When telling his stories Carl Barks often wore different hats. Although he always denied having created stories carrying plots containing social realism it is plain to see that he, from time to time, took up subjects from the real world - environmental and humanitarian issues as well as politics, that he would use to comment on our way of life. This page gives examples of Barks' viewpoints on economics. He was by no means a trained economist but some of his stories do reveal an ardent interest in the subject.




  Personal economics

Barks knew from childhood what it meant to be low on funds, and that knowledge stayed with him throughout his entire life. He was born on a windswept farm that could hardly feed the family, and they had to move around several times in his youth in order to make a living. Later on, he would receive no more than an average worker's pay in salary when he created his stories, but he experienced some setbacks during that meager time; his painful divorce from his second wife, Clara, cost him everything he owned at the time.
Barks would later comment on his attitude about economics: I never collected coins. Nor did I collect stamps or whisky bottles or comic books. Just thinking up troubles that could beset Uncle Scrooge because of his coin collection scared me into a lifestyle of financial fritterbugging.

When, finally, Barks' luck changed and he began earning big money on his paintings he never became extravagant with his personal economics although he could well have afforded to. His third wife, Garé, once compared her husband to Scrooge: Oh, yes, Carl's thrifty like Scrooge. He never spends unwisely or changes things. He pays for them in cash, like Scrooge, so that he never pays any interest that he doesn't have to. What are you getting so damned tightwad about? Get out and spend your money!
Still, the fear of not being able to make ends meet was deeply embedded in him...



  WDCS126 'The Cyclone Money Crib'

This story is frequently referred to as the story of economics, and it is true that it is a brilliant fable of how inflation - and human nature, for that matter - works. In short, on Scrooge's farm all of his money is sucked up from his corn crib by a cyclone which then spreads the fortune all over the land turning everyone into millionaires. No one wants to work anymore except Scrooge and the nephews who carry on with the daily work on the farm. As one of the nephews says: If you're gonna wear wool jackets, you gotta work to get the wool.
Soon Scrooge has all his money back, because he can set the prices for the wool (4 million dollars per ounce) and the food that is more important than a few measly dollars. Barks has served us with one of the basic teachings of economics: When the supply of labour diminishes, supply of goods and services will fall. At the same time demand rises, so prices will increase.

In an interview Barks once commented on the story: I'm sure the lesson I preached in this story of easy riches will get me in a cell in a Siberian gulag someday...



  Other stories

In several more stories Barks would teach about economics on different levels. Here are a mere three examples:

In WDCS130 'The Rare Coin' Scrooge is teaching Donald a lesson about supply and demand. Donald has acquired a rare coin worth a lot of money but when he discovers that Scrooge has a whole sack full without realizing they are rare, he quickly buys them from Scrooge. At the coin dealer's he is informed that with so many coins around they are not worth anything anymore.

In WDCS144 'The Great Dollar Spree' Scrooge discovers that he has far too much money to store so he hires Donald to help spend some of it! They travel around the countryside buying almost anything they can lay their hands on, but when they return to Scrooge's office new stacks of money keep pouring in. They represent the earnings from 'some spendthrift billionaire who has been touring the country'. As it turns out the billionaire was Scrooge who owned all the factories that made all the goods they bought.

In WDCS138 'Statues Galore' Scrooge and a Maharajah are competing building the best statues of Duckburg's founder, Cornelius Coot. Soon the statues are flooding the city.
A woman took offense to the money contest and Barks later commented on her objections: I don't blame that woman for writing a letter saying that she thought it was a gross misuse of money to build these enormous statues all crusted with diamonds when there were so many things that could have been done with that money, like building hospitals and schools and better jails.
I wrote back to the office telling them that the woman missed the point entirely. The money that had been spent on those statues had bought labor and materials and had all gone into circulation, much better than if it had continued lying in the Maharajah's money bin or in Uncle Scrooge's Money Bin. It had created a tremendous amount of work, for jewelers and goldsmiths and concrete men and hydraulics experts. Everybody had a job out of that, so the money hadn't been wasted at all.



  Amusing titbits

Barks used both vignettes and written dialogue to underline the points he was making about economics.

Sometimes he used graphic puns for no other reason than to amuse. Especially in the Money Bin we have been presented to his personal renderings of the terms Cold Cash and Fast Buck, and, of course, he also invented similar terms such as Cool Cash and Slow Buck.

Several times Scrooge has tried to make Donald understand the blessings of being rich. In U$15 The Second Richest Duck Donald has his heart set on buying an ice-cream soda, but Scrooge intervenes: You should never put your stomach ahead of your purse, my boy! Invest that two-bits, and it will become fifty cents at compound interest. Pennies saved today are dollars in your pocket tomorrow! But the lesson is wasted on Donald - he still wants his soda...
A funny - but backwards - commentary on basic economics was offered in FC0147 Volcano Valley where Pablo revealed his talents for saving: I discovered that eef we siestaed two hours instead of one hour, we could skip a whole hour of work. Ain't that the truth?



  The economist of economists

Undoubtedly, Scrooge is seen as the economist in the stories. His whole world revolves around money he has stored in the Money Bin and he has earned every cent he owns by hard toil. As he grumbles in FC386 Only a Poor Old Man: I made it by being tougher than the toughies, and smarter than the smarties. One can hardly resist adding to the proclamation by saying: ...and stingier than the stingiest...
For Scrooge every bit counts - and rightly so. Just think of the importance of a bit of useless string in U$15 The Second Richest Duck!

You may wonder why such an impressive economist keeps his money in a money bin where it does not accumulate any bank interest. The reason being that all banks in the country are already filled to the brim with Scrooge's money and they refuse to accept any more. Some problem for an economist, eh?



http://www.cbarks.dk/THEECONOMIST.htm   Date 2006-04-28