Planet Money – Episode 693: Unpayable

For those of you who don’t know, Planet Money is an amazing podcast on economics that is a spin-off of the juggernaut that is This American Life. For those of you who further don’t know, economists and historians don’t always get along. Generally, this boils down to two things quantification and motivation. In economics, with the possible exception of behavioral economics, people are thought of as homo-economicus. This means that people act via incentive and economic (financial) motivation or given knowledge people will act in their economic self-interest at all times. Historians (again, generalizing) acknowledge more passionate, social, and societal reasons for action. The second issue of quantification is more tricky, Historians like to find stories and movements, but often have to conflate impact. Economists deal in terms (especially in macroeconomics, but in micro as well) in trends and bigger spaces (more generalizations, but not in necessarily a negative way). Finally, historians look to the past and make linkages to the present, economists look at trends and try to predict the future.

I find that I use economics as a tool in my historical tool belt often, student seem to relate to it to an extent. However, I think it is interesting when current events take over. Planet Money is really good at linking past to present and in this case they are quite good. While Congress is waffling (at least upon writing this) and conservatives are digging in, this podcast does a good job explaining why Puerto Rico is in the financial crisis it is in and what comes next.

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