Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Beavis & Butthead Follow-Up

Two days ago, I discussed a "Beavis and Butthead"-clip which has now been removed from Youtube. To those of you who didn't see it, the relevant part of the story was that they had been assigned by their school to sell candy bars. They didn't have much luck though, and they only sold two (and that's after offering to sell them at half price, so it was really just one).

But then Butthead wanted to eat one of the candy bars and bought one from Beavis. And then Beavis also wanted to eat one, so he bought one from Butthead using the same money he got selling to Butthead. And then Butthead bought another one from Beavis using that same cash, after which Beavis bought another one from Beavis using that same cash and so on, until all the candy bars had been eaten, leaving them with only two dollars, something which caused some problems.

The questions I asked was first of all, what was the catch? Why did things end up bad even though they were careful to always demand payment for each candy bar? And secondly, what connection does this have to Keynesian economics.'

The answer to the first question is that the catch was that Beavis and Butthead didn't own the cash they used to purchase candy bars from each other. They illicitly "borrowed" (or in other words stole) it from the school which owned the money. When they ate those candy bars they thus in effect stole them, as the cash they exchanged in each transaction was stolen.

The answer to the second question is that they in effect acted as Keynesians by not letting the fact that they hadn't produced anything to give in return to the producers of these candy bars stop them from demanding them. When Keynesians argue that the government should borrow and print money to enable non-producers to demand various goods, they are in fact advocating the behavior that Beavis and Butthead displayed in this clip.