Joe, who works at a doll factory, gets an economics lesson explaining why a doll that has only ten cents worth of materials costs two dollars at the toy shop.


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Joe, who paints doll faces at the Dilly Dolly doll factory, is down in the mouth. He can't make ends meet. An unexpected wage raise brightens his spirits. Now he can buy his young daughter a birthday present. He decides upon, not surprisingly, a doll. At the toy shop, he flies into a rage. The doll costs two dollars. He knows there is only ten cents worth of material in the thing. The store manager tries to explain that because Joe's company increased the cost of its latest shipment, his store had to increase the price of the doll. Joe will have none of it. It's up to the narrator to talk some sense into Joe and give him an economics lesson. Soon Joe understands such things as labor costs and profits. Suddenly he hits upon an idea that improves productivity at his company, drives down costs, and thus improves the economy. Now, a Dilly Dolly doll is only one dollar; and Joe's wage raise really means something. Written by J. Spurlin

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Animation | Short





Release Date:

January 1950 (USA)  »

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[first lines]
Narrator: Wages and prices often play leap frog. One jumps up, then the other, which means a steady rise in our cost of living.
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Featured in Lifestyles U.S.A. Vol. 15 (2003) See more »

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The Cost of Labor
16 March 2014 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Joe has just gotten a raise down at the doll factory and decides to spend some of it on a doll for his daughter. He is enraged to discover that the price of a doll has gone up in this well-written cartoon lesson in economics from John Sutherland.

There have been many theories in economics over the years. Your opinion of this film may depend on which theories you espouse, however informally. Early French economists believed that all economics was based on farm production and thus only money spent on farm improvements was of economic value. Everything else was parasitic. There is some validity to this idea; if anyone is to live and work, he must eat. At a basic level, any other activity, from mining to writing computer programs is enabled by food producers producing more food than they can eat.

This cartoon adopts a more sophisticated thesis: the price of goods or services is the accumulated sum of all the labor that went into producing it, from mining the raw materials to shipping them to the factory, to assembly to transporting and selling the finished goods to the end purchaser. Constant output means that any increase in labor costs along the way is inflationary. Increased productivity is the sole countervailing force.

This is economics 101. Anything further than that often descends into theoretical discussions that have been argued about for all of history and all come down to the question of who deserves the surplus.

This cartoon ignores that question and instead sticks to its discussion of labor costs. It does so clearly and interestingly.

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