
I see her in my mind and then
I go down the road not taken...again

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

The song title is borrowed from Robert Frost’s poem of the same name. Read the full lyrics and then read Frost’s The Road Not Taken, both works evoke a sense of loss. Formally transfer this idea into economic language by relating each to opportunity cost and sunk cost.

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In the End - Linkin Park

JEL: a       

I designed this rhyme
To explain in due time
All I know
Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away
It's so unreal
Didn't look out below
Watch the time go right out the window

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

What is scarce in the song? Why is time often overlooked compared to the financial cost when making decisions? Can you relate time to elasticity? Is demand more elastic in the short-run or long-run?

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Beverly Hills - Weezer

JEL: a d r   

Where I come from isn't all that great
My automobile is a piece of crap
My fashion sense is a little whack
And my friends are just as screwy as me
I didn't go to boarding schools
Preppie girls never looked at me
Why should they?
I ain't nobody
Got nothing in my pocket
Beverly Hills
That's where I want to be
Livin' in Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills
Rolling like a celebrity
Livin' in Beverly Hills

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Beverly Hills, and other affluent communities, are examples of rich enclaves (Forbes, 2005) with markedly higher property values than surrounding areas. What explains why some areas are affluent and other areas nearby are not as well to do? Use substitution and income effects to explain your answer.

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Baby Girl - Sugarland

JEL: a d     

black top, blue skies big town full of little white lies,
everybody’s your friend, you can never be sure,
they'll promise fancy cars and diamond rings and all sorts of shiny things,
but girl you'll remember what your knees are for

Dear Mom and Dad please send money,
I'm so broke that it ain't funny,
well I dont need much just enough to get me through,
please dont worry cause I'm alright,
see I'm playing here at the bar tonight
well in this town I'm going to make our dreams come true.
well I love you more than anything in the world,
love your baby girl

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

This country hit from 2005 highlights the risks associated with venturing out on your own. How credible are the promises of “fancy cars and diamond rings and all sorts of shiny things” when you are new in town? What would make these promises more believable? Who can the singer trust in the song? Why is this trust credible? Use game theory to support your answer.

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Soak Up the Sun - Sheryl Crow

JEL: a b p   

My friend the communist
Holds meetings in his RV
I can't afford his gas
So I'm stuck here watching tv
I don't have digital
I don't have diddly squat
It's not having what you want
It's wanting what you've got

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Near the middle of the song Sheryl Crow sings, "I'm gonna soak up the sun while it's still free." Comment on the accuracy of this statement from an opportunity cost perspective. What are some of the contrasts mentioned in the song between the affluent and the poor?

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Stuff - Diamond Rio

JEL: a d     

Delivery truck coming up 'round the bend
Beep, beep, beep, just backing in
Sign here and here and here again
'Cause it's no money down no payments till
Your whole place is cram packed filed with

Stuff (stuff) stack it on stack it on up
(Stuff) never gonna ever get enough (stuff)
Oh it's treasure till it's mine then it ain't worth a dime
It's stuff (stuff) spreading like weeds
Dragging me under in an endless sea of stuff
(Stuff) There ain't no end
Got to get a bigger place so I can move in
More stuff

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

How much is enough? This is the question that Diamond Rio asks in Stuff. The singer keeps buying and does not get very much additional utility from the new purchases. What economic theory can be used to explain this?

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Boys & Girls - Good Charlotte

JEL: a       

Paper or plastic.
Don't matter she'll have it

Vacations and shopping spreez
These are a few of her favorite things
She'll get what she wants if she is willing to please
His type of girl always comes with a fee,
Hey now there's nothing for free

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

There is “no such thing as a free lunch” is one of the first lessons in economics. Explain how this principle is applied throughout the song. What are the short-run and long-run trade-offs from accepting financial favors in a relationship?

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Big Yellow Taxi - Counting Crows

JEL: a q     

They paved paradise and put up a parkin' lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin' hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got till it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parkin' lot

They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them
No, no, no, don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise, and put up a parkin' lot

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Big Yellow Taxi was originally written and performed by Joni Mitchell but covered by many other artists such as Bob Dylan, Amy Grant, and the Counting Crows. What trade-offs can you find in the lyrics? Define opportunity cost and give at least three examples found in the song. Finally, many of the problems mentioned in the song could be addressed through the assignment of property rights and an exploration of externalities. Explain how properly-defined property rights create incentives to minimize externalities.

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The Way It Is / Changes - Bruce Hornsby / Tupac Shakur

JEL: a d l   

The Way It Is (1986) – Bruce Hornsby


They say hey little boy you can't go
Where the others go
'Cause you don't look like they do
Said hey old man how can you stand
To think that way
Did you really think about it
Before you made the rules
He said, Son


That's just the way it is
Some things will never change
That's just the way it is
But don't you believe them


and the remake, Changes by Tupac Shakur (1999)


Come on come on
I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
"Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?"
I'm tired of bein' poor and even worse I'm black.
My stomach hurts, so I'm lookin' for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he's a hero.
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare.
First ship 'em dope & let 'em deal the brothers.
Give 'em guns, step back, and watch 'em kill each other.
"It's time to fight back", that's what Huey said.
2 shots in the dark now Huey's dead.
I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere
unless we share with each other. We gotta start makin' changes.
Learn to see me as a brother 'stead of 2 distant strangers.
And that's how it's supposed to be.
How can the Devil take a brother if he's close to me?
I'd love to go back to when we played as kids,
but things change, and that's the way it is.


(full lyrics)

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

Bruce Hornsby’s original lyrics point to discrimination as a fact of life. Tupac added his own take on the issue of discrimination when he made the claim that “the way it is” forces black society to make poor choices just to survive. How do markets combat discrimination? Do markets reward businesses that discriminate or are they penalized? What happens to the profits of a business if it decides not to hire a qualified worker based on their race?

"Dirk Mateer" Archives

Downeaster Alexa - Billy Joel

JEL: a d h   

Now I drive my Downeaster "Alexa"
More and more miles from shore every year
Since they tell me I can't sell no stripers
And there's no luck in swordfishing here.

I was a bayman like my father was before
Can't make a living as a bayman anymore
There ain't much future for a man who works the sea
But there ain't no island left for islanders like me

Full Lyrics · Click to Listen

Assignment:

What barriers to entry exist in the fishing industry? Are these barriers significant enough to create firm-specific pricing power? Ocean waters also present a common property problem. If competitors in the fishing industry cannot prevent new entrants into the market and all of the competitors fish the same waters, what are the prospects for long-run profits?