Nicki Minaj and Leisure Shock Business Cycle Theory

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 4 2012 8:31 AM

Nicki Minaj and Leisure Shock Business Cycle Theory

Last night Twitter blew up with stories about an alleged endorsement of Mitt Romney by Nicki Minaj who has a verse on the new Lil' Wayne mixtape that says "I’m a republican voting for Mitt Romney / you lazy b*tches are f*cking up the economy."

My view as a music fan is that reading this as an "endorsement" is way too strong. It seems to me that hip-hop artists often engage in lyrical flights of fancy intended as symbolic tokens of their material success rather than literal descriptions of events (I don't believe she's in possession of an actual starship either). The point here is that she's so rich she's become a Republican—a boast, not an endorsement.

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What's interesting is that her satirized view of what a Republican would say about the macroeconomy is actually espoused by some people. University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan, in particular, has been using a perch at the New York Times to press for this kind of leisure shock view of the economy. The particular way this works is with the idea that by making social insurance programs more generous, the Obama administration has sapped the American worker's desire to work preventing the economy from bouncing back.

Empirically speaking, I think this is pretty clearly wrong. An economy with adequate aggregate demand that suffers a policy-induced negative shock to its labor supply ought to see inflation—constant demand chasing fewer workers equals higher prices—which hasn't been the American experience. But there are some nice mathematical models out there of worker preferences for leisure driving the business cycle, and that's good enough for some people.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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