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.

Le Trèfle Paper — Emma

The digital revolution can replace a lot of items that traditional paper was used for, liking color pages, sticky notes, books, or puzzles, but it can’t replace toilet paper. Substitute goods are at the discretion of the consumers with some items being “perfect substitutes” and others being some gradient of substitutes. Digital toilet paper isn’t a very good substitute for the real stuff.

Thanks to Dr. Michele Pickett for the clip!

Could Have Had a V8

One of the classic commercials of the 1970s came from V8 (they have updated ones as well!). Unknowing consumers of snacks and sodas realize mid bite/drink that they could have had a V8 instead of their other choice. The concept of opportunity costs is that by consuming an item, you give up the opportunity to consumer something else. A rational individual will pick the item with the highest level of utility, but sometimes we aren’t fully aware of all the alternatives. The individuals in this commercial only realize when it’s too late.

The clip was described in Joel Waldfogel’s book, Scroogenomics: Why you shouldn’t buy presents for the holidays. Dr. Waldfogel also appears in an Adam Ruin’s Everything episode on the inefficiencies of gift giving.

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

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

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

Pixar — Purl

The video shows how an investment in human capital and diversity can provide significant increases in productivity.  Allowing employees to express their individuality brings new thoughts and ideas to the group. Without diversity, the company was trending down, when they embraced the balls of yarn it was trending up.  While it was easy to keep everyone and everything the same, the company was not making money.  By investing in a more diverse workforce, they were able to become profitable and a much more favorable place to work.  The opportunity costs are implied but they are that diversity can have real bottom line impacts.  In addition, diversifying your workforce can make you an employer of choice and allow you to hire more highly skilled employees.   Lastly, it shows that diversity allowed the male employees to be more free with who they were and thus helped the company become more successful.

I think this video applies to everyone from women to men.  Introverts to extroverts, it shows the benefits of staying true to who you are.  Additionally, it shows the benefits to companies by encouraging diversity.

Clip suggestion & description submitted by Keven Tarantino

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