Cartoon: Free Trade Is For Peasants, Not Cartoonists!

There’s something bizarrely fun about drawing myself as a cliche of a wealthy man.

Although at the same time I was drawing this cartoon, I was also working on a still-to-come cartoon which also involves lots and lots of panels of me, so the two of them together were making me feel a bit like Narcissus. It eventually got to me enough that I put the other cartoon aside for a while, but I’ll get back to it someday.

The two other most fun parts of drawing this cartoon: Drawing the famous “Uncle Sam Wants You” pose in panel four. And: Fish!

When I posted a panel-in-progress from this cartoon on social media, a few different readers reached out to let me know that a tiny globe bowl like this is actually a very unhealthy environment for a fish. What can I say – apparently Rich Barry is kind of a jerk.

On my discord , “Tired” wrote:

Rich Barry is probably rich enough to have a new fish deposited in his bowl morning before he gets up. It’s like a milk delivery service, except it’s a living fish delivery service.

To which Charles replied with this disturbing anecdote:

I recently read an article about Hugh Hefner’s widow, in which the creepiest detail, out of many creepy details,  was that he had a pair of caged songbirds in his bedroom that died every few days and were replaced with a new pair of songbirds (eventually, someone discovered their water bottle was broken), so exactly that service except with songbirds.

Brrrr! The very rich really are different from you and me.

This cartoon is inspired by some of economist Dean Baker’s writings (his blog Beat The Press is essential reading if you happen to be a cartoonist who has to do at least six econ-related cartoons every year – and whom among us doesn’t that describe?). In particular, I referenced chapter seven of his 2016 book Rigged (which can be downloaded for free on Baker’s website).  Baker writes:

There is one final point worth mentioning in this discussion. Of course, many young professionals, especially doctors, have put in years of training and have incurred large debts to practice in a field that they expected to be financially rewarding. It is reasonable to have some sympathy for them and perhaps lessen the blow from market-opening measures by, for example, offering student loan forgiveness.

However, why apply a different standard to market openings for highly trained professionals than to market openings for textile workers and autoworkers? For less highly paid workers we take steps that increase efficiency and promote growth and pledge that we will help those left behind. (In most cases the help has not been especially useful.) It does not make sense to believe that the most educated workers in society somehow are in need of greater protection from the government than the millions of less-educated workers who have been displaced by trade openings and other measures. Sympathy might be appropriate, special protection is not.


This cartoon has eight panels.


This panel shows Barry (that is, me), wearing an expensive-looking three piece suit. He’s sitting in a big armchair, legs crossed at the knee, waving at us with one hand and holding a cigar in the other. Next to the armchair is a small glass fishbowl with a gold-colored fish in it.

BARRY: Hi! I’m Barry, and I’ll be your cartoonist today. You ever wonder why cartoonists like me make so much money?


Barry is holding out a big globe as he speaks.

BARRY: “After all,” you say, “There are well-trained cartoonists all over the world willing to take U.S. qualification exams and draw cartoons for much less.”


Barry is pontificating and looks pretentious, one hand holding a lapel of his jacket, the other holding a forefinger up in a “giving a lecture” sort of way. Behind him, the fish is watching.

BARRY: True! Luckily, the U.S. limits how many foreign cartoonists can work here. Despite the severe problems caused by the cartoonist shortage.


Barry is now in the famous “Uncle Sam Wants You” poster pose, pointing a finger at the reader, and wearing an Uncle Sam top hat.

BARRY: According to Uncle Sam, “free trade” and competition driving down pay isn’t for me. It’s for unimportant non-cartoonist people like you.


Barry and a woman are in the panel. Barry has grabbed her purse and is pulling cash out of it; the woman looks annoyed.

BARRY: All of this means cartoonists can charge more for cartoons. It’s like a tax you pay so I can be richer.


Still in the fishbowl on the little table, the goldfish speaks, with a slightly distressed expression. Barry is very shocked by this development, jumping up and eyes popping.

GOLDY: Hold on, that can’t be true!

BARRY: Goldy? You can talk?


A close-up on Goldy as she sticks her head out above the water to speak. She looks worried.

GOLDY:  Don’t change the subject. Does Uncle Sam really make us all pay more so you can be richer?

BARRY: Nah, I was fibbing. They don’t do that for cartoonists.


Goldy, smiling, is relieved. Barry shrugs as he cheerfully goes on.

GOLDY: I knew it! Protectionism for the rich would be totally against the U.S.’s ideas of fairness and free tra-

BARRY: They just do it for doctors, dentists, and lawyers.


“Chicken fat” is a cartoonist expression for unimportant but hopefully fun details in a cartoon that readers could easily miss.

In panel one, a little label pointing to Rich Barry’s cufflink says “gold cufflinks.” In panel two, when Rich Barry holds up a globe, a little caption pointing to it says “Golden Globe.” And in panel three, a similar little caption pointing to the fish says “Gold Fish.”

In panel two, if you look closely at the continents on the globe Rich Barry is holding, one is shaped like Pac-Man and two are shaped like Ghosts fleeing Pac-Man.

In panel six, when Barry’s glasses pop off in cartoon surprise, his eyeballs remain in the glasses rather than staying on his face.

Free Trade Is For Peasants, Not Cartoonists | Patreon

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Economics and the like. Bookmark the permalink. 

One Response to Cartoon: Free Trade Is For Peasants, Not Cartoonists!

  1. 1
    bcb says:

    I’m glad to see this cartoon made public!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *