Friday, December 17, 2010

Tom Sawyer: Economist

Economists since Adam Smith have demonstrated that the way to riches is trading. Through comparative advantage, we can trade for things that are cheaper for others to produce than they would be for us to produce ourselves--leaving both parties better off. Happily, this often takes the form of the buyer thinking "I can't believe this product is so cheap" while the seller is thinking "I can't believe people are paying me so much to produce this."

In light of this, I found the following passage from Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" rather amusing:

"Nothing but a tick."

"Where'd you get him?"

"Out in the woods."

"What'll you take for him?"

"I don't know. I don't want to sell him."

"All right. It's a mighty small tick, anyway."

"Oh, anybody can run a tick down that don't belong to them. I'm satisfied with it. It's a good enough tick for me."

"Sho, there's ticks a plenty. I could have a thousand of 'em if I wanted to."

"Well, why don't you? Becuz you know mighty well you can't. This is a pretty early tick, I reckon. It's the first one I've seen this year."

"Say, Huck— I'll give you my tooth for him."

"Less see it."

Tom got out a bit of paper and carefully unrolled it. Huckleberry viewed it wistfully. The temptation was very strong. At last he said:

"Is it genuwyne?"

Tom lifted his lip and showed the vacancy.

"Well, all right," said Huckleberry, "it's a trade."

Tom enclosed the tick in the percussion-cap box that had lately been the pinchbug's prison, and the boys separated, each feeling wealthier than before.


Adam Gurri said...

Mark Twain was pretty good at this stuff: