John Stossel — Blue Laws

Blue Laws in the United States date back to Puritanical times when local governments wanted to ensure that people were in church on Sunday and observing the sabbath. Today, Blue Laws are a form of prohibition that limits the amount of time that businesses can sell profits. While most states have removed their blue laws, some still remain, like the inability to sell cars on Sundays or more extreme limitations like those in Bergen, NJ. This Stossel clips argues that the prohibition is a restriction of freedom for businesses that want to sell products.

Superstore — A truck with no radio

 

Dina special-ordered a truck with no radio (even though it costs more) because she believes it will be less attractive to potential thieves. Assuming criminals are rational, a truck without a radio wouldn’t be worth the potential punishment of auto theft or larceny.

Narcos — Plato o Plomo

This scene from Narcos shows Pablo Escobar, infamous Columbian drug cartel leader, at the beginning of his career. Before he gets into drug running he smuggled stolen goods and jewels. He is attempting to cross a bridge with loads of merchandise when he stopped by the Columbian National Police (i.e. FBI).

It illustrates negative v. positive incentives. As the title of the clip implies, Pablo provides both incentives and lets the police chose. They let can let him through and he will reward them with stolen goods (plato aka silver) or they can try to stop him and he will kill them and their families (plomo aka lead).

You could also talk about the economic way of thinking from the point of view of the police. They had to weigh the benefits of a possible arrest and confiscation of the stolen goods against the cost of their lives and families lives. Ultimately, they decide the costs outweigh the benefits and let him through.

And then it could be used to talk about tradeoffs – when you choose one thing you are giving up another — so they chose to let him go, but that means they are letting him get away with criminal activity, forgoing the glory of arresting a high profile smuggling, doing something immoral, etc.

Thanks to Erin Yetter for the clip and the description! Check our her website as well.

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