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.
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.
In this clip, we see that a succession of technological advancements has changed the way Kevin Hart listens to his satellite radio provider (SiriusXM.) When satellite radio was first introduced, it was considered revolutionary. Listeners could tune into their favorite radio stations anywhere their car could go. People were no longer limited to radio stations from their geographic location. One drawback of the service was that the technology was tied to a specific physical location – the car.
Kevin Hart clearly thinks this is still the case as he is seen sitting in his car listening to SiriusXM. LL Cool J shows him he can now stream on his laptop and thus he is able to leave his car and continue listening to his favorite station! Eventually, he’s told that he can listen on his cell phone and even stream his station through his Alexa speaker. His mind is blown! Technological advancement has made all of this development possible. We now have greater flexibility about where we can listen to satellite radio.
Thanks to Erin Yetter for the clip submission and commentary.
It’s the night before Christmas and the elves are hard at work producing toys for Santa to deliver on Christmas. The North Pole is an engaging illustration of an economy and a good foundation for reviewing nominal and real GDP. The elves in Santa’s workshop illustrated assembly-line efficiency and tangible outputs based on the number of toys produced. Elves produce a wide range of toys including rocking horses, building blocks, and dolls. The assembly line scene can be used as a reminder about the difference between intermediate goods (such as the doll’s clothing) and the final good (the entire doll) and which items are counted toward GDP.
Thanks to Mandy Mandzik for the clip recommendation. Check out her working paper, All I Want for Christmas is an A on My Econ Final: A Holiday-Themed Review Class, for more Christmas-themed economics examples. The appendix includes hypothetical values for these products so that students can practice calculating real and nominal GDP.
Even Santa and his sleigh can use some upgrades once the new technology has been developed. Technological improvements allow companies to produce more products using the same resources or to continue providing the same level of output more efficiently. Charlie and the elves help Santa improve his gift-giving efficiency by upgrading his suit and improving the features of his sleigh.
Thanks to Mandy Mandzik for the clip recommendation. Check out her working paper, All I Want for Christmas is an A on My Econ Final: A Holiday-Themed Review Class, for more Christmas-themed economics examples.
A lot of the recent discussion on the manufacturing industry has framed the loss of employment as a reduction in manufacturing capacity. The US manufactures more physical goods than ever, but it’s using labor as the primary input. In this segment of Adam Ruins Everything, we meet Hank who has recently been laid off from his job at the factory. In an earlier segment, Hank and Adam discuss major economic measures like GDP and Unemployment. In this segment, they discuss some of the misperceptions about manufacturing.
Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy where host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common themes. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course.
In the Summer of 2020, the paper was officially published in The Journal of Economics and Finance Education, which you can read online.
Colbert interviews Thomas Piketty regarding his book, Capital. Colbert challenges the notion that income inequality is a concern, but Picketty argues that growth is important. Picketty emphasizes the importance of economic mobility from a growth standpoint. This interview would serve as a good introduction to the topic in a principles course or a quick review of topics for an intermediate course.
John Oliver looks at the wealth gap in the United States following the announcement by President Obama that income inequality was “the defining challenge of our time.” Critics immediately accused the President of class warfare. Oliver discusses popular reasons for growing inequality but also highlights some of the current policies that contribute to its growth. An interesting extension of his coverage on the estate tax is a framing argument that by simply telling people the threshold required to pay those taxes can cause people to switch their support for the tax.
“America” compares life in America versus life in Puerto Rico. While the men favor the lifestyle of their homeland, the women prefer the mainland. This is a fun introduction to a discussion on mobility and migration in a labor economics or even to discuss standards of living and preferences in a macroeconomics course.
Assessment idea: Have students list things things they would miss if they were asked to move to another country.
Looking for more: Do you want to see more economics in Broadway shows? Check out BroadwayEconomics.com
Thanks to Mark Sammons from the University of Arizona for sending this clip in!
Kyle MacDonald started with a red paperclip and ended up with a house. Trade and barter requires a double coincidence of wants, but Kyle was able to find people willing to give up something he valued more than his holdings. Mutually beneficial exchange makes both parties better off. This is a great clip to start the process of discussing why trading can grow an economy and why centrally planned economies are harder to coordinate.
Thanks to @AlcovyEconomics on Twitter for the clip!