Vox takes a deeper look into the use of ramen as currency inside America’s prison system. Ramen serves a unique function as money since actual cash isn’t allowed in prisons. In order to serve as currency, an item needs to be durable, portable, and standardized, which ramen is. Ramen is the largest item purchased in prison commissaries and once inmates stockpile ramen, they can inflate/distort prices for other goods and services in the prison. The use of Ramen in prison economies is also mentioned in Brooklyn 99.
In Lucy and the Great Bank Robbery, Lucy and Viv rent their room people trying to visit the New York World’s Fair. Unbeknown to Lucy, she rents the room to two bank robbers who have decided to rob Mooney’s bank at night. After the heist, the bank robbers discuss whether they should stay in town and actually visit the World’s Fair or if they should leave. One of the robbers dutifully notes that money is only good for two things: stealing and spending. While your economics instructor would probably advise against the first part, we typically focus on the role of money as being only used for spending or saving. The two then go on to discuss how they’ll store their money since they can’t put the stolen money back into the bank. Saving money at home (in mattresses or in the ground) are common ways that money leaks from the money supply.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac, McDonalds is releasing a special coin that allows the holder to purchase a Big Mac in any country around this world. This “food-backed currency” allows the holder to avoid exchange rates between countries and references The Economist’s Big Mac Index as Big Mac’s ability to be essentially identical across the world. Economists may soon be able to teach a whole survey course using tv and movie scenes referencing McDonalds (1, 2, 3).
Thanks to Kim Holder for the clip suggestion:
This TedEd video looks at how money supply impacts the value of bills in the economy. As an animated illustrated, it does a great job working through the idea of fiat money and how inflation/deflation is controlled through the money supply.
Jakes owes everyone on the squad a lot of money and he starts by paying back Terry. Initially, Jake tries to buy something from a vending machine by giving it a $2.50 coupon because he believes that’s worth what’s printed on the money. When he tries to borrow money from Terry, the Sergeant decides to cut him off because he’s borrowed too much money. Based on the interactions of the squad and Jake, he has a fairly high leverage ratio. When Jake decides to start pay back Terry, he starts by emptying his bank account since that’s the most liquid of his assets.
When introducing money we usually start with a historical lesson on money. Barter economics is always discussed. Here is a funny news item that talks about a man who tried to barter but got arrested. You can also use it to talk about unit of account because they talk about bail being set at 4 alligators.
Thanks to James Tierney for the clip and description.
Colorful stickers have become de facto currency on the playground. TJ can’t buy things because he doesn’t have any stickers even though his friends have them. Because of the increase in demand, the local shop owner doesn’t even have any stickers left.
TJ decides to start working in order to earn more stickers to buy things. When he gets tired of doing labor for stickers, he turns into a managerial role and begins delegating tasks to other kids who needs stickers. When TJ collects nearly all of the Monstickers on the playground, the kids aren’t able to actually purchase anythings. Eventually, Monstickers become obsolete and the playground converts to Lick ‘n’ Stick Alien Stamps and the Monstickers become useless.
Chris’s grandfather gives him a rare dollar bill for his birthday, but Chris doesn’t know about it at the time. The entire episode follows this dollar bill through the city of Quahog and shows the variety of people that interact with the same dollar. The concept of the velocity of money focuses on how many times a single bill can circulate throughout the economy. When a dollar is creator, assuming it isn’t leaked through the money system, it’s value is much more than the actual dollar amount at which it’s printed.
This clip is 10 minutes long (out of a 20-minute episode). There are some parts that may not be suitable for the classroom, so please watch in its entirety before showing in class.
A Business Insider correspondent travels around New York City with 100g of gold and a single Bitcoin to see how easy/difficult it is to conduct transactions using these alternative currencies. Even though gold is universally agreed currency, no one is willing to accept it. Bitcoin is a little more popular, but some local places didn’t accept it as payment.