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. Because the museum is available to everyone, regardless of whether they pay, it operates similar to a public good. The problem? Public goods are subject to free riders, like Homer.

Asrar Chowdhury has a great summary of this episode on The Daily Star as well.

Vox — Homer Simpson: An Economic Analysis

Homer has had about 100 jobs during his many years on television and Vox writers have analyzed his work life. If you plan on using a lot of Simpsons clips throughout your course, they may be a good introduction for students unfamiliar with the show.

The Simpsons — Blinky the Fish

Bart and Lisa are fishing when Bart pulls out a fish with three eyes. The end of the clip reveals they are fishing from a stream close to the town’s Nuclear Power Plant.┬áThis clip displays the concept of negative externalities, as the three-eyed fish was implied to be a product of runoff from the nuclear power plant.

Thanks for the clip and summary Peter Selinsky.

The Simpsons — King-Size Homer

In this episode, at work Homer is required to participate in an exercise class. He learns that if he is considered disabled that he will not have to participate in the class.┬áHe looks up ways to be considered disabled and finds that being over 300 lbs. makes him disabled. He’s now incentivized to become obese and not have to participate in the class when most people try to avoid becoming overweight.

Thanks to Brooke Bauman for the clip!

The Simpsons — Money or Peanuts

Homer is looking forward to eating the last peanut and goes to toss it in mouth, but he misses and it falls behind the couch. He starts digging under the couch and finds a $20 dollar bill and is initially upset about not finding the last peanut. Homer then goes through the thought process of how money could be exchanged for goods and services and now he can buy many peanuts.

Thanks for the clip Lauren Dempsey!

The Simpsons — Day Laborers

In this rare, popular culture portrayal of Day Laborers, The Simpsons evinces a characteristically ambiguous politics with regard to immigration. At first, Homer’s interaction with day laborers outside Builder’s Barn (a thinly veiled Home Depot surrogate) appears to be ironically progressive, pointing out the social inequalities between day laborers and the people who hire them. However, later in the clip, a broader fear of mass immigration is revealed when Homer declares, “You can’t have too much of a good thing,” whereupon waves of immigrants from neighboring Ogdenville rush into Springfield. The show sidesteps issues of race, by portraying the Ogdenvillians with vaguely Scandinavian features and accents, but otherwise plays out a standard, anti-immigrant narrative followed by a simplistic resolution based on learned mutual respect.

Thanks to Steve Anderson for the clip and description!

The Simpsons — Profit Motives of Publishers

What if it does so, in order to make a profit, by producing things you think are of poor quality. When is profit seeking good? Does Apple prey on us by creating the iPads we love? Or is Lisa on to something here, suggesting that we should not buy things from publishers that don’t contribute to “culture”? This clip should provoke some good discussion, and is ideal for an economics class.

Thanks to F. Bailey Norwood.

The Simpsons — Free Rider

This clip presents a curious problem, class elections take place and one candidate is wildly more popular; however, the election doesn’t turn out the way one would expect. Ask your students what exactly is happening in this clip; and, if they’ve ever experienced it. This clip is good for teaching Free Riding as it pertains to voting and irrational voting.

Luccasen, R. Andrew, and M. Kathleen Thomas. “Simpsonomics: Teaching Economics Using Episodes of The Simpsons.” The Journal of Economic Education 41.2 (2010): 136-49. Print.

Find more at Adrian Fohr’s Critical Common’s page.

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