Blackish — Castle Neighbors

 

This opening cartoon depicts Dre dutifully maintaining his castle and describing the lengths men go to in order to protect their castle. Unfortunately, we can’t always control what neighbor’s do with their castle and their decision to throw parties and disturb us is (seemingly) out of our control. The Coase Theorem would argue that so long as transaction costs are low, people should be able to bargain and sort out external costs imposed by private actions. The insinuation by Dre in this scene is that the transaction costs may be just a bit too high.

Clip recommended by James Tierney:

 

T-Mobile — Ariana or Maps?

The driver of the car faces scarcity (limited data). The driver is forced into a decision between streaming music and using maps with her data. At the end of the commercial she chooses maps, leaving Arianna as her opportunity cost.

Thanks to Brian Devitt for the clip and description!

Brooklyn 99 — Boyle Can’t Quit

 

Boyle’s new food truck isn’t going well at all. He’s losing a lot of money and he can’t seem to change things around. Jake suggests Boyle does what he’s good at and just quits, suggesting that Boyle’s the average price Boyle charges for food is below even his average variable costs. Boyle took out a huge loan and he needs to help pay it back, which may mean that his prices are between the average fixed and average variable costs, in which case he should keep producing even though he’s losing money.

Big Bang Theory — An (Un)Permitted Deck

 

Howard and Bernadette are bothered by their neighbor’s (Andy) new flood lights, which appears to look out over their backyard and right into the hot tub they have built. Andy doesn’t see the problem because his flood lights are in his backyard and provide him some sense of security, but they are a nuisance to Howard and Bernadette.

Instead of talking to their neighbors directly, like the Coase Theory would suggest, they head to the city zoning office to try and report the issue in the hopes that he has violated some city zoning ordinance. When they realize that will take too much time, they try to get Sheldon’s help, but Sheldon is cautious because Bernadette and Howard didn’t get permission to build their backyard deck, nor renovate their shower.

In Howard and Bernadette’s mind, government regulation should only be used for externalities. Their deck and bathroom aren’t affecting third parties so they don’t see the need to have them approved.

 

Adam Ruins Funerals

When a loved one dies, and we are in a state of grief, we often aren’t making the most informed decisions. Funeral homes know this and use this fact to charge higher prices. They can do so because our price elasticity of demand for end life services is high. There are few reasons for this. First, there is not enough time to “shop around” for better pricing on the goods and services provided as a funeral is often expected to take place quickly after a person’s death. Second, there is high asymmetric information about exactly what is actually necessity and what is more a luxury (the clip pokes fun of this with the casket featuring WiFi). Last, there are no close substitutes for end of life services – you only have two options: burial or cremation. For these reasons, we are less sensitive to price when shopping for end of life services for our loved ones and will pay a higher prices consequently.’

Thanks to Erin Yetter for the submission and description! Follow her on Twitter!

Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. 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. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.

Le Trèfle Paper — Emma

The digital revolution can replace a lot of items that traditional paper was used for, liking color pages, sticky notes, books, or puzzles, but it can’t replace toilet paper. Substitute goods are at the discretion of the consumers with some items being “perfect substitutes” and others being some gradient of substitutes. Digital toilet paper isn’t a very good substitute for the real stuff.

Thanks to Dr. Michele Pickett for the clip!

Could Have Had a V8

One of the classic commercials of the 1970s came from V8 (they have updated ones as well!). Unknowing consumers of snacks and sodas realize mid bite/drink that they could have had a V8 instead of their other choice. The concept of opportunity costs is that by consuming an item, you give up the opportunity to consumer something else. A rational individual will pick the item with the highest level of utility, but sometimes we aren’t fully aware of all the alternatives. The individuals in this commercial only realize when it’s too late.

The clip was described in Joel Waldfogel’s book, Scroogenomics: Why you shouldn’t buy presents for the holidays. Dr. Waldfogel also appears in an Adam Ruin’s Everything episode on the inefficiencies of gift giving.

Brooklyn 99 — Cluttered Work Area

 

This clip deals with diminishing marginal productivity of labor. An influx of uniformed officers from another floor of the precinct has led the precinct to become a cramped pigsty, and there is not enough space for each of the workers (“too many cooks in the kitchen”). The detectives now have to spend time organizing the precinct instead of investigating their cases; due to overcrowding, the productivity of the precinct has declined from an additional unit of labor, rather than increased.

Submission and description submitted by Melissa Paton

John Stossel — Blue Laws

Blue Laws in the United States date back to Puritanical times when local governments wanted to ensure that people were in church on Sunday and observing the sabbath. Today, Blue Laws are a form of prohibition that limits the amount of time that businesses can sell profits. While most states have removed their blue laws, some still remain, like the inability to sell cars on Sundays or more extreme limitations like those in Bergen, NJ. This Stossel clips argues that the prohibition is a restriction of freedom for businesses that want to sell products.

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