In an earlier episode, we learn that President Obama enjoys doing his own taxes, but Adam points out he would be better off with an accountant. Specialization and trade allow people to see improved efficiency but doing everything yourself can result in a lot of wasted resources. At the end of the series, we see President Obama is still working on his taxes and has made a lot of mistakes already.
The G Word with Adam Conover – Cost Benefit Analysis of Government Investment
The US economy has benefited tremendously from government investment in technological advancements designed to improve the US military’s firepower, but is it worth it? There are a number of equity considerations around the investments, but the efficiency gains are a bit more obvious. The research is funded by taxpayers, so it begs the question of what is the best use of funds. Adam questions how funds should be used, but essentially proposes viewers consider the tradeoffs that are present in each new advancement
The G Word with Adam Conover — Obama Does His Own Taxes
Adam is contemplating whether it makes sense for him to star in a new series about the role of the government while it’s produced by former US President, Barack Obama. When Adam gets up, he notices the President doing his own taxes and is surprised he doesn’t just hire an accountant to do it. While Obama claims he enjoys it, he doesn’t appear to be very good at it. Typically, people can benefit from trading services and specializing in things they are good at relative to other people. The opportunity cost of the President doing his own taxes is likely really high compared to an accountant.
Young Sheldon — Communism & Bread
Sheldon finds that his sandwich tastes a bit different than normal. After a quick trip to the grocery store, he realizes that his local bread company has been bought out by a larger corporation that is looking to make break quickly and cheaply. He doesn’t like this switch and petitions super market customers about getting the local bread company to listen to their customers.
Without realizing it, Sheldon suggests that communism may be a better system because then one central authority can decide the recipe for bread. He assumes bread lines in Russia are a result of great tasting bread, and not the country’s inability to allocate resources. The show is set in the 1980s, which is the midst of a Cold War. Sheldon’s dad gets a spot on the news and Sheldon almost shares how the social security system is similar, but his dad doesn’t give him the chance.
Life in Pieces — Thank You Cards
Colleen and Matt are back from their wedding, but they haven’t written any thank you cards. Joan tries to drop hints by buying them thank you cards, but now she’s gotten to the point of just telling them they need to write thank you cards. Colleen realizes they need to do this because they want gifts later for their baby shower. This self-interest has sparked an idea! While it may be fair to write each person an individual card, Colleen and Matt realize it’s much more efficient to make a thank you video that people can share. The gesture isn’t well received at brunch. Often, improvements in efficiency (in this case making a video and saving the couple time) come at the cost of equity (many family members feel this isn’t fair).
Superstore — Flu Shot Equity
Jonah’s helping out in the pharmacy, but there’s only one flu shot left. The actual pharmacist isn’t much help, so Jonah has to decide who deserves the last flu shot available for the day. Many of the customers are unwilling to drive to a nearby store or come back the next day, and each make an important point about who “needs” it the most. Should the last flu shot go to a pregnant woman, a kindergarten teacher, or the man who was next in line? Rationing can often lead to equity issues when trying to decide who is more deserving of a limited item.
NPR Planet Money — The Price Tag Hasn’t Always Existed
Really neat summary of the history of the price tag. This could make a great opening for a principles course or a good example of price discrimination before the price tag was invented. The price tag can be used as an example of the Quaker’s insistence on the law of one price or the idea of efficiency/equity tradeoffs. I like to use this video in the beginning of my course to introduce the idea of prices, values, and costs.
Ally Bank — Pony Commercial
This commercial is a great opening piece to talk about the differences between equity and efficiency. While both young girls are better off that before (efficiency improvements), they are not relatively better off because one is getting an actual pony (equity issues). One of the hard portions of this concept is to think about this issue as a true tradeoffs that efficiency gains often come at the cost of decreased equity. This increase in inequality between the two girls may be a nice, short way of demonstrating that tradeoff.
John Stossel — The Fight Against Food Trucks
John Stossel, through ReasonTV, looks at the regulations behind the food truck industry. From a competitive market standpoint, food trucks have the ability to respond to high demand areas by relocating at any given moment. For brick-and-mortar businesses, however, food trucks enter the market as a low-cost competitor and steal customers from permanent restaurants. Many cities in the United States have setup regulation limiting the location of food trucks or the hours they may operate. This rent seeking behavior, however, limits the amount of options available to consumers in the name of “fairness.”
Northwestern — Purple Pricing Plan
Northwestern University unveiled one of the first dynamic pricing models for college sports in 2014. Students can reserve seats for upcoming sporting events and if prices fall to lower prices because of low demand, anyone who paid higher prices would be refunded. This incentive was meant to encourage students to reserve their seats early for big games. The two also introduce a Dutch Auction for tickets where students can set their reserve price and if they fall within the window then they’ll be assigned tickets.