Zombie Economics – the movie

When I signed the contract with Princeton UP for Zombie Economics, I read the section covering movie rights, and had fun chatting about which of my friends would be best suited to play Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium, Trickle Down (yes, yes, I know!) and so on. Then I found out that Freakonomics actually has been made into a movie, and of course, I wanted the same. But, even in the century of the mashup, it doesn’t seem likely that a polemical economics text could be made watchable just by adding zombies (though I thought the mash worked pretty well in print).

Instead, how about starting with a comic-horror zombie movie, then making the apocalyptic zombie-generating event a financial-economic crisis? That seemed much more promising, and I starting working out the treatment in my head. All was going well until I realized that I was stealing all my best ideas from Charlie Stross. I emailed Charlie, and he said to go right ahead, so I thought at least it would be fun for a blog post.

Over the fold some of the scenes I’ve sketched so far – feel free to make suggestions which I will then feel free to steal in the unlikely event that this goes any further.

Opening – drive-by through a half-built and abandoned housing development, inhabited by squatters, some heavily-armed humans and some zombies. Voice-over and flashback to the apocalypse

Backstory – mutated derivative securities, as in Accelerando, becoming self-aware, then taking over the financial system, and seeking to manifest themselves in physical form. As in the Laundry series, anyone who makes too much progress investigating Gaussian copulas or DSGE macro is vulnerable to demonic takeover, which manifests itself as zombiedom.

At story opening, reference is made to pre-apocalypse zombie outbreaks (2000 and 2008) which seemed to have been successfully contained. But actually, zombiedom spreading all the time.

Zombies deteriorate slowly, and zombiedom can be concealed by the use of appropriate financial cosmetics, so the story will allow for vampire-type plots where no-one knows who is actually a zombie.

Some scene ideas:

Possession by Powerpoint – a straight steal from The Jennifer Morgue.

Zombie Banks – banks run by and for zombies

The Great Moderation – a period of complacent and mindless optimism indicative of the early stages of zombiedom

Efficient Markets Hypothesis – I’m thinking of riffing of random walks here

Zombie Tea Parties – this should write itself

Trickle Down – obviously, this will be the obligatory gross-out scene

That’s what I’ve got so far. New scenes and casting suggestions gratefully accepted

35 thoughts on “Zombie Economics – the movie

  1. sure you’ve read this John, top MIT dog Ricardo J. Caballero saying that modern DSGE macro suffers a “pretense of knowledge” syndrome

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w16429

    and a quote in an interview from Lawrence Meyer from the Fed

    http://www.clevelandfed.org/forefront/2010/09/ff_2010_fall_02.cfm

    So I think we have two kinds of modeling traditions. First there is the classic tradition. I was educated at MIT. I was a research assistant to Franco Modigliani, Nobel laureate, and the director of the project on the large-scale model that was used at the time at the Federal Reserve Board. This is the beginning of modern macro-econometric model building. That’s the kind of models that I would use, the kind of models that folks at the Board use.

    There’s also another tradition that began to build up in the late seventies to early eighties—the real business cycle or neoclassical models. It’s what’s taught in graduate schools. It’s the only kind of paper that can be published in journals. It is called “modern macroeconomics.”

    The question is, what’s it good for? Well, it’s good for getting articles published in journals. It’s a good way to apply very sophisticated computational skills. But the question is, do those models have anything to do with reality? Models are always a caricature—but is this a caricature that’s so silly that you wouldn’t want to get close to it if you were a policymaker?

    My views would be considered outrageous in the academic community, but I feel very strongly about them. Those models are a diversion. They haven’t been helpful at all at understanding anything that would be relevant to a monetary policymaker or fiscal policymaker.

  2. Routine OT apology. JQ I am really enjoying your book. I studied GE 35 years ago (Frank Hahn was the lecturer) and found it, to say the least, unsatisfactory. Since then I have not paid much attention (I worked on developing economies where the problems are far less tractable), so the Great Moderation, the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and the DSGE (I’m reading that now) are unfamiliar terminologies – even if the ideas are not. As they say, ‘plus ça change’. But it is still important to point this out on a regular basis. I appreciate your update on the history of economic ideas.

    Now I’m looking at research grant applications in finance (among other things). Lots of zombies there! I think that logic has little influence, ideas may have some, but politics is in command.

  3. PS: re “found it, to say the least, unsatisfactory” Hahn was quite honest about it – he stated openly that it was the aesthetics that attracted him and that it had little to say about the real world. But he was also a bully. You learned not to sit near the front in case he picked on you to imitate a ‘sick crocodile’ or a ‘student from the University of Bath’. He also asked me once why I wasn’t at home raising children.

  4. @Freelander I’m not very good with the quick riposte, especially when my jaw has dropped off, but I did happen to know that he had no kids and managed to get out that it was “probably for much the same reason you’re not”. My companion, who was one of his colleagues in the Faculty and is never rude to people, thought it was a pretty good reply.

  5. @melanie
    The older you get..the more inclined you would be to haul Frank Hahns ass before the equity committee. Its a shame women dont do it so much when they are younger..lord knows some people need it.

  6. @melanie
    Probably didnt have an equity committee back then either Melanie and despite the existence of such things now, there is still a big shortage of female academics in senior roles and ignorant comments the like of Frank Hahns to you, over the years havent helped one bit.
    Never mind back in the 50s you were often out of a job for getting pregnant. My mother got all dressed up to go to an interview at the age of 28 and was told she was too old for the job in the late 1960s.
    We have come a long way but not far enough. The pay gap is still there large as life. The super gap is still there large as life. The senior position gender imbalance is there large as life. Lots of talk these days but action still on the short side.

  7. @melanie
    melanie – there is a fundamental difference between the sexism inherent in your link at 33 and Frank Hahns comment to you as a student. Those women are walking the boards at 33 and their young male stidents are dreaming. You were trying to be a student and your old lecturer was trying to tell you to go home and look after the kids..

    Huge difference Mel. Young male students canm dream all they like…so can young female students…nothiing wrong with that. But when some idiot is in a position of greater power relatively (you student, he lecturer) with some power over your marks…then why the hell does he think he has the right to tell you (?on what spurious grounds…) to go home and look after the kids..??

    Different kettle of fish your link – entirely different.

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