Everything I Learned About Finance, I Learned From Scrooge McDuck By: Gabriel PotterMBA, AIFA® 2013.06.12

A couple months ago, we ran an article on entertaining ways to learn about economics and investing.  We suggested some books, television shows, and audio podcasts.

I thought we had reached the height of frivolity with the epic rap battle between the Austrian school and Keynesian school of economics.  However, I had forgotten something important:  NPR’s Planet Money reminded me that, when the Internal Revenue Service starting leaning on US Citizens to start paying income taxes to support World War II effort, they used the unlikely partnership with Disney to put out a cartoon.  The US Department of the Treasury sponsored the cartoon, “The New Spirit”; the key plot is a patriotic Donald Duck going through his income tax return to help fund the war effort:  “taxes to beat the Axis”. 

It suddenly occurred to me that, in previous years, there were other cartoons that spread messages about economics and investing.  As the Donald Duck cartoon was a function of World War II, most cartoons about economics were spurred by the disparate ideologies of communism and capitalism.  These cartoons stand as fascinating examples of applying economic parables in an accessible way.

Some fun examples include “Scrooge McDuck and Money”.  This cartoon starts with a catchy spin on the savings and investment: 

“Circulate!  Circulate!
Franc, pound, peso or piaster…
Dollar, ruble or yen…
If the stop moving - it’s disaster
‘til they’re moving again.

It’s got to circulate! Circulate!  Come out of the woods.
Stimulate!  Motivate service and goods.
It’s no good to incubate!
Money’s got to circulate!”

Other lessons include the history and etymology of money, the benefit of currency over barter systems,  the hazards of inflation, budgeting, taxation, savings, and investing.  It’s pretty comprehensive for a 14 minute cartoon.

Up until now, we’ve focused on Disney, but Warner Brother’s Looney Tunes cartoons were also part of this action.  For example, when Elmer Fudd wasn’t hunting wascally wabbits, he was discussing the finer points of industrialism, paying dividends to investors, and corporate re-investment.   In the Sloan Foundation funded cartoon, Yankee Dood it, the Elves and the Shoemaker story is given a new spin.

Gabriel Potter

Gabriel is a Senior Investment Research Associate at Westminster Consulting, where he is responsible for designing strategic asset allocations and conducts proprietary market research.

An avid writer, Gabriel manages the firm’s blog and has been published in the Journal of Compensation and Benefits,...

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