Gangs of New York — Fire Departments

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!

Super Troopers — Who Owns the Beach

 

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.

John Stossel — Tragedy of the Commons

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.

Always Sunny — The Cost of Health Care

 

After Dee has a heart attack, she heads to the hospital only to find out that she doesn’t have insurance because her dad canceled the policy when they were younger. Mac and Charlie are confused that people have to pay to stay in a hospital because they think of it like a public good similar to police and fire protection, which is nonexcludable.

Frank shows up to get a full body health scan because he’s been having a bit too much fun. This line alone is a great clip for teaching moral hazard when it comes to healthcare.

Always Sunny — Charlie & Mac Can’t Go to the Pool

In this episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Mac and Charlie try to go swimming during the heat wave in Philadelphia. They grab their beer and floaties and head over to the local swim club. However, they are stopped by a worker who makes them put their beer away and then proceeds to tell them that they cannot be there because they are not members of the swim club. Frustrated with this, Mac and Charlie decide to make their own swim club, one that anyone can attend.

This clip relates to economics because the swim club is an example of an excludable, non-rival good, which is a club good. Because Mac and Charlie don’t pay the fee to be a member, they are unable to swim there. And, the worker tells them that they are at full capacity and are accepting no more members because the pool has the ability to restrict the number of members and charge higher prices. The two get disgruntled because they think the pool really isn’t at full capacity. They decide to go to an abandoned pool, one they used to swim in during their childhoods, and revamp it to make it nonexcludable and nonrival, which would make it a common resource. However, since it would become a public good, it would be easy to get overcrowded, making it rival and a common good.

Thanks to Anna DeCecco for the clip and summary.

The Simpsons — Pay What You Want

Homer and Lisa go to the Springfield Museum, but Homer isn’t sure he understands the entrance policy. He checks with the attendant, but doesn’t know why anyone would want to pay the suggested donation when they could go in without paying anything.

Team America — Freedom Isn’t Free (NSFW)

It’s sometimes hard to get across the idea of public services as being a type of public good, but “freedom” may be a simple enough concept for students. This clip from Team America takes a country-spin on why it’s important to pay for public services like freedom. It also can be used to teach the concept of opportunity cost since freedom for people today cost a lot of lives in the past.

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