Y: The Last Man is an amazing series of graphic novels about what happens to the world after a suddenly plague eliminates the male gender (minus the title character and his pet monkey). Volume 10, the final book in the series, is now available. While I was disappointed by the resolution of the mystery of the plague in Volume 9, I enthusiastically recommend this grand epic. It’s a great read – and full of economic insight. As I said when I discovered Y two years ago:

From the intro to Book 2:

This “gendercide” instantaneously exterminated 48% of the global population…

In the United States alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died… as did 92% of all violent felons. Internationally, 99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction workers are now deceased… though 51% of the planet’s agricultural labor force is still alive.

In the book, the consequence of this massive decline in labor supply is NOT a sudden rise in real wages. The women don’t just lose sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers; they find themselves on the edge of starvation.

Does this violate Econ 101? It would, if labor were homogeneous. If all labor were the same, then a decline in supply would increase the price. But as the preceding passage emphasizes, male and female labor are quite different. Specialization and trade between these different kinds of labor make both sexes far richer than they would otherwise be. So when all the men die, female pilots get a massive raise, but the average women is lucky to earn a can of vegetables per day. Profound.

For me, the worst thing about Y has been waiting for the next issue. For if you’re just discovering the series now, you’re in luck!