The fundamentals of economics, individual rights, and the rule of law are often missing from childhood education, but Atlas Network’s innovative partners are finding ways to package their message of freedom into fresh and engaging mediums. Three partners — Civil Development Forum (FOR) in Poland, Research Foundation for Governance (RFGI) in India, and Libera in Finland — have published comic books this year, each with the goal of getting a younger audience interested in their personal and economic freedoms.
In the summer of 2014, FOR released the fifth edition of “Econ-Comics,” a crowdsourced effort to connect with middle and high school students through comic books, videos, and stop-motion animations. FOR invites local artists to draw the panels, and the best ones are chosen to illustrate a number of vital economics lessons. The diversity of artists gives each piece of content a unique flavor. The catalog of comics — available online at komiksy-ekonomiczne.pl —can also be ordered at no charge, together with lesson plans and scenarios, for use as a teaching supplement.
Artificial increases of wages [by the government] lead to a spiral of growing prices and wages. They don’t improve the standard of living.
Left: These villains have raised prices!
Bottom: Raise wages!
Right: The prices have risen again! What should I do?!
Top: Raise wages!
Picket Sign: Mice’s Trade Union
In India, sisters Kanan and Kelly Dhru have realized a lifelong dream in creating their own series of comics, called Lawtoons, another crowdfunding success story that has raised more than $5,000 through an online campaign. The comics follow a young boy named Pugloo who receives a copy of the Indian Constitution for his birthday. He is disappointed with his gift, until he learns that his special copy comes with a ghost who shows him everything the Constitution allows him to do with his life.
At its core, issues of Lawtoons will focus on the “golden triangle” of Indian law—rights to equality, speech, and life. The sisters hope that the comics will offer a fun way to reach out to a large audience and create awareness of laws and rights in India. “Lawtoons is making rights, laws, and freedoms easy to understand for kids through comics,” Kanan told Atlas Network.
Libera in Finland has published a series of comic books called Rautalankatalous (English translation: It’s the Economy, Stupid!). The project aims to educate high school and college students about the workings of a free-market economy, covering topics such as loan, risk, and division of labor.
“It draws inspiration from Irwin Schiff's How an Economy Grows and Why It Doesn’t,” explained Kristina Pentti, director of Libera. “So far, the comics have been well received, and are actively followed on our webpage and in social media.” Libera publishes Rautalankatalous twice a month in Finnish, while some English versions are available online.
Too often, adults assume that young people are uninterested or incapable of understanding important concepts like public-sector corruption and regulatory capture, the hidden costs of “free” subsidized services, the deadweight loss of efficiency and opportunity cost from high taxation, or how capital is leveraged through entrepreneurial risk. Presented in the right format, though, with engaging stories and art, these lively lessons from Atlas Network partners are demonstrating the opposite.