Increasingly, in dealing with the current young economists where the screen has replaced the note pad and buttons are making pens obsolete, I find it necessary to move with the times and increasingly use film clips to splice together a lesson. It  might sound a tad ingratiating or populist but I have found that a little bit of Youtube (or other sites, see below) goes a long way in getting students to have a memory “hook” for subjects that quite often are daunting for the neophyte.

Let me explain by way of excerpting a quote from my favorite author, Trevanian:

“May I suggest 1959?” the wine steward asked, with the rhetorical assumption that his guidance was impeccable.

“We’re not French,” Jonathan said, not taking his eyes from Jemima.

“Sir?” The arch of the eyebrow had that blend of huff and martyrdom characteristic of upper echelon servants.

“We’re not French. Prenubile wines hold no fascination for us. Bring a ’53 if you have it, or a ’55 if not.”

As the steward departed, Jemima asked, “Is this Lafite something special?”

“You don’t know?”


Jonathan signaled the steward to return. “Forget the Lafite. Bring us an Haut-Brion instead.”

Assuming the change was a fiscal reconsideration, the steward made an elaborate production of scratching the Lafite off his pad and scribbling down the Haut-Brion.

“Why did you do that?” Jemima asked.

“Thrift, Miss Brown. Lafite is too expensive to waste.”

“How do you know, I might have enjoyed it.”

“Oh, you’d have enjoyed it all right. But you wouldn’t have appreciated it.”

It increasingly hits me that our students of today are strongly “screen-orientated”, i.e. they get much of their info/data/knowledge via movie images in tablets and computers. Having recently embarked upon the macro sections dealing with the business cycle and the crises that seem to occur at irregular intervals, I have used late afternoon classes for various documentaries and films – a carrot if you will. Acting in accordance with the Keynesian credo of “pulling a piece of string across the table”, my intention is to motivate not only deeper understanding of, say, the movie Inside Job, but even appreciation of it. A non-economist will enjoy the movie while an economist will appreciate it!

So, in preparation for “How the 2007 bubble started” in Inside Job, we go through interest rates, the creation of money, discount rates, collateral, links between income and stock markets, income and savings ratios, house prices and collateral, income and house prices…

Here are the movies I use in class:

1. Commanding Heights – brilliant three part series from American PBS.

2. Inside Job – easily accessible story of how the 2008 “Great Recession” started, entertainingly narrated by Matt Damon.

3. Too Big to Fail – a tad dramatised (and contains some strong language) but just seeing James Woods act out as Dick Fuld is well worth it.

A good place to find documentaries: