Despite the notion that marijuana is a gateway drug, the world has a history of consuming marijuana until the mid-1930s. People believed that marijuana usage caused a bunch of socially-unacceptable side effects, but scientists disproved those beliefs in the 1940s. Instead, the US government focused on the prohibition of the drug, which resulted in a host of unintended consequences. The Nixon administration used the War on Drugs to target their political enemies.
In Becker’s rational model of crime, theorists predict that criminals way the benefit gained from committing crimes with the expected costs of committing the crime. Those costs generally include jail time or fines, but some criminals may not be deterred by those penalties. Shame may be an additional punishment that people are more likely to want to avoid if the punishment is public in nature. In this scene from The Practice, the judge assigns a shaming punishment in an effort to deter future criminals who may commit similar crimes.
In an earlier episode, we learn that President Obama enjoys doing his own taxes, but Adam points out he would be better off with an accountant. Specialization and trade allow people to see improved efficiency but doing everything yourself can result in a lot of wasted resources. At the end of the series, we see President Obama is still working on his taxes and has made a lot of mistakes already.
Investments in human capital require an upfront cost but provide long-term benefits. Human capital is much broader than just education and includes any investment that improves the quality of production. These decisions include things like moving across the country or improving one’s health. The US government uses some of its tax receipts to invest in healthcare for its citizens. This investment has resulted in increases in life expectancy, especially for those that have been treated at the National Institute of Health.
In the 1940s, the US created the Center for Disease Control and investments large sums of money to eradicate malaria. The pesticides that were used, however, were responsible for almost eradicating the bald eagle, the US’s national bird.
Economic growth is driven by investments in both physical capital and human capital. To increase the health and wealth of a society, the US must ensure that businesses have access to resources (both physical and financial) but that everyone has access to resources that improve their human capital. Under this framework, government investment in irradicating diseases like malaria, polio, and measles allows individuals to live longer, healthier lives which increases their productivity.
While doctors are likely to be focused only on saving lives, medical insurance companies may be focused on increasing the quantity of healthcare a person receives. In this brief scene, we consider whether it’s appropriate for insurance companies to charge without consent and whether doctors may be incentivized to do more than necessary to increase earnings.
The US economy has benefited tremendously from government investment in technological advancements designed to improve the US military’s firepower, but is it worth it? There are a number of equity considerations around the investments, but the efficiency gains are a bit more obvious. The research is funded by taxpayers, so it begs the question of what is the best use of funds. Adam questions how funds should be used, but essentially proposes viewers consider the tradeoffs that are present in each new advancement
While drones provide a level of safety for US military members, they also create an incentive problem for the military. Now that it is easier (and safer) to strike foreign targets, the US uses drones to attach more targets than they would if they hadn’t been invented. This unintended consequence has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and an increased reliance on deadly technology. This is also another example of a moral hazard in which economic agents take increasingly risky actions because they have been safeguarded against the risk.
The federal government is responsible for funding a lot of the technological innovation that we often attribute to private companies. While the purpose of some of these innovations is to be applied to the military innovation of the US armed forces, a lot of them also end up as vital components of civilian lives. Private companies may not be willing to invest in technological advancements if they may come at a cost to shareholder profit, but the government isn’t as concerned with profitability.