The Office – $100 now or $5,000 a year from now?

Pam and Jim are getting married, but some of their coworkers aren’t ready to give them money directly. Ryan approaches Pam and offers her the choice of $100 now or the opportunity to get $5,000 a year from now. Pam is skeptical and initially states she wants the $100. Ryan is able to eventually talk her into investing in his friend’s company.

This is a great opportunity to talk about the tradeoffs of risk and reward as well as introduce the concept of present value. If Pam accepted the $100, she may be able to turn that into $110 next year if she found an opportunity to invest at 10% interest. Ryan is offering an incredibly risky alternative that would pay off much higher. In order for people to accept that much risk, the payoff must be really large. Safer investments tend to have lower interest rates.

Thanks to Allison Anthony for the clip recommendation. You can find more economics-inspired clips from The Office on The Economics of The Office website.

Adam Ruins Everything – “Free” websites

There are a variety of “free” services and products that we use every day, but are they really “free”? They’re pitched to us as having no cost, but the costs are much more than we may ever realize. There’s an older saying in the tech world that “if the product is free then you are the product.” Companies offer zero-price services to customers but earn a profit by selling data to other companies who would like to know more about you.

Just because a product or service is listed as $0 doesn’t mean there aren’t costs involved. There will always be an opportunity cost associated with the choice to use the service and that cost includes where your data and privacy end up.

Lisa — Money

Lisa’s “Money” took over the airwaves thanks to TikTok. The song addresses several economic concepts. First, currency is considered a medium of exchange, and cash is perfectly liquid. Understanding the important role that currency plays is critical to market transactions. Second, the sum of currency and checkable deposits are equivalent to the M1, Money Supply. Throughout the song, Lisa assures us that cash and her bank account support her lifestyle. Lisa provides several lines about her purchasing and spending behavior, supporting the definition of the velocity of money. Economists measure the velocity of money to examine how currency travels throughout the economy, measuring the quantity of exchanges. 

Thanks to Brad Scott for the clip recommendation and summary!

The Office — Frictional Unemployment

Frictional unemployment comes from voluntary transitions within an economy and is naturally occurring, even in stable/growing economies. It’s healthy for workers to choose when to leave their jobs in search of new (and often better) ones or when people enter the labor market in search of work. In this scene from The Office, Michael Scott quits after being annoyed by how his company has treated him over the past 15 years. Michael is comfortable quitting, even after it seems that he will get what he wants because he believes there is more out there for him.

Thanks to Allison Anthony for the scene suggestion!

What We Do in the Shadows — Night Market

What We Do In the Shadows is a mockumentary that follows Nadja, three other vampires, and their family who live in present-day Staten Island. In this episode, the wraiths employed at Nadja’s vampire nightclub begin to agitate for better working conditions. In pursuit of a rare substance that will squash the wraith labor movement, Nadja goes to the night market—an open-air market organized and frequented by witches, demons, and other mythical creatures. Because the market runs on the barter system, Nadja has to make many trades and spend a lot of time haggling with others to get what she seeks.

Thank you to Megan Kirts for the scene suggestion and clip summary!

Adam Ruins Everything — The Reason Weed is Illegal

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.

The Practice — Shame as Punishment

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.

The G Word with Adam Conover – Obama is Still Doing His Taxes

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.

The G Word with Adam Conover – Investing in Healthcare

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.

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