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A Poetic Challenge

Probably two of the last things one would associate together are economics and poetry. Yet writing a poem challenges one to think about things in new ways – and to find creative ways to express opinions – and provide insight into realities or perspectives.

So this is a challenge. The Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) would like to put out a challenge to all existing or potential poets. Send us your creative poem – addressing some topic, issue, or opinion related to money matters or the economy – and we will aim to put a collection of the submitted poems together and make them available to teachers across Canada to use with their students. In the same way that an English teacher can work with students to decipher the meaning of a literary poem, teachers can work with students to decipher the meaning and messages of our “economic and financial poets” – and we’ll provide some backgrounders to give them some assistance

So there is the challenge. If you have the poetic flare, we would like to receive your poem (slennox@cfee.org) and we will use it to support the economic and financial education of students. And, not to just “talk the talk” but to “walk the walk”, here is our sample effort.

ODE TO AN ECONOMY

The world would be a wonderful place
If we could have every conceivable grace.
Just take away prices and take a quick poll,
“Fifty houses, ten boats and eight albums – Rock & Roll.
Take five thousand suits and sixty-four hats,
One thousand computers and just three cats.”
The list could go on to a very great length
If we could have everything without a constraint.

But that’s not the way our world seems to be –
There are limits to what we can have, you see.
There are limited trees and limited rocks,
Limited land and limited blocks,
Limited people with talents to match,
Limited harvests and game to catch.
Limited resources is the name of the game;
Unfortunately wants are not nearly the same.

Our wants are unlimited, in a relative sense,
When compared with our resources and dollars and cents.
If a tree is a house, then it can’t be a chair.
If a worker makes cars, she can’t do your hair.
If a factory makes trucks, or pants, or clocks,
It can’t make tables or airplanes or socks.
With limited resources and wants unending,
We face the constraints that makes choices impending.

We have to decide how we’ll use every tree,
Every tonne of ore and each employee.
Every decision we make means we give something up –
Our opportunity cost is the alternate cup.
We have to make trade-offs and use resources wisely.
Efficient production will help us quite nicely.
Our economy, you see, faces one major task –
To use what we have for the things that we ask.

And our limited resources impose scarce constraints.
And producers produce to minimize complaints
Since profit will flow to those on the way
To produce for consumers what consumers will pay.
So consumers are king, or queen if you choose,
Since avoiding their tastes is a sure way to lose.
And combining consumers with a group of producers
Sets a market in motion with prices and choosers.
Give me a price, and will I produce?
I’ll look at my costs to see if I’ll lose.
Give me a price, and will I consume?
If it’s too high, I’ll just leave the room

With all of the rhyming of this little ditty,
(Okay, so maybe it isn’t so witty)
But perhaps the economy’s task is at hand –
To use our resources – capital, labour and land,
To use them wisely, through producers’ wise choices.
For consumers’ needs they express with their voices
And with their purses and wallets and wishes
Will decide at which prices they’ll buy tables or dishes.

For prices and incomes will limit our wealth
Which we’ll use for food, clothing, housing and health.
Some will do better than others it seems;
Income distribution means some unfulfilled dreams.
The needs of some will be met better than others
Since economies fail to discern single mothers.
But even in markets with free enterprise,
Where decisions are left to those we hope wise,
Government steps in to play its seen role
And provide some assistance for those in a hole.

It might be some income through welfare or such
Or subsidization for those without much.
For as much as we hope each one will succeed,
We face the realities of people in need.
So an economy’s job is no easy task
And it faces problems we simply can’t mask.
But we have to decide how we’ll put it in place –
Traditional, command or today’s marketplace.

The choice is ours as for every society
To decide to produce and with what propriety.
Scarcity means that we face a key problem –
Wants that exceed our resources quantum.
So here’s to us, let’s hope we choose right,
Or to our future, we can bid a good night.
But let us be hopeful and quite optimistic
That vision and wisdom will be realistic.
And come the future to reflect on 2010
We’ll be a society we’ll have wished for back then.

By Gary Rabbior
President
Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE)

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