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 – A Job For Everyone

People have a wide array of preferences for working conditions, which creates a heterogeneous workforce. Some workers may need to be paid extra to compensate for unpleasant conditions (known as a compensating differential) while others may be willing to be paid less to work a job that they enjoy. Workers are often assumed to be utility maximizers, not income maximizers, in the decision of which jobs to work and how many hours to work. Adam highlights that notion at the end of this brief scene with a USDA veterinarian who specializes in the disease.

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 – Overwhelmed by Choices

Have you ever stepped foot in a grocery store and been immediately overwhelmed by all the choices you have about everything from chips to sodas? The paradox of choice is that we often believe having multiple options makes it easier to find the product we really want, but it turns out that having a lot of options makes it harder to figure out exactly which one we want and often leaves us unhappy with our choice.

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

The G Word with Adam Conover — Obama Does His Own Taxes

Adam is contemplating whether it makes sense for him to star in a new series about the role of the government while it’s produced by former US President, Barack Obama. When Adam gets up, he notices the President doing his own taxes and is surprised he doesn’t just hire an accountant to do it. While Obama claims he enjoys it, he doesn’t appear to be very good at it. Typically, people can benefit from trading services and specializing in things they are good at relative to other people. The opportunity cost of the President doing his own taxes is likely really high compared to an accountant.

Curb Your Enthusiasm — Appetizer allotment

Larry David is adamant about the unwritten rule of appetizer allotment. In this scene, Richard Lewis is also eating “too much” of the hummus that they have ordered to share. The “unwritten rule” is that the dish should be split evenly among the diners, but there is a strong personal incentive to eat more than your share. In a sense, this is similar to the tragedy of the commons. While it’s in the best interest of the group to split the resource fairly, some people may try to take advantage of the situation.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip recommendation!

Walt Disney — Santa’s Workshop

It’s the night before Christmas and the elves are hard at work producing toys for Santa to deliver on Christmas. The North Pole is an engaging illustration of an economy and a good foundation for reviewing nominal and real GDP. The elves in Santa’s workshop illustrated assembly-line efficiency and tangible outputs based on the number of toys produced. Elves produce a wide range of toys including rocking horses, building blocks, and dolls. The assembly line scene can be used as a reminder about the difference between intermediate goods (such as the doll’s clothing) and the final good (the entire doll) and which items are counted toward GDP.

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 appendix includes hypothetical values for these products so that students can practice calculating real and nominal GDP.

Community — Chicken Finger Trade

Abed is running the fryer in the cafeteria and is in charge of the most popular item on the menu: chicken fingers. The school’s Spanish teacher wants those tenders and trades Abed for a box of tenders. The exchange? A 10% bump in his study group’s grades. Exchanges can be achieved through a barter system when someone has something that the other one values. This double coincidence of wants is required for a successful exchange.

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