Sunday, December 20, 2009

DuckTales of Hyperinflation

DuckTales is a Disney animated show that aired from 1987 to 1990.  The show is based on the Uncle Scrooge comic books and follows the adventures of Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in Duckburg, and his three nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

I highlight DuckTales not because it was an excellent cartoon (it was) but because it has the distinction of having not one but two episodes about hyperinflation.

Episode 82, Dough Ray Me, first aired on November 3, 1989.  In this episode, the inventor Gyro creates the multiphonic duplicator, which is a device that is capable of making exact copies of any object.  Huey, Duey and Louie test out the device by duplicating a number of things, including money.  Things soon go awry when the duplicated money begins to spontaneously duplicate on its own.  Duckburg is quickly over run with duplicated money, causing prices to skyrocket.  In one scene, a child needs a red wagon full of coins to purchase an ice cream cone, reminiscent of Weimar Germany or modern day Zimbabwe.  Later on, money becomes so hated that it is considered trash.  Three bank robbers from the Beagle Boys family are cheered on by the customers and encouraged to take as much money as possible by the bank staff.  In the end, the duplicated money implodes and things return back to normal in Duckburg.

Episode 79, The Land of Tra-la-la, first aired on September 18, 1989.  In this episode, Scrooge McDuck has a nervous breakdown because of stress stemming from his finances.  His doctor recommends that he go on vacation to a place where the people have no concept of money, so Scrooge and the rest of the DuckTales crew head off to the remote land of Tra-la-la.  Once there, a native finds a bottle cap discarded by Scrooge.  Fenton, Scrooge's accountant, notes that it is just an old bottle cap but since nobody in Tra-la-la has ever seen one before, it is scarce and thus valuable.  Upon showing the bottle cap to others, the native is offered seven sheep for his rare, shiny metal.  Upon discovering that Scrooge McDuck has many bottle caps, he is soon badgered by inhabitants wanting to purchase them.  Scrooge tries to remedy the situation with a dose of socialism by handing out one bottle cap to each resident.  The plan is foiled when one man manages to acquire two bottle caps, making him twice as rich as any other man.  The inhabitants are outraged, so to pacify them Scrooge arranges for the delivery of millions of bottle caps.  At first, the natives are pleased with their newly acquired wealth.  After the delivery of more and more bottle caps, however, they quickly grow infuriated by the bottle caps, which they now deem as litter.  The locals even threaten to kill Huey, Dewey and Louie if the bottle cap deliveries do not cease.  In the end, the crew clean up all of the bottle caps and head home safe and sound.

After watching these episodes as a kid, I would not have been able to define economic terms such as supply, demand, scarcity or hyperinflation but I knew inherently what they all meant.  These episodes and others are littered with quality messages for children, such as the idea that you can never get something for nothing aka there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.  DuckTales managed to educate me despite my best wishes at the time so I salute the Disney corporation for their fine work.

Watch part 1 of the DuckTales episode Dough Ray Me:

Watch part 1 of the DuckTales episode The Land of Tra-la-la:

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