Michael Goodwin is the author of Economix: How Our Economy Works (And Doesn’t Work) In Words and Pictures, a graphic novel explaining in plain English what everyone should know about how our economy works (hint: does not include cliffs). Recently released this fall, the book has been a huge hit–and it can be yours when you donate at least $35 to The LAMP by December 18, thanks to Mike and Abrams Books! Author Joel Bakan says, “Goodwin has done the seemingly impossible–he has made economics comprehensible and funny,” and Wired.com’s James Floyd Kelly says, “I just cannot stress how amazing this book is!” Read on for more about how the book came to be a graphic novel, why everyone needs to understand economics and the links between money and media.
Economix has been getting a lot of attention–it made the New York Times Top 10 list for best-selling graphic novels, and got great praise from economists and other reviewers. That’s really impressive for any book, but particularly for one tackling a topic as complex and dry as economics. Has the reception surprised you, and why do you think it’s doing so well?
I’m very pleasantly surprised. I really had no idea what to expect, and I’d mentally prepared myself for the book to fall between the cracks (it really is an odd beast). But people have really responded. I think that’s because the economy is fascinating–we live in it, after all–but economics isn’t an appropriate tool for most of us to understand it; the way it’s usually taught relies on abstractions, math, and geometry that drive most people away. Worse, economics, especially at the introductory levels, is surprisingly limited; it studiously avoids many of the questions that matter. So there really wasn’t a way for laypeople to learn about the things that interest us–how we got where we are, where we’re headed, and what we can do about it.
In the beginning of your book, you express a sincere concern that most people don’t know or understand the history of economics. Can you tell us more about when this started to bother you, and why you think it’s so important for people to learn about how the economy works?
Why did you choose the graphic novel medium to tell this story?
First off, the subject is intimidating, but nobody’s going to be intimidated by a comic book. So I figured it could reach people who wouldn’t normally even take an econ book off the shelf.>/div>
There are a few parts in the book where you mention the role that media have played in American economic development, and it seems implied that the impact is not often positive. What would you like to see change in the relationship of media to economics, and how do you think it can be accomplished?
In a public, as we may understand the term, (1) virtually as many people express opinions as receive them. (2) Public communications are so organized that there is a chance immediately and effectively to answer back any opinion expressed in public. Opinion formed by such discussion (3) readily finds an outlet in effective action, even against—if necessary—the prevailing system of authority. And (4) authoritative institutions do not penetrate the public, which is thus more or less autonomous in its operations.
At the opposite extreme, in a mass, (1) far fewer people express opinions than receive them. . . . (2) The communications that prevail are so organized that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect. (3) the realization of opinion in action is controlled by authorities who organize and control the channels of such action. . .
What are you working on next?