More on the Genius (and Flowing Locks) of Mike Munger


For those who can't get enough of today's reason superstar, Duke economist and North Carolina Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Michael Munger, I suggest dipping into this EconTalk podcast on the joys of middlemen.

One of the subjects addressed is the story about the priest in the POW camp during WWII taken from R.A. Radford's 1945 Economica article:

We reached a transit camp in Italy about a fortnight after capture and received 1/4 of a Red Cross food parcel each a week later. At once exchanges, already established, multiplied in volume. Starting with simple direct barter, such as a non-smoker giving a smoker friend his cigarette issue in exchange for a chocolate ration, more complex exchanges soon became an accepted custom. Stories circulated of a padre who started off round the camp with a tin of cheese and five cigarettes and returned to his bed with a complete parcel in addition to his original cheese and cigarettes; the market was not yet perfect. Within a week or two, as the volume of trade grew, rough scales of exchange values came into existence. Sikhs, who had at first exchanged tinned beef for practically any other foodstuff, began to insist on jam and margarine. It was realized that a tin of jam was worth 1/2 lb. of margarine plus something else; that a cigarette issue was worth several chocolates issues, and a tin of diced carrots was worth practically nothing.


A bonus Mike Munger story, gathered third-hand by yours truly: At a Public Choice Society meeting, Nobel Prize winning economist James Buchanan says to Munger, who he hasn't seen in several years, and whose flowing golden locks can also be seen on the reason homepage, "Munger, I just don't get 'ya. The hair says liberal, but the umbrella says conservative."