A Year After Smurfs 2, the release of the English language translation of the graphic novel Finance Smurf, Peyo's last word on the world of the Smurfs, provides the post 2008 financial world with a wealth of food for thought.
Finance Smurf is set in Smurfs Village. It begins with the incapacitation of Papa Smurf, the Smurf who keeps Smurf Village safe and orderly, who is laid up by a laboratory accident. This is important, as it is the absence of the ongoing intervention of Papa Smurf in daily life that gives room for the mischief in the novel to occur. Smurf fans will quickly recognize this plot device employed by Peyo.
It falls to Finance Smurf to seek an antidote, which takes him to the world of humans. It is there that he learns the concept of money and becomes fascinated by it. Finance Smurf returns to Smurfs’ Village with the antidote, as well as a burning desire to introduce money and the human system of trade to the Smurfs. First, he reasons that he needs gold coins with Papa Smurfs likeness on them to use as monetary units. He goes to Painter Smurf for the artistic rendering, Sculptor Smurf for the mold for the coins, Miner Smurf for the gold. Handy Smurf then melts the gold and makes the coins using the mold.
Here we interject an observation. The day to day activities of the Smurfs are dependent upon their profession (or lack thereof). In the absence of money the Smurfs simply do what they do. There are rarely specific value judgments made with regards to what the Smurfs do, though all of their actions appear to be motivated by the needs of their fellow Smurfs and throwing the occasional party. This system, while idyllic, assumes that everyone wants to maintain the status quo. The maintenance of the status quo is at once the pillar of strength and the Achilles heel of Socialism.
It is clear that for Painter Smurf, Sculptor Smurf, and Handy Smurf, the requests of Finance Smurf are outside of the status quo. However, being good Smurfs, they go along with it and hope for the best.
With the coins made, Finance Smurf calls a meeting of all Smurfs, introduces the concept of money, and hands out an equal share of the coins to each Smurf. The Smurfs initially do not know how to operate in the new system, so Finance Smurf helps them by doing some back of the napkin costing analysis of their activities. It is worth noting here that this activity is also the hallmark of Socialist systems, the central planning of prices.
As the Smurfs begin to trade, the predictable begins to happen. The productive elements of society, Farmer Smurf, Handy Smurf, Baker Smurf, and so on, soon have more coins than they know what to do with. They take them to Finance Smurf, who is now acting as the bank, to be invested. On the other side, artists such as Harmony Smurf and Poet Smurf find themselves short of money and then mortgage their houses to Finance Smurf. Lazy Smurf is hardest hit.
If it was not obvious to readers to this point, Finance Smurf begins to embody Central Banks and Wall Street. At one point, Baker Smurf calls out Finance Smurf for lending at 10% but only giving him a 6% return. In a nod to the foreclosure crisis, Finance Smurf becomes owner of all of the real estate in Smurfs’ Village. There is a reference to privatization of public works, as when the bridge goes out, the Smurfs look to Finance Smurf to pay for the replacement, which he does in exchange for the right to collect a toll. Even corruption is broached as there is some price fixing for lumber on the bridge project orchestrated by Finance Smurf.
In short, Finance Smurf comes to embody everything that everybody hates about today’s financial system. The rest of the Smurfs, fed up with the swift disaster that the Money system introduced by Finance Smurf has brought upon them, leave to build another village. In this action, they take the only logical step in the face of monetary tyranny. It is a wonder that more of us do not venture out and do the same today.
In terms of economic lessons to be taken from Finance Smurfs, there is little more to be gleaned, yet Finance Smurf stands in stark contrast to the fantasy employed in Smurfs 2, the most recent animated offering to the modern world. For where Smurfs 2 was, if nothing else, entertaining, Finance Smurf leaves one with something to ponder.
Perhaps it was an accident, perhaps this is what Peyo intended. Only Peyo and Papa Smurf know for sure.