Have Gun – Will Travel — Bitter Wine

 

Paladin is hired to settle an issue between a vineyard owner and a neighboring oilman. The smoke and runoff from the oil well are damaging the grapes of the award-winning vintner. This is a classic case of externalities and the Coase Theorem would suggest the two could meet and solve the problem on their own (if there were low transaction costs), but the Coase Theorem wasn’t written about until two years AFTER this episode aired.

Check out this Econlib post for more discussion. This clip, and a forthcoming working paper, was presented at the 2019 Southern Economics Association Annual Meetings by Jon Murphy and John Schuler.

The Simpsons — Day Laborers

 

In this scene, Homer and Bart are loading construction materials into their car at Builder’s Barn (a Home Depot-type store). Bart isn’t sure his dad is capable of handling the word himself when a group of immigrant day laborers offer their services. The day laborers have come from nearby Barleyville due to a recent “Barley Bust.” Homer accepts their offer and welcomes them to his home. He now feels superior because he’s able to hire workers to do jobs “we don’t want to do,” but then a hoard of laborers rushes the town of Springfield.

For a deeper look at economics and The Simpsons, check out Josh Hall’s book Homer Economicus.

West Side Story — America

“America” compares life in America versus life in Puerto Rico. While the men favor the lifestyle of their homeland, the women prefer the mainland. This is a fun introduction to a discussion on mobility and migration in a labor economics or even to discuss standards of living and preferences in a macroeconomics course.

Assessment idea: Have students list things things they would miss if they were asked to move to another country.

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

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

Saturday Night Live — Chance The Rapper’s 2nd Favorite Things

Chance the Rapper is grew up in Chicago, which is nicknamed “The Second City.” In honor of his hometown, Chance the Rapper (along with Kyle Mooney) shares some of his other favorite second-best items, which he considers better than the first. This is a fun introduction to substitutes, or even monopolistic competition and product differentiation. This could be used in an upper-level class to discuss ordinal preferences or transitivity.

Thanks to Kim Holder and Darshak Patel for tweeting this video!

Superstore — Handheld Automation

 

Corporate has created new devices for customers to use that will allow them to look up where items are located in the store, scan the items, and pay for their total. The employees quickly point out that the device essentially replaces the workers and they are left wondering what that means for them. Dina tries to point out the relationship between ATMs and bank tellers, although she doesn’t have it exactly right.

At the end of the clip, Amy points out that corporate has also asked the stores to cut back employee hours, which implies that the new machines are replacing some of the labor in the store.

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.

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.

 

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