Blackish — Castle Neighbors

 

This opening cartoon depicts Dre dutifully maintaining his castle and describing the lengths men go to in order to protect their castle. Unfortunately, we can’t always control what neighbor’s do with their castle and their decision to throw parties and disturb us is (seemingly) out of our control. The Coase Theorem would argue that so long as transaction costs are low, people should be able to bargain and sort out external costs imposed by private actions. The insinuation by Dre in this scene is that the transaction costs may be just a bit too high.

Clip recommended by James Tierney:

 

Brooklyn 99 — Boyle Can’t Quit

 

Boyle’s new food truck isn’t going well at all. He’s losing a lot of money and he can’t seem to change things around. Jake suggests Boyle does what he’s good at and just quits, suggesting that Boyle’s the average price Boyle charges for food is below even his average variable costs. Boyle took out a huge loan and he needs to help pay it back, which may mean that his prices are between the average fixed and average variable costs, in which case he should keep producing even though he’s losing money.

Agents of SHIELD — She Wanted Gold!

 

Loralei is seeking to take over the world and she wants money, but Rooster shows up with a bag full of paper money instead of gold. Rooster explains to her that on Earth, paper money is just like gold although he mistakenly says that Ben Franklin was a US president. While dollars used to be based on gold, they have since been converted to fiat money is backed on faith of the US government.

 

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.

 

Adam Ruins Funerals

When a loved one dies, and we are in a state of grief, we often aren’t making the most informed decisions. Funeral homes know this and use this fact to charge higher prices. They can do so because our price elasticity of demand for end life services is high. There are few reasons for this. First, there is not enough time to “shop around” for better pricing on the goods and services provided as a funeral is often expected to take place quickly after a person’s death. Second, there is high asymmetric information about exactly what is actually necessity and what is more a luxury (the clip pokes fun of this with the casket featuring WiFi). Last, there are no close substitutes for end of life services – you only have two options: burial or cremation. For these reasons, we are less sensitive to price when shopping for end of life services for our loved ones and will pay a higher prices consequently.’

Thanks to Erin Yetter for the submission and description! Follow her on Twitter!

Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.

Brooklyn 99 — Cluttered Work Area

 

This clip deals with diminishing marginal productivity of labor. An influx of uniformed officers from another floor of the precinct has led the precinct to become a cramped pigsty, and there is not enough space for each of the workers (“too many cooks in the kitchen”). The detectives now have to spend time organizing the precinct instead of investigating their cases; due to overcrowding, the productivity of the precinct has declined from an additional unit of labor, rather than increased.

Submission and description submitted by Melissa Paton

Brooklyn 99 — The Assistant

 

Captain Holt, the dry, stoic, strictly professional captain of the Brooklyn 99 precinct, is searching for a new assistant. He is exhausted by the search process and finds all applicants unsuitable for reasons such as using improper grammar in an interview, and including Microsoft Word use in the “special skills” section of a resume. Exhausted by the search, he gives up and is willing to forgo an assistant just to not have to deal with the search process. His subordinate, Detective Jake Peralta, persuades Captain Holt that Peralta can find an assistant for him, and Captain Holt agrees on the terms that he can fire whomever Peralta hires.

This episode is an example of employer frictions resulting from search costs. Both Holt and Peralta have to devote man-hours to the search, and for the particularly selective Captain Holt, the search costs are high enough that Holt is willing to do the work of an assistant himself without extra pay. The opportunity cost of Peralta searching for assistant is less than the opportunity cost of Holt searching, likely both because Holt faces high psychic costs of the search and because, as a detective, Peralta’s time is worth less to the precinct than the captain’s time. Holt’s decision to allow Peralta to search for an assistant suggests that the opportunity cost of Peralta’s lost man-hours do not outweigh the expected gain of Holt having an administrative assistant, which would allow Holt to be more productive in his position in the future and results in a net gain for the overall productivity of the precinct.

Submission and description submitted by Melissa Paton

Young Sheldon — Organizing a Family Union

 

Sheldon isn’t happy with the bread for his sandwich and drags his friend, Tam, along to the grocery store to investigate. While there, Tam learns that the super market is just as convenient as his family’s convenience store and is no longer surprised that his family is losing business to the grocery store.

What Tam is surprised to learn is that the local employees earn $3.35 per hour, while Tam is paid $5 for the entire week. Realizing his dad is probably violating child labor laws, he wonders if he is able to form a union with his sisters and take his dad to court.

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