Despite the notion that marijuana is a gateway drug, the world has a history of consuming marijuana until the mid-1930s. People believed that marijuana usage caused a bunch of socially-unacceptable side effects, but scientists disproved those beliefs in the 1940s. Instead, the US government focused on the prohibition of the drug, which resulted in a host of unintended consequences. The Nixon administration used the War on Drugs to target their political enemies.
The G Word with Adam Conover – Subsidizing Farmers
A domestic production subsidy is a government payment to firms in a particular industry in an effort to increase production. This can be done as a form of monetary policy in response to recessions or in an attempt to increase trade. Countries might also want to subsidize industries that it believes are important to the growth of the economy. One problem with such subsidies is that they may not necessarily go to their intended recipients. While farming subsidies may have helped smaller farmers during the Great Depression, they are mostly going to large corporations today.
The G Word with Adam Conover – Unintended Consequences of Farming Subsidies
The US has subsidized farm production of grains and corn since the Great Depression, which has resulted in a surplus of production. As a result, the US is able to produce a lot of processed snacks that use grains and corn, but it has the unintended consequence of creating negative health impacts. While the goal of the policy has been on increasing the incomes of farmers, it has resulted in more obesity in America
The G Word with Adam Conover – Rent-Seeking in Agriculture
When companies engage in rent seeking behavior, they are engaging in behavior that is intended to increase their wealth without a subsequent increase in productivity. The USDA has given the agriculture industry power in shaping US food policy, but it has resulted in policies that have increased the industry’s profit without necessarily improving public health.
The G Word with Adam Conover – The Value of A Label
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was no real oversight on meat packing and procession. When Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, it brought national attention to the unsanitary conditions at meat packing facilities. Today, the labels are intended to serve as a signal that meat has been processed correctly. It’s an attempt to correct for information asymmetry in which the food processor knows how the food was handled, but the final consumer is unaware.
Learn more: https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/41203/18885_aer793.pdf?v=0
Community — Chicken Finger Shortage
Chicken fingers at the school cafeteria are a hot commodity! People are racing to the cafeteria to get them and demand is high, but they often run out before everyone can be served. If prices were higher then fewer people would want chicken fingers and there may be enough for everyone to get some, but instead, a shortage ensues. The original fry cook skims some of the tenders to give to select people, an example of inefficient allocation.
A group of close friends decides to take over the operation (like in a mafia movie) so that they can determine the allocation of this scarce resource. This group begins skimming the fingers as well and reselling them to others in the school at higher prices so that they can profit from the shortage.
Thanks to Sarah Corrigan for the clip recommendation!
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!
J. Cole — Brackets
J Cole discusses the impact of tax brackets on his earnings. As J Cole continues to increase his earnings, he moves into new tax brackets, which requires an increasing amount of tax liability to the government. This song could be used as a good pre-class video before discussing tax policy. The Tax Policy Foundation provides the country’s tax brackets since the inception income taxes as part of the 16th Amendment.
J Cole notes in the song that the money is supposed to support schools and roads, but he doesn’t believe the money is being used efficiently by politicians. He argues that because he pays so much, he should be able to have some say in how the money is used, but that’s part of the explanation for pork spending already in that companies rent seek and convince politicians to vote in favor of their interests:
I pay taxes, so much taxes, shit don’t make sense
Where do my dollars go? You see lately, I ain’t been convinced
I guess they say my dollars supposed to build roads and schools
But my niggas barely graduate, they ain’t got the tools
Maybe ’cause the tax dollars that I make sure I send
Get spent hirin’ some teachers that don’t look like them
And the curriculum be tricking them, them dollars I spend
Thanks to Kim Holder for the song suggestion!
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.
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.