The World Bank finds its funny bone

By Nisma Elias ’12

The World Bank is a serious place, tasked with a serious mission—to eliminate extreme poverty. However on a blustery day in February, the world’s only stand-up economist was invited to liven things up at the institution’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

“I only have one thing going for me as a stand-up economist,” declares Yoram Bauman ’95. “And that’s low expectations.” 

Sporting a fiery red “Enjoy Capitalism” t-shirt, Yoram, an environmental economist from the University of Washington, was invited to poke fun at the dismal science before a packed audience, the majority of whom are fervent followers of the discipline (plus a dozen Reedies who somehow infiltrated the event).

Harking back to his initial success of parodying Greg Mankiw’s 10 principles of economics, which has surpassed 1 million views on YouTube, Yoram did a routine on “the funniest papers in the history of economics.” One that garnered a lot of laughs was a paper by Avinash Dixit, (who had just started his job as a visiting research scholar at the World Bank that very day), which Yoram described as “an option value problem from Seinfield.” Published in Economic Inquiry, the abstract of the paper simply states “This is a paper about nothing.”

Yoram ended on a solemn note about climate change and his ongoing work on a carbon tax swap, which will be on the ballot in November in Washington state. He also described British Columbia’s carbon tax in a classic Reedie fashion—with a Haiku:

Fossil CO2

$30 for each ton

Revenue neutral

Check out the video of the talk, as well as his latest book The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change.