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.
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
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!
'The Cyclone Money Crib'
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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...
economist of economists
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...
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?