Song of the South

Media Type: Music Topic: Supply & Demand


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The southern classic, Song of the South by Alabama reminds us of the feelings in the economy during the Great Depression.  The band sings:

"Cotton on the roadside, cotton in the ditch.
We all picked the cotton but we never got rich."

In this part of the song, cotton is a very abundant resource.  Since it is everywhere, both "on the roadside" and "in the ditch," we conclude that the quantity supplied of cotton exceeds the quantity demanded for cotton and that there is a surplus in the cotton market.

The verse continues with:

"Daddy was a veteran, a Southern Democrat,
They oughta get a rich man to vote like that."

This could be interpreted as the need for a government, or someone in the government, to control and regulate the economy.  Market intervention could possibly better regulate the flow of cotton in an effort to decrease the amount of the surplus.

In the next part of the song, we see that sometimes government intervention has unintended consequences:

"Well, somebody told us Wall Street fell.
But, we were so poor that we couldn't tell.
Cotton was short and the weeds were tall.
But Mr. Roosevelt's a-gonna save us all.
Well, Momma got sick and Daddy got down,
The country got the farm and they moved to town."

Secondary effects are the unintended consequences of policy decisions.  The singers do not seem to believe that Roosevelt's offer of a "New Deal" will fix many of their problems.  They did not feel the financial trauma when Wall Street fell because they were so poor already, likewise they may not feel financial relief because it will not be enough to make a difference.

Song Commentary by:

Kim Holder, University of West Georgia
Adaptation from student work submitted by T. Couey, C. Catalano, J. Kellett, and A. Parket (ECON 2105-04, Spring 2011)

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