Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax & Market Failure

Dr Suess’ “The Lorax” is good example for teaching the topic of market failure, and of negative externalities of production (and consumption).

The traditional interpretation of the book (and the original cartoon version which is very faithful to the book) is that it is a warning against greed and the pursuit of profit and the destruction of the environment that follows. The movie version has come under criticism from both sides, with environmentalists thinking that these principles have been watered down, with Mazda using the movie to sell SUV’s. Others think that it is anti big-business propaganda from the environmental movement, aided by Hollywood liberals.

Five different interpretations of The Lorax can be found at :
BBC|News : Five interpretations of The Lorax

Part One :

Part Two :

Questions to ask your students or just to start a conversation among friends:

>> To ponder over the things that you (or they) can think of that the government does.

>> what (y)our country would look like if we had no government.

>> What the role of the government should be ?

>> If no-one owns the land and other resources then negative externalities and a “tragedy of the commons” effect is very likely.

Tragedy of the commons: Definition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

Dr. Seuss was ahead of his time. A flat-out creative innovator. Cementing his trademark wild and free renderings and rhyming linguistic liberties, 1957’s “The Cat in the Hat” brought mainstream children’s books into the realm of absurd yet agreeable anarchy. There were many great books in the surrounding years, but with 1971’s “The Lorax”, the good doctor delivered a moral tale of levelheaded environmentalism before there were such things as eco-politics and environmental activism. And perhaps since Seuss (actually Theodor Seuss Geisel) was quoted having said, “kids can see a moral coming a mile off,” he boldly left the tale unresolved, with only the possibility of hope.


About benvitalis

math grad - Interest: Number theory
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