Economics on a T-Shirt

Can you do economics on a t-shirt? I’ve decided to find out. As regular readers know, together with a co-author I’ve been working on a book looking at how economic issues (e.g., real gdp per capita, the national debt) and social issues (e.g., abortions, education spending) evolved from Ike’s term to the present. We use a lot of graphs (some of them similar to those that have appeared in some Angry Bear posts) and try very hard to stick to just what the data tells us.

Because the book is a bit different from anything we’ve seen, we want to market the book in a way that is a bit different from the way books are marketed… and perhaps make a bit of money (which we might need in order to self-publish if we don’t find a publisher). We also want to do some good by informing people of important facts in a simple, concise way. So… the Ex-GF and one of our neighbors (a graphic artist) have put a little scheme in motion for us. They set up an on-line store at Cafe Press selling t-shirts and other products with some graphs from the book, and also a website for the book.

We’re launching with three designs, and will be adding more of them over the next few weeks. Two of the designs will gladden the hearts of most people who lean Democratic (growth in real GDP per capita, percent of time spent in recession – I suspect we’ll have to update Mr. GW’s figures soon…), and one will do the same for those who lean Republican (change in the tax bite). Most of the graphs from the book are not ideal for a t-shirt; for a t-shirt one has to be contentious, which in effect means showing one party outperforming the other.

And this raises an issue – our goal was to cover as many important issues as possible (i.e., for which we could find data) and to be as unbiased as possible. (My co-author has been especially diligent at scrubbing any bias out my writing.) But, as Stephen Colbert noted, the facts have a liberal bias. There do seem to be a lot more graphs that show Dems doing well than graphs that show Reps doing well. Which means there will be a lot more shirt designs showing Dems doing well than there are shirt designs showing Reps doing well. I guess that’s a lesson in and of itself… even attempting to be as unbiased as possible, there does seem to be a difference between the two parties.

We’re also trying something that may be a bit odd for a t-shirt… we’re not making the designs so wide that they are self-explanatory from a distance. Our goal is to stimulate debate… force people to read the thing from relatively close up, which may force them to ask a question or two the person wearing the t-shirt.

At our website, we also provide explanations about each design. Additional, we use Google Docs to put up a spreadsheet that shows the data we used and the calculations that went into each design, together with a step by step description where appropriate; we’re a big fan of “try this at home, kids.”

Anyway, I do a bit more of a sales pitch at our Cafe Press store and our book’s site, PresidentialPerformance.com.
Anyway, we’re grateful not only for any purchases, but also for suggestions and comments. That includes suggestions and comments on changes to the design or website, what else we should put, and how to go about marketing these t-shirts and the book.

Thanks a bunch.

cactus

Here’s a picture of one. Unfortunately, I can’t get it to zoom here so the t-shirt is not entirely readable. But you can get it to zoom at the Cafe Press site.

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