George notices that the greeting card store downtown is going out of business and he sees this as a business opportunity! He believes that he can buy Texas-themed snow globes for $1 and resell them to his neighbors for $5. George is arbitraging the snow globes, buying low and selling high. He goes through some struggles at first, but finds out how to sell them by the end of the episode.
Boyle’s new food truck isn’t going well at all. He’s losing a lot of money and he can’t seem to change things around. Jake suggests Boyle does what he’s good at and just quits, suggesting that Boyle’s the average price Boyle charges for food is below even his average variable costs. Boyle took out a huge loan and he needs to help pay it back, which may mean that his prices are between the average fixed and average variable costs, in which case he should keep producing even though he’s losing money.
A CIA agent creates a fake Hollywood production in order to fool Iranian terrorists into releasing a group of U.S. diplomats based on the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis. In this scene, Tony (Ben Affleck) presents the concept of Argo. The CIA will eventually grant the proposal, but they want to know if there are any other bad ideas that could be better.
The concept of “the best bad idea” helps explain why some firms may operate in the short-run despite suffering a loss. While firms would love to earn a positive profit, there are a few loss situations available as well:
- (WORST) Firms can produce below AVC and lose both their fixed costs and some of their variable costs
- (BAD) Firms can shut down when prices are below AVC and lose their fixed costs
- (BEST OF THE BAD) Firms can produce as long as prices are above AVC and lose a little bit of money
Some students always want to divert to shutting down if firms face losses, but there’s a “better bad idea” as long as prices are above average variable costs.
Thanks to Darren Grant for the clip suggestion!
Darren also has a new book out entitled Methods of Economic Research!
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.
In this segment, Adam reports on the frustrations of taxes and why we don’t see return-free filing in the United States. Because of lobbying efforts by major tax software companies, the tax system is kept just complicated enough that consumers will purchase their products.
Nick, Kurt, and Dale finish production on their new product, the Shower Buddy. After being asked to produce 100,000 units to be sold to Bert Hanson and his son Rex. The three take our a half million dollar loan and start production, but since they have never done this before, they don’t have the Hansons commit to paying for a portion of their order. Hanson cancels his order with a week before the loan is due in an attempt to buy their company in foreclosure. One line is especially poignant as Hanson notes that hard work doesn’t create wealth, wealth creates wealth. One of the issues with wealth inequality is that it’s not a reward for hard work, but rather a reward for previous work. Vox covered the difference between wealth and income inequality in a nicely illustrated video.
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.
Springfield residents are clamoring to re-enact prohibition in town, but the City Council feels like the positive externalities outweigh the costs associated with alcohol. The County Clerk finds an old law for Springfield ordinance that actually outlaws alcohol. The new Duff Zero (alcohol-free beer) isn’t as popular as the original and the Duff factory has to shut down.
Struggling children’s bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) tries to remain positive as a big retail chain bookstore, Fox Books, opens around the corner. She outlines the differences between their products and services and notes how this could be a good thing for her business. When business try to differentiate their products, they are often operating in a monopolistically competitive environment. The one issue with the entrance of a new competitor in these markets is that it decreases demand for the other firms even if they are a little different. The accountant notes that their revenues are down compared to the same week last year.
When Mr. Pulitzer decides to raise prices in the distribution channel by forcing the newsies (the newspaper boys) to pay higher prices for a pack of 100 papers, the newsies decide to go on strike. Without raising the price to the final consumer, the price increase essentially just lowers the profits the newsies can collect. They decide to go on strike and create a newsies union to have more monopoly power in the process.
I use this clip to introduce the concept of monopolistic competition in a market place and how demand shifts when close substitutes enter a market.