Seven "VeggieTales" Songs Economists Love
Children’s television series’ are not usually considered important to economists. Perhaps it comes as a surprise then, that the endearing children’s show “VeggieTales,” which presents Biblical stories in allegorical format using primarily vegetables (but also some fruits) as characters, contains many ideas economists would find familiar. These are seven “VeggieTales” songs which economists from a wide variety of economic schools would approve of.
1. Stuff Stuff, Mart Mart (Album: A Queen, a King, and a Very Blue Berry)
The first song is the simplest, so it communicates its message with humorous ease. Set to the classical tune “The Blue Danube”, this song features the simple lyric “stuff mart” repeated over and over again, reflecting the importance of consumption to a nation’s GDP. Modern Keynesians will love this song for its harmonious conveyance of their core idea: spend more.
2. There Once Was a Man (Album: A Queen, a King, and a Very Blue Berry)
This second song proves that “VeggieTales” appeals to a variety of economic schools. Spoofing the story of David and Bathsheba, this allegorical song features the prophet Melvin telling the story of a rich man “who had a lot of sheep” and a poor man who “had next to nothin’, just a little lamb.” To feed a guest, the rich man takes the poor man’s lamb. Critiques of capitalism mirror this story, contending that the system allows the rich to abuse the poor. Surely communists will find this song an appealing way to advance their narrative of the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie.
3. The Hairbrush Song (Album: Veggie Tunes)
When Larry the Cucumber finds his hairbrush missing, children hear a lesson in the utility theory of value that would make an Austrian economist proud. Junior Asparagus provides the crucial point: “Why do you need a hairbrush? You don’t have any hair!” Dismayed, Larry realizes the truth of Junior’s statement and that Peach, who now possesses his hairbrush, has a greater use for it. Since he derives greater utility from the brush, Peach is allowed to retain it.
4. His Cheeseburger (Album: A Queen, a King, and a Very Blue Berry)
This mid-episode intermission feature, “Love Songs with Mr. Lunt,” illustrates the principle of marginal utility so well that it could have been written by the economists of the 19th century Marginal Revolution: Carl Menger, Leon Walras, and their associates. Larry the Cucumber is on the hunt for a cheeseburger, but Burger Bell is closed. “He stayed at the drive-thru ‘til sunrise,” displaying remarkable commitment to this food craving. But, “when he spotted a billboard for Denny’s,” his accounting of the value of the cheeseburger changed. Larry rushes to Denny’s, promising to, “eat and be back here [at Burger Bell] for lunch.” Just as Menger et al. predicted, Larry makes his decisions based on the additional enjoyment he’ll get from satisfying his hunger in a particular way, not based on an objective comparison of costs and benefits.
5. Good Morning George (Album: Veggie Tunes 2)
This is another song that critics of capitalism would enjoy. Workers at Mr. Nezzer’s chocolate factory cheerily greet each other in the morning, only to be berated by their overseer, Mr. Lunt, for being late: “It’s almost two-past-eight, I’ll tell Nezzer that you’re late, and he’ll take it from your check.” One injured worker is told: “Get back on the line, you’ll be just fine, with so much work to do we’ve got no time for sympathy.” The workers chorus: “We’re getting very tired, but stopping gets us fired, so we’ll have to stay right here.” In sum, the situation for these workers is bleak. This is capitalism at its worst: exploiting workers who have no other options so the rich can get richer. Marx would be disgusted.
6. Promised Land (Album: Veggie Tunes 2)
Excited at the prospect of finally entering the Promised Land, a group of vegetables sings about the wonderful foods they expect to eat when they arrive. In doing so, they neatly illustrate the concept of a normal good: one which an individual buys more of as his or her income increases. Having eaten manna for years, “a dish that is filling, but bland,” the veggies now eagerly request such diverse dishes as waffles and cheese soufflés. They clearly understand that their consumption of expensive goods can increase now that they are climbing the socioeconomic ladder.
7. The Water Buffalo Song (Album: Veggie Tunes)
Our final song mimics the rhetoric surrounding welfare systems. Larry the Cucumber sings that “everybody’s got a water buffalo.” Appalled, Archibald Asparagus bursts onto the scene, yelling that Larry cannot say “everyone’s got a water buffalo when everyone does not have a water buffalo” and that he’ll get “nasty letters saying ‘where’s my water buffalo?’” Those opposed to welfare would side with Larry, contending that anyone can have a water buffalo if they work hard. Those in favor of welfare would side with Archibald, exclaiming that if not everyone has one then nobody should flaunt their own unless they also provide for others.
Next time you watch “VeggieTales,” or have one of the songs stuck in your head, be sure to be on the lookout for more economic principles lying hidden in the lyrics.
Here's a playlist to follow along.
The opinions reflected in this OpEd are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of staff, faculty and students of The King's College