Tylor was one of the best young monsters to graduate from Monsters University and always dreamed of becoming a Scarer. Once he lands a job at Monsters, Inc. he discovers that scaring is out and laughter is in. This brief scene from the movie’s trailer is a good opportunity to discuss skill-biased technological change. While scaring was previously seen as a good-paying job with a bright future, the world has changed suddenly and those skills are no longer needed.
Moana: Where You Are
Moana is ready to leave the island, but Chief Tui wants to convince Moana that the village of Motunui is all she needs. The island’s resources are scarce: there are only so many people and so much land. The islanders rely on each other to produce products using the resources that are available.
A second consideration for this video is how it relates to command and control economies or economies that practice arbitrage. There may be other island economies nearby that Motunia could trade with, but they currently only consume everything they produce on their own.
A Series of Unfortunate Events – Paid in Coupons
The Baudelaire orphans have been sent to the Lucky Smells Lumbermill and are being forced to work on the production floor. After a grueling morning of “log day,” the workers are given an entire five minutes for lunch, but the Baudelaire’s come to find that lunch consists of gum. Frustrated, they wonder if they can use their wages to buy something else, but it turns out that the Lucky Smells Lumbermill pays their workers in coupons rather than actual currency. The coupons don’t have any value since the workers don’t have any money to go out and buy things anyway. The workers also don’t have power to leave or demand better conditions because Lucky Smells is the only place to work in town.
When a single firm controls the labor market in a region, they are said to have monopsony power in the market. Monopsonies can pay workers below competitive wages because workers are unable to find alternative employment opportunities. In this case, the Lucky Smells Lumbermill pays them almost nothing since the coupons can’t really be redeemed anywhere.
Moana — How Far I’ll Go
Moana laments about how she wants to travel the sea, but her father wants her to stay behind and help her village. Moana wants to travel, but she can’t do it on her own. In order to travel the sea, she requires a variety of inputs like her boat and the wind in her sail. In order to build the boat, she needs wood from the trees on the island, but also some human capital associated with how to build a boat that won’t sink. All of our decisions, and any production that occurs on the island, requires resources. The main resource on this particular island is people’s labor, as they produce a variety of items to ensure society remains intact. As Moana says, “everyone knows their role on this island.”
Brooklyn 99 — Moneyball
Captain Holt and Lieutenant Jeffords want to streamline the department and improve efficiency across the precinct. Jeffords is concerned that Capt. Holt is getting to greedy and can’t make many more improvements, but Capt. Holt believes he’s taking a Moneyball approach to the department. The film is his favorite and he finds the statistical analysis beautiful.
While he may be improving efficiency through his new statistical approach, the two should be concerned about diminishing returns. Productivity can increase with revised strategies, but additional productivity may require a significant increase in cost. In order to determine the optimal outcome, the two should focus on marginal analysis.
Superstore — Union Busting
One way firms respond to increased union efforts is through managerial opposition. Because it’s illegal to fire workers who try to unionize, firms may use alternative tactics to discourage the formation of a union. An employee has been talking about forming a union and the district manager lets Amy know that the corporate office is considering shutting down stores, and a unionized workforce would make it more likely their store could be shut down. Amy, Dina, and Jonah meet in a backroom to discuss ways to stop the unionization from proceeding.
Superstore — Going on Strike
A lot of the employees walked out while on their shift in the hopes of getting Glenn his job back. The regional manager has arrived and is working with Jonah and Amy to see how they can get the employees back to work. Initially, Amy and Jonah ask only for Glenn to have is job back, but they must sign a letter saying that they apologize for walking out. While it seems like a small request, they decide that the employees really deserve more. Part of the goal of unionization is to turn a competitive labor market into a monopoly provider of labor. Through collective bargaining, Amy and Jonah demand more for their group.
Superstore — Union Memos
The lights are off in the store, but Dina and Glenn are searching for the manual override code to get power back online. While searching, Glenn goes through a series of older memos from the corporate office about how to keep union activity minimized. While stores cannot legally stop employees from unionizing, they have an incentive to keep unionization efforts at a minimum to keep labor costs low. The managerial opposition hypothesis is one explanation for low unionization in the US and primarily focuses on firms taking a proactive role in discouraging unionization.
The Simpsons — Day Laborers
In this scene, Homer and Bart are loading construction materials into their car at Builder’s Barn (a Home Depot-type store). Bart isn’t sure his dad is capable of handling the word himself when a group of immigrant day laborers offer their services. The day laborers have come from nearby Barleyville due to a recent “Barley Bust.” Homer accepts their offer and welcomes them to his home. He now feels superior because he’s able to hire workers to do jobs “we don’t want to do,” but then a hoard of laborers rushes the town of Springfield.
For a deeper look at economics and The Simpsons, check out Josh Hall’s book Homer Economicus.
The Pajama Game — 7 1/2 Cents
Asking for a raise is tough, but even a modest raise in wages can have a huge impact on worker salaries. In this scene from The Pajama Game, we see how a 7.5 cent raise can impact a worker’s wage. The cast goes through the calculations of what they could earn with additional income, including an automatic washing machine, a year supply of gasoline, and a vacuum cleaner.
Assessment idea: This is a neat opportunity to calculate real wages and see what 7.5 cents would be worth today versus 1953. The BLS has a calculator so you don’t have to wait!
Looking for more: Do you want to see more economics in Broadway shows? Check out BroadwayEconomics.com
Thanks to Mark Sammons from the University of Arizona for sending this clip in!