A Series of Unfortunate Events – Aunt Josephine’s Risk Tolerance

The Baudelaire orphans have been sent away to live with their Aunt Josephine. They’ve been told how formidable and fierce she is, but it turns out that Aunt Josephine is incredibly risk averse. She has disconnect the doorbell and the telephone because someone may be electrocuted if they have a faulty pacemaker, even if no one in the house has a faulty pacemakers. Risk averse individuals are willing to give up some benefits (in this case, doorbells and phone calls) in exchange for avoiding possible negative consequences (electrocution).

Family Guy — Volcano Insurance

A traveling salesman sells Peter an insurance policy to protect his home against a volcano eruption. He convinces Peter “a volcano is coming this way” despite the fact that Peter lives in Rhode Island, far away from any active volcanoes. He convinces Peter to purchase the policy by using the gambler’s fallacy and convincing Peter that Rhode is “due for one.”

If this were actually true, the premiums associated with this policy would be extremely high and likely be the same as the cost that an actual volcano would inflict on the town. Insurance markets function on the interaction between uncertainty, risk aversion in consumers, and risk neutrality for firms. If some horrible event were guaranteed to occur imminently, there would be little incentive to sell insurance.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip submission and most of the summary!

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.

Volkswagen — Buying a Used Car

Asymmetric information is a condition in which one party to a transaction has information that isn’t known to the other side of the party. This can disrupt the market for used goods because the buyer may not know the full extent of what they’re purchasing. In this Volkswagen ad, the father and son duo are unaware of the older lady’s past experiences with the cars. This is a great segue to Akerlof’s Market for Lemons, which is based on the the used car market.

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.

Zelle — Birthday Gifts

From an economic perspective, giving the wrong gift makes society poorer. If you spend money on chocolates and give it to someone who happens to think it is worth less (due to an allergy!), you’ve lost value. Whenever you receive an outfit that is the wrong size or style, a candy you won’t eat, or something that is worth less to you than what the gift giver spent on it, an economic inefficiency has occurred. Thus, from an economic perspective, the most efficient gift is always cash. The person will maximize their own utility by spending (or saving) the money according to their preferences.

Submission and description from Erin Yetter!

The Good Place — Externalities & Unintended Consequences

 

Things seem off in The Good Place, but it turns out that the as the world becomes more complicated, seemingly identical actions (like giving flowers) can have unintended consequences that most people don’t realize. Our private actions can have social costs that we’re unaware of and would probably try to avoid if we were fully informed of their costs.

Thanks to Kalina Staub (Twitter) for the clip!

Sarah Silverman — Stop Telling Girls They Can Be Anything They Want

 

While I was listening to Hi! Bob on Audible, one of the scenes involved Sarah Silverman and Bob Newhart discussing stand up comedy. The clip in the chapter comes from Silverman’s set entitled, “We Are Miracles” and discusses the impact of priming on young women. Telling people they can be anything they want can possible introduce issues they maybe never thought were issues before. How we talk to young women often plays a role in future human capital acquisition and may lead to a form of subtle human capital discrimination.

Curb Your Enthusiasm — Strangers Have a Bad Reputation

Jason and Jerry make a surprise appearance on Curb Your Enthusiasm to reprise their roles of George and Jerry to discuss the struggles of meeting strangers. There are people all around us that we’ll never meet, partly because they don’t want to meet us. They assume we’re bad people even though we know we may not be.

Thanks to Daniel Stone for the clip!

Superstore — Gift Wrapping

 

Garrett is on gift wrapping duty at the store and he hides his inability to wrap gifts under the guise that it’s inefficient. While economists may see gift giving, in general, as inefficient, gift giving inefficiencies are scattered throughout television and movies (Blackish, Brooklyn 99, John Mulaney’s Stand Up, Life in Pieces, and Old School). In this scene, Garrett focuses on the wasted time that it takes, beyond just getting the gift, that goes into wrapping a gift only for the wrapping to be destroyed later.

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