Adam Ruins Manufacturing

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.

The Colbert Report — Picketty

 

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.

Last Week Tonight — Wealth Gap

 

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.

West Side Story — America

“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!

Trading a Paperclip for a House

 

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!

Superstore — Phone Innovation

 

It’s back to school time and everyone has flooded the store to buy calculators, notebooks, dictionaries, and planners, but these are all items that come with a smartphone so it makes those products obsolete for most individuals. Creative destruction occurs when new innovations replace old industries.

Business Insider — Robotic Kitchen

This Boston restaurant (Spyce) uses robots to cook food for customers and can cook your meal in 3 minutes or less.  Customers order from electronic kiosks at their table and a screen displays which robot station is preparing the diner’s dish. The woks are designed in a way to ensure consistency. The only labor used in the kitchen is the “garden manager” who is responsible for adding toppings and ensuring presentation. The bowls are priced at under $8.

Thanks to Peach for the clip suggestion!

World Economic Forum — Alibaba’s Automation

A look inside the robotic warehouse of Alibaba in Huiyang, China. The robots pick up the physical items and deliver them to the workers who are in charge of sorting the orders before shipment. The robots can carry about 1100 pounds of good around the warehouse floor all while not bumping into other robots because of a laser guidance system.

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