Larry David teaches Christian Slater the social etiquette surrounding overconsumption of hors d’oeuvres a party. To start, Slater’s over consumption represents the individual incentives surrounding common resources. Ostrom’s Noble Prize in Economics explored the way social conventions, which David explains, can solve overconsumption issues even when laws aren’t in place.
PBS Newshour investigates the economics around the first Thanksgiving, including the differences between Europe’s cash economy and the indigenous barter system as well as common resources and property rights.
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.
Adam covers the topic of overfishing and how it forces restaurants to market less popular fish as select or premium brands. Adam’s dad (an actual marine biologist) joins the scene to discuss overfishing.
The tragedy of the commons are predictable outcomes when looking at grazing lanes, highways, fisheries, and forests. This quick video from the National Science Foundation is a short introduction to the issues that plague common resources. The ending portion of the video paints the tragedy in a much broader light by highlighting the growing need to preserve nature as populations continue to grow.
In this Stossel in the Classroom segment, Stossel analyzes the issues around common resources and public goods. In the opening interview, many people believe public versions of items are better and often cite the lack of a price as the main reason for selecting that over a private item. The same people are quick to point out that a public toilet doesn’t have the same connotation because people overuse it and don’t take care of the resources because no one owns it.
This clips is beneficial to talk about how tragedy of the commons can be overcome by assigning property rights to a business and turning it into a private good.
Here’s a great opening video for teaching common resources and the tragedy of the commons. This version of the video actually does a great job explaining the math of the overfishing problem and how you need to have enough reproductive pairs in order to maintain the optimal level of the stock. This video could be used a pre-lesson video to introduce the topic.
We can see economic concepts throughout the episode when Fish learns that he is rich because of a small savings account he opened 1000 years ago. Thanks to interest rates, his money has grown to billions. When Fish and his friends try to order a pizza, he finds out that anchovies no longer exist because of overfishing when humans arrived on the planet. Zoidberg notes that his people killed the anchovies because they always believed one more wouldn’t have an impact.
Some markets fail because of the lack of property rights, but trophy hunting could actually be used to alleviate some of those issues by assigning property rights to game wardens and then selling licenses for the right to hunt the animals. The funding from the licenses could then be used to help maintain the population. We don’t think Adam ruined anything here.
Big thanks to Kalina Staub for sharing this one with us!
While pretty controversial, this CNN clip does a great job of introducing the idea of property rights for endangered species.