As one might expect from its host, Monty Python’s Terry Jones, BOOM BUST BOOM is a quite amusing and cheeky exploration of the 2008 worldwide economic crash, and how history has shown us such events should be anticipated, irrespective of how much those vested in free-market economics such as politicians and bankers would like to pretend otherwise.
The brisk (75-minute) film, directed by Bill Jones and Benn Timlett, exploits puppets, animation, and knowledgeable talking heads to walk the viewer through the history of crashes, such as the Tulip option crisis of 1637, the South Sea bubble of 1720 that economically devastated Sir Isaac Newton and others, the UK Railway mania of 1840, and the Wall Street crash of 1929. Speakers as diverse as economist-journalist Paul Krugman and socially conscious actor John Cusack relate how modern economics is far too vested in making money on money as opposed to investment in “the real economy” of growing business, proposing that basic human nature is the Achilles heel of capitalism.
Cusack posits that Alan Greenspan has become the “Holy Bishop” of modern capitalism despite often being proven wrong in his adherence to a Neoclassical Economic Model, where unfettered markets are the optimum way to create wealth and distribute goods and services throughout society; Greenspan is still esteemed while Hyman Minsky, the economist who foretold much of what has happened, has largely been forgotten (save for participants in Boom Bust Boom, who recognize and revere his notions).
The film maintains a light touch throughout, using a Pythonesque medley of blackout sketches, historical footage, songs, puppetry, and Terry Gilliamesque animations to tell the tale of how we as a species love to spend money hoping wonderful things will happen. The film’s climax is a most amusing visit to Monkey Island, a research facility in Puerto Rico where we learn that monkeys are just as likely to exhibit irrational exuberance when introduced to a currency used to trade for goods (in this case, grapes).
If this isn’t telling, the fact that most economists insist on creating economic models where they believe no bad result can occur, is. A few economists who recognize the madness in this method appear in the film, discussing how economic schools avoid examining economic crisis, not training students to understand crisis is inescapable. The film, while droll and unpretentious, doesn’t suggest much hope for our species with Boston University’s Zvie Bodie memorably arguing “The study of history proves that people learn nothing from history.”
Will Boom Bust Boom make any difference? Not likely, given its convincing proposition that the behavior that steers financial markets towards ruin today is simply history repeating itself. But the film makes its point pithily and persuasively, and one can hope that it will become obligatory viewing in future economic classes. Until then, it’s a worthy investment for those interested in modern world history, economics, irreverent Pythonesque humor, and cute monkey antics. It is also required viewing for John Cusack completists. I know you’re out there.
Boom Bust Boom opens theatrically on March 11 in New York (Village East Cinema), followed by release on iTunes and On Demand on March 15. For more information head over to BOOMBUSTCLICK.COM