While browsing the excellent free-market website Division of Labour, I stumbled upon an interesting page called From ABBA to Zeppelin: Using Music to Teach Economics. In order to teach fundamental aspects of economics, lyrics from selected popular tunes are examined with an economic assignment for the listener. The lessons range from using Oasis’ “Cigarettes and Alcohol" as an example of the discouraged unemployed to rebutting Alvin Lee’s cries for income distribution in Ten Years After’s “I’d Love to Change the World." Although slightly gimmicky in nature, the lessons are well thought out and range various topics in economics while the lyrics cover enough genres to hold a sixth-form or college student’s interest. One of my favourite lessons uses “Thousands are Sailing" by The Pogues to tackle the topic of immigration:

The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Who fortune could not save

Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the white house
Were they from the five and dime

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you
And did they still make you cry
Did you count the months and years
Or did your teardrops quickly dry

Assignment: What is the effect of emigration on the country of origin? What is the effect of immigration on the host country? Do you think most immigrants work (for example on the railroad, or as police officers) or do you think they take government assistance (dollars from the White House)? How quickly do immigrants assimilate into a new country: is it “months and years" or do their teardrops quickly dry?

Who said economics has to be the “dull science?" I’ll be waiting for the lesson where they explore fluctuations in commodity prices using The Rolling Stones’ 1971 hit “Brown Sugar." Or wait, maybe that song is about something else…