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

Curb Your Enthusiasm — Appetizer allotment

Larry David is adamant about the unwritten rule of appetizer allotment. In this scene, Richard Lewis is also eating “too much” of the hummus that they have ordered to share. The “unwritten rule” is that the dish should be split evenly among the diners, but there is a strong personal incentive to eat more than your share. In a sense, this is similar to the tragedy of the commons. While it’s in the best interest of the group to split the resource fairly, some people may try to take advantage of the situation.

Thanks to Alex Marsella for the clip recommendation!

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).

The Chi — Price > Marginal Cost

Coogie Johnson rides up to the corner store to get a grape pop and beef jerky. Habib, the store owner, tells him it’s $1.00 for the soda and $1.75 for the jerky. Coogie then tries to talk Habib down to letting him pay $0.25 for soda and pay full price for the jerky to which his son nodded in approval. Even though the retail price for the soda and the jerky are $1.00 and $1.75, respectively. Coogie knows that the soda is priced well above the marginal cost and attempts to negotiate the price down closer to the marginal cost. Habib argues that it’s not fair to charge him a different price than other customers, but the son recognizes that some profit is better than no profit and agrees to sell it to Coogie at a lower price.

Thanks to Kyle Davis for the reference.

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.

 

Young Sheldon — Relative Gifts

The Cooper family is on their way to get a computer unbeknownst to the children. Sheldon’s sister Missy is in love with her pony, even if some of is derived from the fact that Sheldon doesn’t have a toy (known as a positional good). This all changes when their mother announces that Sheldon will be getting his computer. Missy is now upset because she has a “lousy toy” that she loved minutes ago. This scene is a good representation of the issues of inequality despite both parties gaining, the relative gain is unbalanced. The two siblings experience a Pareto improvements in their lives (both gain), but one is happier about the situation than the other.

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.

Up ↑