Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Brains: Zombieconomics

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Brains: Zombieconomics

An economic guide to surviving the Zombie apocalypse. (Guest post from the Ecocomics Blog.)

OK, well not exactly.  Of course, converting a human into a zombie is not exactly an extension of human life.  This is why a zombie is traditionally defined as “undead.”  What humans have discovered, then, is a means of preventing further death.  Indeed, should one decide, he or she could subject him or herself to the bite of an existing zombie and convert into one prior to his or her own expiration.

Consequently, if ever there was a labor shortage, the United States could recruit individuals to voluntarily turn into zombies prior to their deaths and live out their remaining eternities as undead corpses helping to boost the economy.  Why would anybody voluntarily choose to endure this “life”-style?   Easy—the United States government would provide them with incentives to do so during their lives.

Suppose the US government offered benefits to youth—perhaps as subsidies towards tuition, job benefits, or even simple monetary payments—if they contracted their eternal “lives” to the government.  I predict a large take-up rate, particularly among the nation’s younger individuals or those in particular need of such benefits.  The older-age populations would likely be more difficult to convince, as they would, on average, have a shorter time to collect on government benefit programs.

Senior Zombie CitizensThis notion of zombie recruitment does have downsides.   First, there would be considerable political upheaval.  The idea of sacrificing the experience of a proper death is unprecedented and many families might not be comfortable with the idea of their loved ones spending eternity as a rotting corpse.  Secondly, governments would have to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that zombies are, in fact, mindless.  Otherwise, associations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Undead People (NAAUP) would gain considerable political influence.  Beyond this, a larger zombie workforce might diminish job opportunities for living humans, which would exacerbate the United States’ already considerable immigration debate.

There also might be a significant moral hazard problem:  Suppose the government paid you to become a zombie once you turn 65.  You could conceivably collect the benefits and then flee the country before meeting your obligation (although the US would likely establish a clause stipulating that in such events, your family members would incur penalties).  Further, individuals could get killed prior to the time when he or she would have to fulfill his duty to become a zombie.  The governments would have to account for such incidents, which could mean lower benefits for high-risk individuals (similar to insurance premiums).

All in all, don’t panic.  With economics on your side, the zombie apocalypse won’t be the end of the world.

Find more from the author at Ecocomics.

11 Comments on “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Brains: Zombieconomics”

  1. Simber #

    Your argument is almost persuasive, but I think that -like most economics- you’re embracing a New Economy too eagerly. Like the last New Economy your New Zombie Economy assumes free and inexhaustible resources. In your words: ‘assuming the government has found a way to curb their hunger’.

    I believe such a brainlust-inhibitor would by neither free nor once-only. So keeping a zombie for menial tasks would be cheap, not free (and smelly, i suppose)
    The question then becomes: at what price is the advantage of cheap, infinite labor offset by the cost (financial and olfactic)?

    There’s probably an economic formula for that (love to see that one), providing we find out how long infinity actually is. I mean, how long do we need workers that are literally braindead? 100 years? 1000?

    This brings me to a more fundamental objection: labor shortage can lead to technical innovation which in the long run is more beneficial as it increases the average productivity. (In other words: I prefer robots to zombies)

    And lastly one remark from the old continent: one of the main differences between Americans and Europeans is that you live to work and we work to live. So to us there won’t be any difference if you employ all the zombies in the world ;-)
    Enjoy your brains!


  2. mlawski OTI Staff #

    Simber hit the point right on the head: robots. If zombies take over the menial labor, what’s going to happen to all the robots out there? Well, let’s look at humans who lose their jobs. Some get depressed and waste away in their homes. Some get angry and start killing people.

    I’m sure you realize robots cannot cry. What else is there left to do but to replace the zombie apocalypse with a robocalypse? Nothing, that’s what.


  3. Mystois #

    Really nice article, actually, the consequences of a much reduced workforce combined with a higher level of capital (i.e. machines) per worker would mean that the real wage would increase even more than after the black death because each no-zombie human would be able to produce more by controlling the zombies to do work..


  4. Gab #

    A potential blip I see coming up is the age and condition of the body being converted into a zombie. For maximum output of labor, the body should probably be in fairly good shape before zombification occurs, or else the resulting zombie may literally fall apart as it is performing its tasks. Granted, specific body types could be assigned to specific jobs (senior converts could take tokens at the subway, young adult converts could build houses, etc.), but I don’t see a fit thirty-year-old agreeing to become a zombie unless they are under duress- at which point the validity of their agreement comes into question. Once signed, seniors would probably be easier to convince (or keep on track) as the day of conversion approaches, so I imagine the pool of “younger” zombies would have much less in it (people running away, backing out, etc.). All of this, of course, assumes that zombification doesn’t generate strength and mobility, though, so it is moot if all zombies have basically the same physical parameters as a result of zombification, regardless of if they were overweight, arthritic, and aged versus toned, flexible, and robust when converted.


  5. Dr_eX #

    Anyone read the excellent ‘Ressurection,Inc’ by Kevin J Anderson? This is (almost) precisely what happens. When someone dies (almost any cause, except for age or extremely bad mutilations), the body has a processor, fake organs, and synth-blood inserted into their system, and are brought back to life as mindless puppets (aka, zombies) which must respond to any action ordered by a Human.

    Of course, as stories go, there’s more than meets the eye to the book. Might be worth a read, could give a good insight into zombie workforce.


  6. David #

    Pffft you zombie fearing heretics.

    I pray raptor jesus has mercy on your souls, for the raptor-apocalypse will be swift and merciless.


  7. Charles #

    What guarantee do we have that these zombies would be mentally or physically able to perform such tasks? What would be their motivation?

    Even unskilled minimum wage earners are motivated by the basic need to have food and shelter. If they cannot, or refuse, to perform their job they’re fired.

    What punishment would you give to a zombie which would not such motivations?


  8. Jon #

    Excellent article… I especially liked the idea about people voluntarily becoming zombies in return for a sweet lifestyle.
    One thing I was surprised you didn’t mention more about was how awesome (and cost effective) zombie laborers would be, and how they could solve our energy dependency. I mentioned it a few months ago on my blog:


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