Mary Poppins, professor of economics

eye, there will be spoilers. Mary Poppins (1964) is one of the films about economics most complete in the history of cinema and its viewing should be part of any core subject of the subject.

It is difficult to deal with so many economic ideas in such depth and in such a short time, with the quality and care with which it is done during its 2 hours and 19 minutes of footage. With the economic and care crisis we are experiencing, placing the person at the center of the economy is more necessary than ever, which makes this film totally topical.

At that time, many of the economic concepts that we are going to describe were not even studied. This is the case of behavioral economics (behavioral finance) wave gamification. For this reason, in addition to being a film ahead of its time, it has prophetic elements, such as the end of the musical number in which the bank executives sing: “If the Bank of England resists, England will resist, but if the Bank of England fallsEngland will fall.” This, almost 30 years before George Soros expelled the pound sterling of the European Exchange Mechanism, in 1992.

social ladder

The film constantly plays with contrasts. It begins with Bert the chimney sweep singing “people know that this job is servile, but it gives them shine” and right after that they show us its opposite: a Victorian upper-class family, with a surname that is a clear statement of intent. banksbanks in English.

Bert the chimney sweep. Mary Poppins (1964), Walt Disney Productions.

From the beginning the enormous social inequality of the time is the protagonist and, in any of the cases that are presented, work and professionalism are valued, whether it is a banker, nanny or chimney sweep, among the different professions that are appearing to throughout the movie.

The British writer, actress and journalist Pamela Lyndon Travers (literary pseudonym of Helen Lyndon Goff) wrote the five stories starring the nanny Mary Poppins starting in 1934. Thirty years later Walt Disney would turn the first installment into a musical film.
Wikimedia Commons

Labor relations are analyzed in detail. Mr. Banks is looking for a babysitter and for this he almost puts an ad in the newspaper, conducts an interview and ends up hiring Mary. Subsequently, the new employee is reprimanded by her boss. Mr. Banks, who dreams of a promotion, is finally fired and the consequences of that dismissal can be seen both in the person and in the family. Depression, abuse of authority or despotism are exposed and thoroughly dissected, always with humor and sensitivity. A really difficult exercise.

Presented the labor law, we proceed to analyze the essence of the work. work creates life and is an end in itself. Can we consider Mary Poppins Marxist? If we consider in the analysis the role played by the chimney sweep and her assets, compared to the Banks familythe answer is probably yes.

game and behavior

Giving game instructions start well saves labor, Mary Poppins puts forward the following idea: in every work or occupation there is an element of fun, that element is sought and work is a game! In 2002, game designer Nick Pelling started talking about gamification (from the English term game) and, thus, modern economics begins to approach the doctrine of Mary Poppins.

With a little sugar. Mary Poppins (1964), Walt Disney Productions.

Beyond gamification, the phrase “with a little sugar that pill they give you will pass better” is a perfect example of the push theory (Nudge Theory). The jostling they are a way of influencing people’s behavior without coercion or prohibition, using positive reinforcement. It is a part of behavioral economics or behavioral economics (behavioral finance) for which the work of Richard Thaler received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2017. Can you learn economics and enjoy it at the same time? What incentives does a society need to transform itself? Was Mary Poppins a behavioral economist?

No doubt Mary Poppins led by example, teaching the young Banks brothers how to fish, rather than giving them fish.

bank panic

Another important part of the film is the anthological description of the banking system. The song Fidelity Trust Bank It perfectly describes how “if two pennies know a good job, you will earn more and in the bank the capital always increases”.

Fidelity Trust Bank. Mary Poppins (1964), Walt Disney Productions.

Another good example is the name of the bank itself: Dawes, Tomes, Mousely and Grubbs, Banco de Ahorro, Crédito y Seguridad, demonstrating how the longer and more complex the product name, the more likely it is to catch the unwary.

Do you remember the 2008 financial crisis? I encourage you to listen to the entire song: financial instruments appear (bonds and shares), large investment projects and several other winks. The best is yet to come, though: just after that song comes what is probably the best film description of a bank run. Shouting “My penny, they’ve taken my penny!” little Michael creates a monstrous butterfly effect that ends with a bank playpen. Spectacular.

BankRun. Mary Poppins (1964), Walt Disney Productions.

to see again

Throughout the film there is more, much more. The contrast between Bert’s life, without resources but always happy, and the embittered Mr. Banks; the constant game with expectations, intrinsic value (Bert comments wryly: “You must not waste your precious time on such nonsense: taking the children out is useless”) or Mrs. Banks’s suffragist struggle are examples. The importance of childhood, poverty or responsible parenthood are other elements that are constantly on the scene.

It is difficult in little more than two hours to tell so much and so well.

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Mary Poppins, professor of economics