Boston — Rock & Roll Band (1976)

This song is older but is still useful as a discussion about investing in human capital. Human capital is much more than just getting a degree. Human capital also involves general knowledge (what do you know?), skills (what can you do?), experience (where have you been?), and personal characteristics (are you reliable? do you work well with others?). If you have a small enough class, ask students to identify investment in these characteristics based on the story in the song. Not only does the song tell a good story, but it also shows that there’s more than one way to get an education.

Thanks to Bryan Sloss for the submission and summary!

TurboTax — Too Busy to do Taxes

The guitar player is too busy to do his taxes, but TurboTax is happy to step in. The opportunity cost of stopping to complete the task is high for the guitar player but low for the accountant. The two can benefit from trade by having the musician continue to produce music and the accountant complete the taxes.

Thanks to Luke Starkey for the clip and summary!

Braveheart — We Didn’t Get Dressed Up for Nothing

In this scene, the Scottish army is waiting to fight the English army. William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is going to “pick a fight” and make sure that the nobles from each army don’t negotiate a peace. His fellow leaders are in charge of passing out weapons. When asked what to do they remark, “we didn’t get dressed up for nothing.” 

They are falling prey to the sunk cost fallacy. Just because they’re all dressed and ready to fight doesn’t mean that is the logical thing to do. The soldiers are not using effective marginal analysis to determine whether fighting is the next best course of action.

Thanks to Luke Starkey for the clip and summary!

The Santa Clause — Technological Improvement

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.

Christmas Vacation: Expected Future Earnings

Clark is hoping to get a big Christmas bonus, but his boss sends him a gift for a jelly subscription instead. Consumption is one of the components of aggregate demand, and future income can influence present consumption. Clark was planning to spend this income on a new swimming pool for the family and already spent some money on the deposit for the pool assuming he would get this bonus. He even notes that there isn’t enough money in the bank account to cover the check he wrote. His current consumption was based on an expectation of future income.

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.

Elf — Buddy’s Comparative Advantage

Buddy is a human living in an elf’s world. He finds there are a lot of things he’s not so good at compared to the other elves. Before getting too sad, the other elves point out a lot of things that Buddy is good at compared to them. Even if someone is good at everything, they can still benefit from trading their services with others. Trade is often based on each person’s comparative advantage. For Buddy, that’s changing the batteries in the smoke detector.

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.

Christmas with the Kranks — Christmas Tree Demand

The Kranks are (initially) planning to skip Christmas this year, which means their demand for Christmas trees decreases. When their daughter announces that she’ll be back home for Christmas, the Kranks scramble to try and find a tree. Unfortunately for Luther, there aren’t many trees available because it’s so close to the holidays and he ends up paying full price (instead of a discounted price) for a pathetic tree. When decision-makers don’t have much time to make a purchase (like Luther right before Christmas), their demand is fairly inelastic.

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.

Christmas with the Kranks — Skipping Christmas

With their daughter heading out of town, the Krank family decides to skip Christmas and head on vacation. An opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative. While their daughter was still at home, the Krank family preferred spending it with their family and celebrating Christmas. After their daughter announces she’ll leave, the Krank family decides to head to the Caribbean.

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.

Aladdin: A Ring Exchange

In this scene, the King is desperate to find a suitable prince for his daughter, but Jafar offers to help. The cost? The king’s expensive ring. Despite a clear emotional attachment to the ring, the king offers to exchange the ring for Jafar’s services since he believes the Jasmine’s benefit will be worth the loss.

Aladdin: One Jump

Aladdin has stolen a loaf of bread is furiously trying to escape Razoul and his guards. The potential cost of stealing the load of bread is large, but Aladdin notes that he only steals when he has to: “I steal only what I can’t afford.” In this sense, Aladdin is weighing the expected costs against the benefits from stealing the bread and reasons that it’s worth the risk when it means he gets to eat.

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