Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Economics and Pop Culture: The Music Man, #6

This post deals with the concept of economic institutions. When people think about this concept, there is a tendency for many to think of formal organizations or firms housed in buildings of various sizes. But economic institutions also include the rules (formal and informal) established by society that help shape and form our choices and decisions.

The concept of economic institutions is brought out rather late in the play. We see it when one Charlie Cowell (he of "ya got to know the territory" fame in the first scene) shows up in River City. He is quickly trying to find someone of authority so he can blow up Professor Harold Hill's plans. He talks about doing this for the sake of salesmen everywhere, and how Hill ruins markets (and other things) for other members of his profession. Now, given the timeframe of this movie, one doubts whether there was Better Business Bureau or even a formal "salesman code of ethics;" but there were informal "rules" about right and wrong and how to treat people in a business transaction.

Now you may also bring up that Charlie is only enforcing these rules to his own advantage. Yet, that is how many of the institutions (especially formal ones) are enforced. Indeed, it is often the reason for their existence. Individuals choose to protect a form of behavior that is beneficial to them, and hopefully to society (or the economy) at large.

Well, the Collegiate School musical opens tonight. Consequently, this will be my last post on economic concepts in THE MUSIC MAN. I hope you've enjoyed these. They've been fun for me, as well. If you have additional concepts that you can point to, please share them. I look forward to your comments.

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