The recent sky-is-falling video from Rick Santorum's campaign became the most-watched online political ad after a little more than a week since its release online, according to a social video advertising analysis from Visible Measures.
Depicting a post-apocalyptic town "two years from now if Obama is re-elected," complete with scary-sounding music and an ominous-sounding narrator, "Welcome to Obamaville" describes an America where "one president's failed policies really hit home."
After detailing a dismal outlook for families and small businesses, the narrator goes on to envision "gas prices through the roof" while a picture flashes on the screen with a man holding the nozzle of a gas pump, shaped like a gun, to his head.
The video is slotted to be the first in a series of eight, so viewers should brace themselves for more efforts to scare them into submission. But this isn't the first time that pundits have resorted to scaremongering with their descriptions of the political economy.
Thomas Carlyle called economics the "dismal science" in the 19th century, and many economic discussions since then have sought to evoke some pretty scary images.
John Brabender, the Santorum strategist who made the video for Santorum, said, "If this scares a few people and even if they say it's over the top, maybe they want to learn more," according to a New York Times blog.
Read on to find more "walking dead" metaphors about the political economy. Horrific hyperbole? You decide.
In his 19th century work "Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867)," Karl Marx compared capital to a vampire who sucks the life out of workers.
"Capital is dead labor that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks," the manuscript reads.
Mechanical capital, Marx wrote, is the scariest kind of all.
Later in the manuscript, referring to machines of the industrial revolution, Marx describes "a mechanical monster whose body fills whole factories, and whose demon power, at first veiled under the slow and measured motions of his giant limbs, at length breaks out into the fast and furious whirl of his countless working organs."
A classic philosopher and economist to be quoted by critics of capitalism, Marx went all out in his attempt to make readers shiver in their shoes.
Politicians and economists have recently applied the idea of "zombie economics" to more specific areas of finance and the economy: zombie capitalism, zombie banks, even a zombie Federal Reserve chairman.
In 2007, Sen. John McCain of Arizona reportedly wanted then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to lead a reform of the federal tax system, regardless of his state of consciousness.
"If he's alive or dead it doesn't matter. If he's dead, just prop him up and put some dark glasses on him," the Republican senator said, according to the Washington Post.
The phrase "zombie capitalism" was popularized in Chris Harman's book "Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx (2009)."
Harman harkens back to the monster of Marx's critique of capitalism from more than a century ago in a discussion about the financial crash of 2008. Rather than a vampire, Harman compares the market to a zombie, "seemingly dead when it comes to achieving human goals and responding to human feelings, but capable of sudden spurts of activity that cause chaos all around."
Similarly, John Quiggin discusses "zombie economics" in his 2010 book, "Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (2010)."
"Even when they have proved themselves wrong and dangerous, ideas are very hard to kill," Quiggin wrote. "These ideas are neither alive nor dead; rather, as Paul Krugman has said, they are undead, or zombie, ideas."
George H.W. Bush coined the term "voodoo economics" during the 1980 Republican presidential primary to criticize the economic ideas of his opponent, Ronald Reagan.
Bush was running against Reagan in the primary but would eventually become his running mate in the general election.
Otherwise known as trickle-down economics, supply-side economics, or Reaganomics, "voodoo economics" entails tax cuts, especially for the rich, intended to stimulate investment and spending to spur growth. The less flattering term seems to imply that supply-side economics is really all policy hocus-pocus with questionable effects on the economy.
Some political commentators have bemoaned what they call a return of voodoo economics in the rhetoric of the current GOP presidential candidates.
Greg Ip, U.S. economics editor of the Economist, wrote a Washington Post op-ed in August called "The Republicans' new voodoo economics?" which said the ideas expressed by Republican candidates in August were even older and just as faulty as those Bush originally decried as "voodoo economics."
|Vulture Capitalism and Crony Capitalism|
The current Republican candidates have slung all sorts of accusations at each other in debates, in TV ads and along the campaign trail. The punches thrown at Mitt Romney accused him of "crony capitalism" and "vulture capitalism" during his time at Bain Capital, which he co-founded.
"Crony capitalism, where people lay each other off at the expense of the rest of the country, is not free enterprise," Newt Gingrich said earlier this year in South Carolina, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Similarly, Rick Perry dubbed Romney's activities "vulture capitalism" -- a spin-off of the term "venture capitalism" -- in which large companies provide financial capital to fund start-ups, hoping to benefit from the eventual profits.
Perry referred to companies such as Bain Capital as, "Vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass. They leave with that, and they leave the skeleton."
Romney later directed similar accusations at President Obama and the auto bailout. In an op-ed for the Detroit News, Romney wrote that the bailout of the auto industry in Detroit was "crony capitalism on a grand scale."
"The president tells us that without his intervention, things in Detroit would be worse," Romney wrote. "I believe that without his intervention, things there would be better."
Romney said he would have supported a "managed bankruptcy" of the auto industry.
Highway robbery would be a scary ordeal to experience. Indeed, according to Murray N. Rothbard, every citizen undergoes something similar each April.
Rothbard, an Austrian economist and a champion of libertarian ideas, compared taxation to highway robbery in his writings, saying they are both methods of "binary intervention," or a forced or coerced gift or exchange between two parties.
"Binary intervention occurs when the invader forces the subject to make an exchange or a unilateral 'gift' of some good or service to the invader," Rothbard wrote in "Power and Market: Government and the Economy (1970)."
"Highway robbery and taxes are examples of binary intervention, as are conscription and compulsory jury service."