Moana: Where You Are

Moana is ready to leave the island, but Chief Tui wants to convince Moana that the village of Motunui is all she needs. The island’s resources are scarce: there are only so many people and so much land. The islanders rely on each other to produce products using the resources that are available.

A second consideration for this video is how it relates to command and control economies or economies that practice arbitrage. There may be other island economies nearby that Motunia could trade with, but they currently only consume everything they produce on their own.

Super Troopers — Sunk Costs [NSFW]

Some young drug enthusiasts are driving while under the influence and consider a fairly interesting application of public goods and private ownership. Eventually, they hear the familiar sound of a police car behind them and scramble to hide the evidence of their crimes. The guy in the backseat eats a lot of drugs in an effort to hide their illegal goods. The guy in the front seat points out that he ate $130 worth of drugs and then lets him know that he can pay him whenever. This same attitude isn’t taken when the drugs are thrown out of the window, which would have been the alternative. Just because the guy in the front seat had paid $130 for the drugs doesn’t mean that’s justification for getting reimbursed. A sunk cost is a cost that is unrecoverable and shouldn’t be considered when making decisions.

Frozen: Let It Go

Frozen is the story of two princesses, Anna and Elsa. Elsa has magical powers that she is forced to hide her entire life until her coronation ceremony. Elsa flees to the cold, remote mountains and sings “Let it Go” after finally accepting her magical powers and letting go of the pressure to hold back her true self. When she sings “the past is in the past”, it’s a reminder of the role of sunk costs in the decision-making process. Sunk costs should be ignored because that time/energy/money cannot be recovered in the present.

Thanks to Matt Rousu for the clip.

History of the World — Unemployment Insurance

For someone to be considered unemployed, they must actively search for employment and not be currently employed. In this scene from Mel Brooks’ History of the World, the unemployment officer asks two key questions of citizens looking for their unemployment payment:

  1. Have you worked (killed) last week?
  2. Did you try to work (kill) last week?

She also warns that their unemployment is about to run out and that they need to make sure that they find work, which is similar to how many unemployment systems are setup.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip submission!

Zootopia — Barriers to Entry

In this particular scene from Zootopia, Nick Wilde and Finnick buy a large popsicle to eventually meltdown and reform into small “Pawpsicles” to sell to other animals. This scene can be used when teaching barriers to entry since the popsicle market appears to have very few barriers. The two of them are able to access all the necessary ingredients and can setup their businesses outside the bank easily.

Thanks to Bryn Goldman for the clip suggestion!

Burn! The Cost of a Wife

Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando) is sent to break up Portugal’s sugar monopoly on the fictional Caribbean island of Queimada. Walker goes on to incite a revolt among the slaves with the leadership of a dock worker, José Dolores. Walker simultaneously attempts to convince plantation owners to turn against the government.

This is an inspired movie moment layered with cultural conflict addressing the transition in economic theory during colonialisms transition to capitalism and the economic forces at play in the transition from slave labor to wage labor, or as is implied wage slavery.

Walker outlines the cost of taking a wife and compares that with the cost of slave labor. He outlines tradeoffs of the two in an attempt to convince the men around the table that slaves are the better option.

Thanks to Chris Brennan for the clip recommendation!

Erin Brockovich — Negotiating Damages

There appears to be a coverup of contamination of the local water supply by PG&E, but the impacts are becoming more visible. In this scene, Ed Masry meets with a PG&E lawyer to “negotiate” a settlement for damages causes by the contamination. While PG&E may not have believe their dumping was causing externalities, it appears that they may have imposed serious external costs on the region. One of the concerns of litigation of this sort involves determining the appropriate value of the reduced quality of life resulting from these external costs.

Thanks to Dawn Renninger for the clip suggestion!

Freakonomics — What’s in a name?


A summary of the labor market impacts for naming children with “distinctively black names.” Researchers conduct resume studies in Chicago and Boston to determine the frequency of callbacks for two identical employees with different-sounding names. This subtle form of discrimination lengthens the spells of unemployment and creates a gap between white and black workers. Not hiring a worker because an employed believes the applicant is African American is a form of employment discrimination.

The Pajama Game — 7 1/2 Cents

Asking for a raise is tough, but even a modest raise in wages can have a huge impact on worker salaries. In this scene from The Pajama Game, we see how a 7.5 cent raise can impact a worker’s wage. The cast goes through the calculations of what they could earn with additional income, including an automatic washing machine, a year supply of gasoline, and a vacuum cleaner.

Assessment idea: This is a neat opportunity to calculate real wages and see what 7.5 cents would be worth today versus 1953. The BLS has a calculator so you don’t have to wait!

Looking for more: Do you want to see more economics in Broadway shows? Check out

Thanks to Mark Sammons from the University of Arizona for sending this clip in!

Get a Job — Ironic

Our main character Will Davis is searching the internet for job listings. He has just been let go from his internship because there were no available paying jobs and his time had run out. He is looking for the right fit, or really any fit that would make sense for him, but he’s realizing that he lacks the skills for many of the job postings he’s finding online. His friends joke that the skills he’s good at can’t get him paid.

Clip submitted by Kate Lecea

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