Friday, January 16, 2015

Economics of Billy Elliot (The Musical)

I was with Susquehanna University's London Program students this week, and got the opportunity to see the musical Billy Elliot on Monday.

It was wonderful and there are economic issues everywhere in the show.

The show was centered around a boy, Billy Elliot, who's dad, brother, and much of the town are in the middle of a coal miner's strike.  The backdrop for this is the 1984-1985 coal miners' strike, which took place in the UK (wikipedia info here).

While I enjoyed the show, it certainly had a bit of a left-wing perspective.  Much of the show is from the striker's perspective.  That said, the dad is pretty terrible throughout the show, so the fact that he supports the strike and is an abusive father perhaps doesn't give much sympathy to strikers.

The questions I might ask if I took an economics student to this show is:

1. The strikers threatened violence to people who were willing to work for lower wages.  (I.e., the people willing to "cross the picket line".)  Why would society look down on those who are simply willing to work for a lower wage?  Why do so many in society think it is acceptable to commit violent acts against these workers?

2. If the strikers really felt like they were underpaid, why didn't they simply get a different job?

3. When multiple companies band together to force people to pay higher prices for products, this is called collusion and many people (at least in the US) have gone to jail for this.  Why does society treat strikers who are colluding together to force taxpayers or firms to pay higher prices different?  (I say taxpayers, as for government run sectors it is the taxpayers who pay the workers, not firms.)

My final comment isn't as much about economics but about the political realities of the world.  There is a song called "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher" ...

The lyrics include the lines "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher; We all celebrate today 'cause it's one day closer to your death."  I wonder what would happen if a musical had the lines "Merry Christmas Barack Obama, we celebrate today because it's one day closer to your death"?  The riots and outrage from the left would be everywhere.  Yet I had heard barely a peep about this song ... Why is that?

No comments:

Post a Comment