My boys’ latest favorite book is The Tawny, Scrawny Lion. It’s not only a great story; it also illustrates the concept of deadweight loss with greater clarity and force than most textbooks:

Once there was a tawny, scrawn lion who never could get enough to eat. He chased monkeys on Monday, kangaroos on Tuesday, zebras on Wednesday, bears on Thursday, and on Saturday, elephants!

And since he caught everything he ran after, the lion should have been fat as butter. But he wasn’t at all. The more he ate, the scrawnier and hungrier he grew.

The other animals didn’t feel one bit safe. They stood at a distance and tried to talk things over with the tawny, scrawny lion.

“It’s all your fault for running away,” he grumbled. “If I didn’t have to run, run, run for every single bite I get, I’d be fat as butter and sleek as satin. They I wouldn’t have to eat so much, and you’d last longer!”

A classic inefficient outcome, no? If the animals just drew lots to see who has to be the lion’s lunch, the king of the jungle would save calories and some of the prey would save their lives! If you’re looking for a libertarian outcome though, you’ll have to go elsewhere – this children’s story owes a lot more to Coase – or possibly Olson – than Rothbard.