Family Guy — Volcano Insurance

A traveling salesman sells Peter an insurance policy to protect his home against a volcano eruption. He convinces Peter “a volcano is coming this way” despite the fact that Peter lives in Rhode Island, far away from any active volcanoes. He convinces Peter to purchase the policy by using the gambler’s fallacy and convincing Peter that Rhode is “due for one.”

If this were actually true, the premiums associated with this policy would be extremely high and likely be the same as the cost that an actual volcano would inflict on the town. Insurance markets function on the interaction between uncertainty, risk aversion in consumers, and risk neutrality for firms. If some horrible event were guaranteed to occur imminently, there would be little incentive to sell insurance.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip submission and most of the summary!

Bruno Mars — The Lazy Song

Bruno Mars lists out all the things he could be doing that day if he he hadn’t decided to just lay in bed and be lazy. Even though choosing to lay in bed doesn’t have any monetary costs associated with it, it doesn’t mean that there are no costs to his decision. Every decision people make (even Bruno Mars) has an opportunity cost. While he may have a millions of dollars in his bank account, he still only has 24 hours in a day like the rest of us.

Thanks to John Raby for the submission!

American Express — Tina Fey

In this American Express commercial, Tina Frey highlights the economic concept of gains from trade. A man in front of her gets the last goat cheese garden salad, but she really wants that salad. She has to figure out what he might possible want from her. She offers to buy his movie and include her snack box if he’s willing to exchange the salad that he had just received. Both parties benefit from their ability to trade with each other.

Thanks to John Raby for the submission!

Moana — How Far I’ll Go

Moana laments about how she wants to travel the sea, but her father wants her to stay behind and help her village. Moana wants to travel, but she can’t do it on her own. In order to travel the sea, she requires a variety of inputs like her boat and the wind in her sail. In order to build the boat, she needs wood from the trees on the island, but also some human capital associated with how to build a boat that won’t sink. All of our decisions, and any production that occurs on the island, requires resources. The main resource on this particular island is people’s labor, as they produce a variety of items to ensure society remains intact. As Moana says, “everyone knows their role on this island.”

Beauty and The Beast — Gaston

Gaston is the best man in town, for everything! If you don’t believe that, you can just ask him. In this scene from Beauty and the Beast, LeFou starts a song to help cheer up Gaston after Belle’s rejection. Gaston has an absolute advantage in a wide variety of things)—fighting, spitting, eating a large number of eggs, and even interior decorating. Gaston, however, is a relatively poor chess player. While Gaston is capable of doing everything for himself, it doesn’t mean he should. Gaston can still benefit from trade if he focuses on his comparative advantage.

Thanks to Matt Rousu for the clip!

Frozen: Let It Go

Frozen is the story of two princesses, Anna and Elsa. Elsa has magical powers that she is forced to hide her entire life until her coronation ceremony. Elsa flees to the cold, remote mountains and sings “Let it Go” after finally accepting her magical powers and letting go of the pressure to hold back her true self. When she sings “the past is in the past”, it’s a reminder of the role of sunk costs in the decision-making process. Sunk costs should be ignored because that time/energy/money cannot be recovered in the present.

Thanks to Matt Rousu for the clip.

Kitchen Nightmares – Marginal Touches

Chef Ramsey stops at a Scottish restaurant to help a struggling chef. What he finds is a restaurant where each employee makes a marginal change to the dish before it is sent on its way. A single dish may be modified by 7 different people, but it isn’t clear exactly how much of a contribution each is making. While each may add some benefit with their labor, the additional cost of waiting to send the dish out (and the cost of such a large staff) is part of the reason Chef Ramsey is there to help. The labor costs of the restaurant are $4,500 each week, but they aren’t even breaking even.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip suggestion!

The Simpsons — Grease Business

When Homer finds out from Apu that there is a local business buying old grease, Homer sets out to be rich. He buys $30 worth of bacon, feeding it to the dog, in order to harvest the extra grease and sell it. He spends hours frying up bacon only to earn 68 cents. He doesn’t seem bothered by his losses since his wife (Marge) paid for it. There’s one problem Homer hasn’t realized yet; Marge gets her money from Homer.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip suggestion and summary!

History of the World — Unemployment Insurance

For someone to be considered unemployed, they must actively search for employment and not be currently employed. In this scene from Mel Brooks’ History of the World, the unemployment officer asks two key questions of citizens looking for their unemployment payment:

  1. Have you worked (killed) last week?
  2. Did you try to work (kill) last week?

She also warns that their unemployment is about to run out and that they need to make sure that they find work, which is similar to how many unemployment systems are setup.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip submission!

Kim’s Convenience — Driving vs. Baking

Appa has made a collection of baked goods but his wife thinks she could do it better. In an earlier scene, Umma damages a friend’s car and made offered to pay for half the cost of repairing the damage. Her husband is disappointed because he feels he could have saved them a lot of money. Umma lets him know that’s why she isn’t a millionaire, but at least she’s a better baker.

Thanks to John Kruggel for the clip submission.

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