RockoffWizardofOz - Hugh Rockoff of Rutgers University, The...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Hugh Rockoff of Rutgers University, ‘The “Wizard of Oz” as a Monetary Allegory,’ Journal of Political Economy , Vol. 98, 1990, pp. 739-760 . I. Introduction The Wizard of Oz is perhaps the best-loved American children's story. The movie, starring Judy Garland, Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger and company, is an annual television ritual. The book on which the movie is based, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , however, is not only a child's tale but also a sophisticated commentary on the political and economic debates of the Populist Era. 1 Previous interpretations have focused on the political and social aspects of the allegory. The most important of these is Littlefield ([1966] 1968), although his interpretation was adumbrated by Nye (1951), Gardner and Nye (1957), Sackett (I960), and Bewley ([1964] 1970). My purpose is to unlock the references in the Wizard of Oz to the monetary debates of the 1890s. When the story is viewed in this light, the real reason the Cowardly Lion fell asleep in the field of poppies, the identity of the Wizard of Oz , the significance of the strange number of hallways and rooms in the Emerald Palace, and the reason the Wicked Witch of the West was so happy to get one of Dorothy's shoes become clear. Thus interpreted, the Wizard of Oz becomes a powerful pedagogic device. Few students of money and banking or economic history will forget the battle between the advocates of free silver and the defenders of the gold standard when it is explained through the Wizard of Oz. This paper also serves a more conventional purpose. William Jennings Bryan and his supporters in the free silver movement, who play a central role in the story, have been treated as monetary cranks even by historians who are sympathetic to them on other issues. 2 Here I show that Bryan's monetary thought was surprisingly sophisticated and that on most issues his positions, in the light of modern monetary theory, compare favorably with those of his "sound money" opponents. 3 L. Frank Baum's early life proved to be ideal preparation for writing a monetary allegory. 4 Born to a wealthy family in Chittenango, New York, in 1856, Baum while still in his early 20s wrote and produced a successful play that made it to Broadway. In 1882 he married Maud Gage, the daughter of one of the leading suffragettes, Matilda Joslyn Gage. Later Baum and his family moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he viewed at close hand the frontier life that gave rise to the populist movement. He was unsuccessful in South Dakota, where among other things he published a small paper, the Saturday Pioneer, and several issues of the Western Investor. In 1890, the Baums moved to Chicago. While pursuing a number of jobs, he frequented the Chicago Press Club and met some of the city's leading writers. There he undoubtedly heard a great deal about the battle for the free coinage of silver, especially in 1896 when Chicago hosted the Democratic National Convention at which William Jennings Bryan
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 01/29/2012 for the course ECONOMICS 3400 taught by Professor Kroger during the Spring '11 term at Georgia State.

Page1 / 16

RockoffWizardofOz - Hugh Rockoff of Rutgers University, The...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online