People have a wide array of preferences for working conditions, which creates a heterogeneous workforce. Some workers may need to be paid extra to compensate for unpleasant conditions (known as a compensating differential) while others may be willing to be paid less to work a job that they enjoy. Workers are often assumed to be utility maximizers, not income maximizers, in the decision of which jobs to work and how many hours to work. Adam highlights that notion at the end of this brief scene with a USDA veterinarian who specializes in the disease.
One of the classic commercials of the 1970s came from V8 (they have updated ones as well!). Unknowing consumers of snacks and sodas realize mid bite/drink that they could have had a V8 instead of their other choice. The concept of opportunity costs is that by consuming an item, you give up the opportunity to consumer something else. A rational individual will pick the item with the highest level of utility, but sometimes we aren’t fully aware of all the alternatives. The individuals in this commercial only realize when it’s too late.
The clip was described in Joel Waldfogel’s book, Scroogenomics: Why you shouldn’t buy presents for the holidays. Dr. Waldfogel also appears in an Adam Ruin’s Everything episode on the inefficiencies of gift giving.
Homer and Marge head to the Frying Dutchman for the all-you-can-eat buffet. Heading late into the night, Homer doesn’t seem to be experiencing any diminishing returns even after eating all of the shrimp and two plastic lobsters. Even though he isn’t experiencing diminishing returns, Homer appears to be optimizing his utility since the marginal cost of each plate (and each plastic lobster) is $0.
Stephen Colbert interviews economist Tim Harford about his then-recent book, Logic of Life. Harford and Colbert discuss a number of items that people may consider irrational, but actually turn out to be rational like voting, unprotected sex, and smoking. The entire discussion focuses on the central idea of the definition of rationality.