Family Ties — Turtle Business

Alex Keaton talks to pre-schoolers about starting a business and taxes. It is a fun clip to show when introducing a discussion about taxes. To avoid any issues with political differences, I usually note beforehand that Michael J. Fox, who plays Alex, was a Democrat in real life but played a Republican on the show.

Thanks to Matt Rousu for the clip and description!

Young Sheldon — Candy Entrepreneur

 

George has become quite the entrepreneur through arbitrage. First, he buys snow globes from a company going out of business to resell at a higher price than to his neighbors. Now, he realizes that he can buy candy in bulk and then sell it outside the vending machine to people looking for a cheaper option. Even though it’s against school rules, he realizes that the school’s monopoly power over the vending machines results in higher prices than what’s necessary.

Young Sheldon — Snow Globe Arbitrage

George notices that the greeting card store downtown is going out of business and he sees this as a business opportunity! He believes that he can buy Texas-themed snow globes for $1 and resell them to his neighbors for $5. George is arbitraging the snow globes, buying low and selling high. He goes through some struggles at first, but finds out how to sell them by the end of the episode.

Life in Pieces — Discounts & Sunk Costs

 

Tim tries to host a guys night and things don’t seem to be going his way. Beyond the awkwardness of just the two of them, the big pay per view fight lasts only a couple of seconds. While the two did get to watch the fight, which had a knockout, it wasn’t quite worth the hundred dollars they paid. Tim notes that he may be able to turn it off and get his money back. With a lot of experience goods, it’s not necessarily the actual outcome of the action that people care about. Tim and Matt did see a fight, so why is he so focused on getting his money back?

A second quick econ line occurs later when they sit down for dinner. Even though Tim isn’t eating any tacos, he notes that the cook is cheaper since he expects Matt to eat 25 or 26 tacos. This form of bulk discounting represents second degree price discrimination. With this pricing mechanism, the hope is to induce customers to purchase more than they would have (law of demand) even though making an additional taco doesn’t have the added cost of another cook.

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!

Wendy’s — Choice is Good

This Wendy’s commercial picks fun at Soviet economics that were notorious for limiting options available to consumers in the name of efficiency, but monopolistic competition in a capital market thrives on product differentiation and the ability to cater to people’s preferences.

Thanks to Rob Szarka for the find!

Seinfeld — Soup Nazi

 

Superior products can provide companies with a short term barrier to entry in a market, but they aren’t usually long lasting. Beyond technological superiority, some companies may have service or quality superiority, as is the case with the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld. Offering a superior product allows the owner to treat customers rudely, offer high prices, and restrict output as he desires.

This clip is available thanks to Economics of Seinfeld.

Stossel — Diamond Engagement Rings

 

In this Stossel segment, we learn about the history of the De Beers diamond corporation and their control of the diamond market. Stossel interviews guests and asks them to identify diamonds from knock-off rings, but most can’t tell the difference despite claiming to be capable.

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