Tony Dokoupil takes an interesting approach to ask Americans if they understand what their “share of the pie” looks like. While trying to ask directly, many mall goers avoid the topic, but when asked to distribute pie to plates representing various bins, Americans learn how wealth is distributed currently. This is similar to work done by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely who fond that Americans have a hard to defining the distribution of wealth in the United States.
Mumbai drivers are apparently notorious for honking, even when the light is red and people can’t move. The Mumbai police decided to incentivize drivers in order to reduce some of the noise pollution in the city. The police installed noise meters and if the decibel level reaches a certain threshold, the timer on the lights resets. A message flashes to let drivers know that the more they honk, the longer they wait!
Another fun policy intervention occurred in Europe to help drivers slow down.
In this anime scene, Joseph teachers viewers how to haggle for sandwiches in a market. While shop owners may try to start with a high price for foreigners (perhaps as a price discrimination technique), requesting lower prices may help identify the sellers’ willingness to accept. The benefit of trade and exchange is a mutual coincidence of wants. The two are able to find an acceptable trade, and thinks to the storyline, we can even calculate consumer and producer surplus!
Thanks to Lynne Tierney and Edison High School for submitting this! Lynne shared that a student in her class shared this video after going through a negotiation simulation.
George has become quite the entrepreneur through arbitrage. First, he buys snow globes from a company going out of business to resell at a higher price than to his neighbors. Now, he realizes that he can buy candy in bulk and then sell it outside the vending machine to people looking for a cheaper option. Even though it’s against school rules, he realizes that the school’s monopoly power over the vending machines results in higher prices than what’s necessary.
George notices that the greeting card store downtown is going out of business and he sees this as a business opportunity! He believes that he can buy Texas-themed snow globes for $1 and resell them to his neighbors for $5. George is arbitraging the snow globes, buying low and selling high. He goes through some struggles at first, but finds out how to sell them by the end of the episode.
Paladin is hired to settle an issue between a vineyard owner and a neighboring oilman. The smoke and runoff from the oil well are damaging the grapes of the award-winning vintner. This is a classic case of externalities and the Coase Theorem would suggest the two could meet and solve the problem on their own (if there were low transaction costs), but the Coase Theorem wasn’t written about until two years AFTER this episode aired.
On Hot Ones, celebrity guests are interviewed while eating progressively spicier wings. In Season 8, Episode 1, Gordon Ramsey discusses the makings of a $25 hamburger as well as the costs that are often “hidden” from the customer. This is a fun, and relevant way, to introduce concepts like labor and rent to students who are unfamiliar with the costs of running a business. Toward the end, Ramsey discusses the notion of excess capacity, whereby firms are not necessarily producing at minimum average total cost. If firms can fill the excess capacity (perhaps through price discrimination), they may become efficient.
A big thank you to my student, Abdullah Al Otaibi, for sending me this clip!
In this scene, Homer and Bart are loading construction materials into their car at Builder’s Barn (a Home Depot-type store). Bart isn’t sure his dad is capable of handling the word himself when a group of immigrant day laborers offer their services. The day laborers have come from nearby Barleyville due to a recent “Barley Bust.” Homer accepts their offer and welcomes them to his home. He now feels superior because he’s able to hire workers to do jobs “we don’t want to do,” but then a hoard of laborers rushes the town of Springfield.
For a deeper look at economics and The Simpsons, check out Josh Hall’s book Homer Economicus.
Each year, children collect their trick-or-treat goodies and then go about trading their candy with each other. This scene from a 2019 Walmart commercial illustrates the concepts of gains from trade, bartering, and mutually beneficial transactions. Each child only trades an amount they are willing to give up and aren’t forced to trade with each other. After the exchange, both are better off than they were before the meeting.
Thanks to Brian Lynch for the recommendation!