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!

Friends — The One With All the Candy

 

Monica decides she wants to makes candy for the neighbors even in an attempt to get to know them better (or to liked?) She decides to place the candy in a basket on her door so that anyone can take a piece, but a tragedy of the commons ensues. Her neighbors are taking more than their “share” of the candy and are bothering her throughout the day to get more candy from her. When the commons has been exhausted, the neighbors form a mob.

Thanks to Dawn Renninger for the clip recommendation!

Curb Your Enthusiasm — Unwritten Rules

Larry David teaches Christian Slater the social etiquette surrounding overconsumption of  hors d’oeuvres a party. To start, Slater’s over consumption represents the individual incentives surrounding common resources. Ostrom’s Noble Prize in Economics explored the way social conventions, which David explains, can solve overconsumption issues even when laws aren’t in place.

Thanks to Greg Caskey for recommending it to the #TeachEcon stream on Twitter.

National Science Foundation — Tragedy of the Commons

 

The tragedy of the commons are predictable outcomes when looking at grazing lanes, highways, fisheries, and forests. This quick video from the National Science Foundation is a short introduction to the issues that plague common resources. The ending portion of the video paints the tragedy in a much broader light by highlighting the growing need to preserve nature as populations continue to grow.

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.

TedEd — What is the tragedy of the commons

 

Here’s a great opening video for teaching common resources and the tragedy of the commons. This version of the video actually does a great job explaining the math of the overfishing problem and how you need to have enough reproductive pairs in order to maintain the optimal level of the stock. This video could be used a pre-lesson video to introduce the topic.

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.

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