|What Do People Do All Day by Richard Scarry|
As a student of market economics I cannot help but realize the true value of Busytown. These books are a wonderful resource for teaching young children sound economics. The key Busytown volume that serves as the best tool for economic instruction is What Do People Do All Day. This book is a series of vignettes that depict the citizens of Busytown involved in various everyday events. Yet within these stories of seemingly routine activities is a treasure trove of economic lessons that can easily be taught to young children. Valuable lessons in saving, exchange and the stages of production are ever present. Depictions of characters acting in their own self-interest to improve their circumstances in a spontaneous market order are a constant theme. There are three stories that illuminate these ideas the best. They are “Everyone Is a Worker,” “Wood and How We Use It,” and “Where Does Bread Come From.”
The other actors in Busytown’s economy, Grocer Cat, Stitches, and Blacksmith Fox, are also depicted participating in the market. The question is posed “What did the other workers do with the money they earned?” After satisfying the basic needs of food, clothing, and saving Stitches exercises discretionary spending by purchasing an egg beater, which will be used to make fudge for his family. Blacksmith Fox opts to use his income for purchasing raw materials to produce more capital goods. He buys more iron “to make more tractors and tools.” Grocer Cat buys Mother Cat a new dress and vacuum cleaner with the money he earned selling groceries, and a new tricycle for his son Huckle. By the end of this story, children have learned the fundamentals of the spontaneous market order which emerges when economic actors are free to act in their own self interest. It becomes very clear that this is the natural way of things, and that this example is worth emulating.
Beyond the fundamentals of the basic market order, children learn of the various stages of production in the stories “Wood and How We Use It,” and “Where Does Bread Come From.” In “Wood and How We Use It” we are told that “we couldn’t live without trees.” Books in our modern epoch might have a different spin on this sort of phrase, using it as a means to convert children to the environmental movement. However Scarry shows us that we could not live with trees as a source for the wood used to create goods we use everyday. He demonstrates how wood finds it way from the forest to its final uses as paper, furniture, boats, and houses.
|Stages of Paper Production|
There is one final thought about something in these stories that can not escape an economist’s eye. Noticeably absent from Busytown is the parasitic and paternalistic state. There are a few government agencies present such as the post office and the fire department. Beyond that there is very little sign of the state, and certainly no sign of any government sponsored intervention or coercion. The only permanent character employed by government is Sgt. Murphy, a police officer. Sgt. Murphy reminds us of a time when police served the community by enforcing the rule of law by protecting life, liberty, and property. No more, no less.
Busytown and What Do People Do All Day are excellent resources for laying the foundation of a child’s education in sound economics. The simplicity and logic of the lessons will give them the basic tools they need to advance their minds in a world that seeks to teach them otherwise. Richard Scarry at this young age will surely lead them to enjoying and understanding Mises and Hayek down the road.