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ECONOMICS is not usually associated with humour. But once a year in the Irish city of Kilkenny, organisers of the “Kilkenomics” festival try to inject some merriment into the dismal science. When it started in 2010 as Europe’s first festival to combine economics and comedy, Ireland was in no mood for laughter. As ten-year Irish bond yields spiked to 9%, the festival organised its own mock rating agency: Moody and Poor. Shortly after, the government was forced to accept an €85 billion ($112 billion) bail-out.

Five years on, the festival has moved beyond austerity-focused sessions like “Grannies for gold: how to sell your families on Amazon”, notes Dermot Whelan, a comedian. Panellists at this month’s event pondered whether Ireland was on the cusp of a golden era, with Bill Black, an expert on financial crime, concluding that it “will look like a star in the euro zone because the euro zone is crap”.

Panellists did their best to put the fun back into fundamental welfare theorems. A discussion of whether money makes you happy included the answer to how bankers sleep at night: on big piles of cash. Diane Coyle, an economist, predicted that technological change would transform future generations—by giving them hunched shoulders and flexible thumbs.

Economists themselves came in for a little teasing too. Stephen Kinsella of the...Continue reading

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