The Good Place — Externalities & Unintended Consequences

 

Things seem off in The Good Place, but it turns out that the as the world becomes more complicated, seemingly identical actions (like giving flowers) can have unintended consequences that most people don’t realize. Our private actions can have social costs that we’re unaware of and would probably try to avoid if we were fully informed of their costs.

Thanks to Kalina Staub (Twitter) for the clip!

Argo — The Best Bad Idea

A CIA agent creates a fake Hollywood production in order to fool Iranian terrorists into releasing a group of U.S. diplomats based on the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis. In this scene, Tony (Ben Affleck) presents the concept of Argo. The CIA will eventually grant the proposal, but they want to know if there are any other bad ideas that could be better.

The concept of “the best bad idea” helps explain why some firms may operate in the short-run despite suffering a loss. While firms would love to earn a positive profit, there are a few loss situations available as well:

  1. (WORST) Firms can produce below AVC and lose both their fixed costs and some of their variable costs
  2. (BAD) Firms can shut down when prices are below AVC and lose their fixed costs
  3. (BEST OF THE BAD) Firms can produce as long as prices are above AVC and lose a little bit of money

Some students always want to divert to shutting down if firms face losses, but there’s a “better bad idea” as long as prices are above average variable costs.

Thanks to Darren Grant for the clip suggestion!

Darren also has a new book out entitled Methods of Economic Research!

Stella Artois — Chang Up The Usual

This Stella Artois commercial features Sarah Jessica Parker reprising her “Sex and the City” role and Jeff Bridges in his from “The Big Lebowski.” Both of their characters had their respective go-to drinks. The cosmopolitan for Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw and a white Russian for Bridges The Dude. We first see Parker choosing to order a Stella Artois, which means she gives up her next best alternative the cosmo. This is a surprising choice, so much so that the entire restaurant comes to a halt. We then see Bridges enter, and the bartender assumes he is going to have his usual white Russian, but instead he also orders a Stella Artois (comically mispronouncing it as well!). Show this clip and have the students identify what the opportunity costs of choosing the Stella Artois is for each character.

Thanks to Erin Yetter (Twitter) for the clip and description!

Moneyball — What’s the Problem?

The study of economics is often boiled down to the allocation of scarce resources, and few media clips illustrate that better than this iconic scene from Moneyball. The Oakland A’s scouts discuss the selection of players based on their appearance, but Beane recognizes that it’s too difficult to replace players using the old method.

ESPN 30 for 30: Broke — Paying Self First

 

Athletes become broke after retirement because of overspending, unexpected expenses, poor financial advice, but also feeling guilty about not helping others around them. One of the early tips of financial advice was to pay oneself before paying others. It’s easy to look at the purchase of houses or unexpected as something that can be prevented, but helping family and friends is something that isn’t as easy to give up.

Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel have a great paper in the Southern Economic Journal that looks at using ESPN 30 for 30 to teach economics.

30 for 30: Broke — Unexpected Expenses

 

One reason why so many athletes become broke after retirement is overspending, but a secondary issue is the unexpected costs associated with earning millions of dollars each year. This segment of the ESPN 30 for 30 special looks at the taxes and unexpected costs associated with earning millions of dollars per year. For many athletes, this may be the first real job they have held, which means they are unaware that they are now part of the highest tax bracket, so approximately 40% of their millions is withheld. A secondary issue is that athletes play in multiple states and countries, which means that they owe state and federal taxes in more than one jurisdiction. Because of the complicated tax situations, many athletes need a financial advisor in addition to their agents, who also take a percentage of the total income.

Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel have a great paper in the Southern Economic Journal that looks at using ESPN 30 for 30 to teach economics.

ESPN 30 for 30: Broke — Budgeting and Spending

 

Young professional athletes are essentially lottery winners once they’ve signed a contract with a team. Seemingly overnight they become millionaires. One reason why so many athletes become broke after retirement is not for a lack of income, but rather a misunderstanding of needs and wants. Many athletes struggle to budget their income appropriately and don’t consumption smooth between in-season and offseason.

Common spending patterns include:

  1. Buying a home/car for self and family members
  2. Jewelry/clothes/shoes

The issue that many athletes face is the lack of realization that most professional careers are short term, but the costs of those items have lasting impacts.

Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel have a great paper in the Southern Economic Journal that looks at using ESPN 30 for 30 to teach economics.

Curb Your Enthusiasm — Unwritten Rules

Larry David teaches Christian Slater the social etiquette surrounding overconsumption of  hors d’oeuvres a party. To start, Slater’s over consumption represents the individual incentives surrounding common resources. Ostrom’s Noble Prize in Economics explored the way social conventions, which David explains, can solve overconsumption issues even when laws aren’t in place.

Thanks to Greg Caskey for recommending it to the #TeachEcon stream on Twitter.

Curb Your Enthusiasm — Strangers Have a Bad Reputation

Jason and Jerry make a surprise appearance on Curb Your Enthusiasm to reprise their roles of George and Jerry to discuss the struggles of meeting strangers. There are people all around us that we’ll never meet, partly because they don’t want to meet us. They assume we’re bad people even though we know we may not be.

Thanks to Daniel Stone for the clip!

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