Futurama — A Can of Old Fish

The gang heads to get some pizza and Fry wants his friends to experience anchovies, a type of small, salted fish. It turns out that these small fish were overfished and the population collapsed. Zoidberg even mentions how sorry he was that his people kept consuming them because they didn’t realize they were a common resource, subject to the tragedy of the commons.

Fry is incredibly rich, and wishes he could bring them back. He at first notes that even incredibly wealthy people aren’t able to purchase everything. At an auction, he finds that there is exactly one can left in the known universe and decides to bid all of his money for the “can of old fish”

While we normally wouldn’t pass judgement on someone’s preferences, it’s hard not to believe that this could a good example of a winner’s curse. Fry’s willingness to pay for the can of fish may not be $50 million, but the utility from winning the auction could be worth that.

Thanks to Brian Lynch for the clip suggestion!

T-Mobile — Ariana or Maps?

The driver of the car faces scarcity (limited data). The driver is forced into a decision between streaming music and using maps with her data. At the end of the commercial she chooses maps, leaving Arianna as her opportunity cost.

Thanks to Brian Devitt for the clip and description!

Moneyball — What’s the Problem?

The study of economics is often boiled down to the allocation of scarce resources, and few media clips illustrate that better than this iconic scene from¬†Moneyball. The Oakland A’s scouts discuss the selection of players based on their appearance, but Beane recognizes that it’s too difficult to replace players using the old method.

Count of Monte Cristo — What is Economics?

In the Count of Monte Cristo, our young protagonist decides to use his down time to train. He sharpens his mind *and his body. He studies different disciplines and, in this particular scene, he gives the definition of economics.

Thanks to Adrian Fohr for the clip and the description!

Futurama — Fishful of Dollars

We can see economic concepts throughout the episode when Fish learns that he is rich because of a small savings account he opened 1000 years ago. Thanks to interest rates, his money has grown to billions. When Fish and his friends try to order a pizza, he finds out that anchovies no longer exist because of overfishing when humans arrived on the planet.¬†Zoidberg notes that his people killed the anchovies because they always believed one more wouldn’t have an impact.

The Pursuit of Happyness — Cold Calling

In The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris (played by Will Smith) is cold calling potential clients in order to increase sales for his company. The salesman who creates the most new clients will be hired on, but because of his personal life he isn’t able to put in the same amount of time as his competitors. Chris discusses a variety of ways he saves time, including not hanging up the phone and not drinking water, each of which would cost him valuable time.

John Stossel — Price Gouging

Is price gouging evil or is it the sensible economic decision when shortages arise? In this series, John Stossel explores price gouging around natural disasters. This topic is really good for discussing the tradeoff between equity and efficiency.

Better Call Saul — Sunk Cost Fallacy

If you’re teaching the sunk cost fallacy, this clip from Better Call Saul can be used to define the term. Kim tries to convince Jimmy to keep being a lawyer because of how much time and effort he put into the bar exam. Jimmy cuts her off to teach her about the sunk cost fallacy and how it’s a waste of time.

The Simpsons — Opportunity Cost of Lines

If you’re teaching opportunity cost, this is a great clip to show the value of time. Homer waits in line 8 days to grab a coveted ticket to an event. A passerby accurately notes that the Homer could have just purchased the ticket with the money he would have earned from working.

The following scene has a nice clip that can be used to talk about efficiency and equity.

If you love economics and The Simpsons, Josh Hall edited a book that may interest you.

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