Choose a work of literature that high schoolers might read and describe the economic system found. Identify what role the government and individual have in forming and running that system. 

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are, of course, many works of literature that high school students might be assigned to read.  In many of these works, the economy is not very important.  For example, a student who reads Hamlet is not meant to be focusing on the economic system.  When the economy is important in a book, it is typically the government that runs the economy, though this is not always true.  Let us look at two books that high schoolers might read that have different types of economies.

One of these books is Of Mice and Men.  This book focuses on the struggles of two marginally-employed farm workers in Great Depression era California.  The economy in this book is generally a market economy.  We do not really see the government playing a large role in that economy.  The men (George and Lennie) come to work on a ranch.  The ranch is definitely run by individuals (like Curley and his father) who have power over everyone else.  Thus, the government seems to have little role in the economy in this book while individuals (especially those with money) have a large role.

A second book is The Giver.  In this book, the economy, like everything else in the society, is completely run by the government.  Perhaps the clearest example of this comes from the fact that the government assigns people to certain jobs when they turn twelve.  There appears to be no role for the individual.  Individual aptitudes are considered when assignments are made, but the individuals do not actually get to choose what jobs they will do.  The also do not seem to have any control over what economic activities take place in the community.

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mchristel's profile pic

mchristel | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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You could focus on a work that is set in a dystopian society like Brave New World, 1984 or Anthem.  Charles Dickens' novel Hard Times is set during the Industrial Revolution.  Upton Sinclair's The Jungle would also be a potential title since it deals with the meat packing industry in the early 20th century.

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