January 30, 2017 Print

Students today have grown up in a world where the 27-year television juggernaut The Simpsons has always existed, and the show provides a nearly endless array of examples of economic principles in action. In 2016, Italy-based Atlas Network partner Istituto Bruno Leoni (IBL) translated the book Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics into Italian, and the organization is now crowdfunding a project to send copies to economics teachers in 360 Italian high schools.

“Teaching economics to high school students is not an easy task,” explains Nicola Iannello, an IBL fellow. “Sometimes this discipline seems too technical, too ‘cold.’ We've therefore decided to try teaching it with this book, edited by American economists who try to explain basic economic principles with the help of The Simpsons.”

Homer Economicus, edited by economist Joshua Hall and featuring contributions from 22 other academic economists, uses vivid and humorous vignettes from The Simpsons to illustrate principles of scarcity, choice, opportunity cost, efficiency, resource allocation, comparative advantage, division of labor, supply and demand, gains from trade, wealth creation, and much more.

The Simpsons is an incredibly successful TV show,” says Rosamaria Bitetti, an IBL fellow. “It is still on air after more than 20 seasons, and it portrays every single aspect of the economic life of this average American family. It is part of our popular culture, and something students can easily relate to, mostly because the book makes it easier to understand economics by avoiding the use of abstract models.”

Hosted on the WithYouWeDo crowdfunding platform, IBL’s campaign to fund distribution of Homer Economicus to high school economics teachers has already raised €2,772 of its modest €5,000 goal, as of Jan. 31. The project can accept donations from major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, as well as PayPal.

Homer Economicus is particularly good at entertaining and amusing people,” says Armando Massarenti, editor for the daily Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. “Of course, it’s not quite the same as watching an episode of The Simpsons. But it's nevertheless extremely energetic. And it is a very useful tool for teaching some of the underlying principles of economics.”