Spider-man (2002) — Making a Choice

In this clip, Green Goblin has given Spider-man a choice between saving his girlfriend or a car full of children. Even superheroes face opportunity costs! While it looks like there is a tradeoff between saving one versus the other, there are also larger opportunity costs associated with choosing to be a superhero. By becoming Spider-man, Peter Parker places his loved ones in danger when he could be living a “normal life,” but that also means the larger population loses their “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”

This clip was submitted by Lianne Kulik, who learned about it from Megan Kirts and Brian O’Roark.

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!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas — Extreme Decorating

The increasing commercialism of Christmas can be used to illustrate the concept of inflation. In The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the Whos engage in a yearly competition to have the best Christmas light display. Each year the neighbors attempt to outdo each other with bigger and more extravagant displays. In a similar manner, inflation can devalue money and cause people to spend an increasing amount of money each year to keep up with the past. A specific length of Christmas lights isn’t as valuable the next year as it was the year before and neighbors will have to spend more and more to remain competitive.

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.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — Not Enough Presents

Harry Potter’s spoiled cousin Dudley Dursley is upset that he received fewer presents for his birthday than last year. Instead of holding firm, Dudley’s parents decide to increase the number of presents to make up for Dudley’s disappointment. Similar to inflationary pressure seen across a broader economy, Dudley’s gifts seem to lose value over time and only an increasing number of gifts will satisfy him. There’s an expectation that each year Dudley will receive more gifts than the year before.

Thanks to Amanda Mandzik for this clip suggestion and summary!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — Island of Misfit Toys

The Island Of Misfit Toys contains a number of toys that have some sort of defect, like a polka-dotted elephant, a train with square wheels, and a Jack-in-the-Box named Charlie. The job of a toy is to entertain children, and until they can be matched with a child, they could be considered unemployed.

A lot of the toys seem to have given up hope for finding a match after being on the island for so long. As they anxiously await Christmas Eve it’s clear that some of the toys are on the brink of becoming discouraged workers. A discouraged worker is someone who has not actively looked for work in the past four weeks because they don’t believe there are any jobs available.

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.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — Dentist Dreams

There are numerous characters in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) that experience some sort of job loss challenges. Hermey is an elf that doesn’t like making toys and would prefer to be a dentist. After talking with the head elf, Hermey proclaims “they can’t fire me, I quit” and leaves the toy shop. Despite being a skilled toymaker and possessing dental knowledge, Hermey is frictionally unemployed as he waits to transition to a new job.

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.

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.

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