BBC — 200 Countries, 200 years, 4 minutes

What does the world look like (wealth and health) over the past 200 years, but squeezed into 4 minutes. Hans Rosling looks at the change in a income and life expectancy for countries across the world over the past 200 years. What’s nice about this visualization is that it’s color coded to be able to show how different regions changed over time. We can also see how globalization has affected major countries like China, Japan, and India.

The Simpsons — Sirloin-A-Lot Challenge

This clips includes a few different economics concepts rolled in to one. The overarching theme is that of consumer choice where Homer appears to experience diminishing returns while trying to eat a 16 pound steak. He’s competing against a previous eating contest winner, who dies at the end from eating too much steak.

In the middle of the clip, Marge asks Dr. Hibbert if that much steak is healthy and Dr. Hibbert exhibits a bit of the principle-agent problem where his interests now align with eating competitions because he owns a portion of the restaurant. The good doctor tells her not to worry because they have a new heimlich machine, which decreases their need to focus on choking hazards.

The Simpsons — Valentine’s Day

Homer forgets its Valentine’s Day so he has to rush off to the Kwik-E-Mart to pick up a last minute gift. Seeing that Home is desperate, Apu takes the chance to raise the price on a box of chocolates to $100. Despite Homer’s annoyance, he pays the higher price because he knows he’ll be in trouble if he comes back empty handed. After threatening never to shop their again, Apu offers him a discount on other products to keep him from shopping next door.

Apollo 13 — Failure is Not an Option

The crew of Apollo 13 is stuck in orbit around the moon and the NASA crew on the ground is trying to figure out how to get the astronauts home alive. Faced with only the tools in space and a limited time window, the engineers must use every available item at their disposal to maximize the amount of time before reentry to Earth’s atmosphere. This clip is a nice introduction to the idea of consumer choice, budget constraints, and utility maximization. All resources must be used in the model and their is no value to saving anything. The goal is to earn as much utility as possible given the budget constraint. The same issue faced the NASA engineers: they had to use all available resources, there was no benefit to saving items for next time, and they had to maximize the time/oxygen/energy for the astronauts.

MedicoreFilms — Free Hugs

My students favorite clip when discussing product differentiation is this clip from MedicoreFilms where a guy offers Deluxe Hugs for $2 more. One of his opening lines best illustrates the concept of monopolistic competition:

Deluxe guy: How’s businesses?

Free guy: Mine are free, this isn’t a business.

Deluxe guy: Different people want different stuff, so it’s cool.

Businesses can differentiate their products by quality, style, location, etc. The guy offering deluxe hugs is trying to fill a portion of the market from people willing to pay more for “better” hugs.

Ally Bank — Pony Commercial

This commercial is a great opening piece to talk about the differences between equity and efficiency. While both young girls are better off that before (efficiency improvements), they are not relatively better off because one is getting an actual pony (equity issues). One of the hard portions of this concept is to think about this issue as a true tradeoffs that efficiency gains often come at the cost of decreased equity. This increase in inequality between the two girls may be a nice, short way of demonstrating that tradeoff.

King of Queens — A Wasted Tombstone

Arthur bought a tombstone a while back in order to save money and the salesman assured him that he would most likely be dead by 2000, so he pre-printed the “19” on the tombstone so that they would only have to fill out the end of the year. Fast forward to 1999 and Arthur finds out he has 8 months to die or else his tombstone will go to waste. This clip is a succinct enough clip to teach about sunk costs since the price of the tombstone has already been paid and Arthur wouldn’t be able to get his money back.

Construction Site in Thailand

A few years back there was a popular video of a human powered ferris wheel in India. I use that clip to talk about labor abundance in the Heckscher–Ohlin model of trade since India is so labor-abundant. Earlier we came across this fantastic video of a construction site in Thailand (another labor rich country). For small construction jobs, the workers will use manpower (literally) instead of machines to drive piles into the ground.  This clip could also be used in a labor economics setting if you’re talking about substitutes in production. Either way, this is a fun-video for class with a pretty nice beat from the tambourine-wielding foreman.

CBS Early Show — Same Price, Smaller Product

One way that companies can reduce supply without customers realizing it is by changing the size of the packaging. This actually makes the per unit price higher, which matches with the theory of decreasing supply. This decrease in supply could come from changes in input prices or perhaps shifts in agricultural markets, like freezes in Florida and oranges.

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