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. Private weather companies use government-funded data and resell that data as if it were proprietary. The same companies have also engaged in lobbying efforts to reduce competition from the National Weather Service and prevent the agency from acting as a substitute.
The G Word with Adam Conover – Weather Forecasts as a Public Good
Public goods are defined as products that are nonrival and nonexcludable, like weather forecasts in the United States. The nonrival nature means that it isn’t costly for the government to provide the service to an additional user and the non-excludability component means that anyone can access that service even if they haven’t paid for it. Weather forecasts were traditionally provided as a public good, but some companies have been working to change the excludability criterion to turn weather forecasts into an artificially scarce good.
The G Word with Adam Conover – Weather Forecasts as a Club Good
Club goods, also known as artificially scarce goods, are defined as products that are nonrival, but excludable. Previously, weather forecasts were widely available to everyone, even people who didn’t pay for the information, but private companies have limited the National Weather Service’s ability to provide that information. These private companies still use the data from the NWS, so it doesn’t cost the company to provide service to one more user (nonrival), however, they can withhold that information from people who don’t pay for the premium experience (excludable). Club goods create a deadweight loss to society because the price of the product is greater than the cost of production.
The G Word with Adam Conover – Local Pork
When it comes to disaster relief efforts, states are not treated equally but rather based on their representation on FEMA’s oversight committee. Pork barrel, or simply pork, is a metaphor for the appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district. The results are often worse when a natural disaster happens during an election year. Read more in this NYT article by the late Alan Kreuger.
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 – Externalities & Regulation
Whenever an action creates a negative externality, the private individual allocates too many resources toward the production of that item. This happens because the producer is focused on their own profit maximization problem and is not accounting for any external costs associated with production. When it comes to meat packing or factory farming, producers don’t take into account the external costs of pollution or the potential risk of bacterial infection. Regulating such industries can mandate that firms take into account the social costs of production rather than the private cost of production.
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.