Public goods are defined as products that are nonrival and nonexcludable, like the global position system (GPS) operated by the US federal government. The nonrival nature means that it isn’t costly for the government to provide the service to an additional user and the nonexcludability component means that anyone can access that service even if they don’t pay taxes to support the service. While GPS was initially developed for military purposes, the government has made the technology available for anyone with a GPS received and companies have created new products and services based on that technology.
Public goods are defined as products that are nonrival and nonexcludable, like weather forecasts in the United States. The nonrival nature means that it isn’t costly for the government to provide the service to an additional user and the non-excludability component means that anyone can access that service even if they haven’t paid for it. Weather forecasts were traditionally provided as a public good, but some companies have been working to change the excludability criterion to turn weather forecasts into an artificially scarce good.
Club goods, also known as artificially scarce goods, are defined as products that are nonrival, but excludable. Previously, weather forecasts were widely available to everyone, even people who didn’t pay for the information, but private companies have limited the National Weather Service’s ability to provide that information. These private companies still use the data from the NWS, so it doesn’t cost the company to provide service to one more user (nonrival), however, they can withhold that information from people who don’t pay for the premium experience (excludable). Club goods create a deadweight loss to society because the price of the product is greater than the cost of production.
Homer has found a new British show on PBS and he’s really loving it, but then they interrupt his show to ask for money. Betty White is a guest during the telethon and mentions that anyone who watches even a second of PBS and doesn’t donate is equivalent to a thief.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a nonprofit American public television show. While the channel focuses primarily on educational programming, it relies on donations from viewers to help support its budget. PBS would be considered an example of a public good since it is nonrival and nonexcludable. One of the problems with public goods is that it is subject to underprovision because of free riders, like Homer, who consume the service but don’t contribute to its production.
Thanks to Tom Flesher for the recommendation on Twitter:
J Cole discusses the impact of tax brackets on his earnings. As J Cole continues to increase his earnings, he moves into new tax brackets, which requires an increasing amount of tax liability to the government. This song could be used as a good pre-class video before discussing tax policy. The Tax Policy Foundation provides the country’s tax brackets since the inception income taxes as part of the 16th Amendment.
J Cole notes in the song that the money is supposed to support schools and roads, but he doesn’t believe the money is being used efficiently by politicians. He argues that because he pays so much, he should be able to have some say in how the money is used, but that’s part of the explanation for pork spending already in that companies rent seek and convince politicians to vote in favor of their interests:
I pay taxes, so much taxes, shit don’t make sense
Where do my dollars go? You see lately, I ain’t been convinced
I guess they say my dollars supposed to build roads and schools
But my niggas barely graduate, they ain’t got the tools
Maybe ’cause the tax dollars that I make sure I send
Get spent hirin’ some teachers that don’t look like them
And the curriculum be tricking them, them dollars I spend
Thanks to Kim Holder for the song suggestion!
In this animated short from the Walt Disney Company, Uncle Scrooge discusses the history or money and the importance of money in the overall economy. There are A LOT of great teaching opportunities in this clip and would make a great summary of a money supply lesson or a required video to be watched before the lesson.
Opening to 7:15
History of Money
Huey, Dewie, and Louie visit Scrooge McDuck and request that he help them save the money they had earned. Scrooge goes through the history of money and discusses the role of salt as the original salary that Roman soldiers received. He then goes on to describe money from other societies and why money was important following original barter economies. The characters even discuss the role of money as a medium of exchange!
7:15 to 9:59
After learning of the importance of money in the economy, the brothers question why central banks don’t just print more money if everyone wants it. Uncle Scrooge discusses the role of fiat money and why it’s important for the money to be backed by something or someone who can promise to pay the notes that are printed.
10:00 to 13:20
Financial Planning and Taxes
Uncle Scrooge teaches the brothers about the importance of budgeting. People need to make sure that they allocate a portion of their income toward rent, food, and other necessities. He also teaches them about the role of taxes and how important it is for governments to have a budget and make sure that they collect taxes to pay debt.
13:20 to End
Velocity of Money & Investment
The boys are curious why Scrooge keeps so much money in his vault if he tells them that it’s important to put money “to work.” He teaches them that the money in his vault is just his petty cash and then goes on to discuss the importance of money circulating through the economy. The ending portion discusses the role of corporations issuing stocks and shareholders collecting dividends. At the end, he signs the boys up to manage their funds, but charges them a fee. The boys aren’t happy, but he laments that “nothing is ever free.”
PBS Newshour investigates the economics around the first Thanksgiving, including the differences between Europe’s cash economy and the indigenous barter system as well as common resources and property rights.
Instead of being served by a single public fire department, the area has regional brigades of volunteer firemen who are more focused fighting each other rather than putting out the fires. As the brigades fight for the right to put out the fire, the building burns and looters steal what they can.
Thanks to James Gordon from Elbert County Comprehensive High School for the clip suggestion and description!
A group of enlightened drivers ponder the ownership of a beach. Beaches are typically public property, but in some areas they may be private land. One of the issues of beach ownership is determining who’s liable for an injury. A lack of clear property rights makes it an interesting argument for public/private ownership of areas.
In this Stossel in the Classroom segment, Stossel analyzes the issues around common resources and public goods. In the opening interview, many people believe public versions of items are better and often cite the lack of a price as the main reason for selecting that over a private item. The same people are quick to point out that a public toilet doesn’t have the same connotation because people overuse it and don’t take care of the resources because no one owns it.
This clips is beneficial to talk about how tragedy of the commons can be overcome by assigning property rights to a business and turning it into a private good.