Claire Wants to Contribute

 

Claire is feeling a like she is not contributing to the family because she doesn’t have a job. She has applied to 5 jobs recently, but despite her college degree is rejected from all of them. Because she has been out of the labor force for so many years, he human capital has depreciated.

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Farewell to VHS

 

Video cassettes are being replaced by DVDs and streaming services and are becoming an outdated technology. Before getting rid of their VCR, Claire and Phil are going through their VHS collection and watching the movies one last time.

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Fiberoptic vs Natural Trees

 

Manny puts up a fiber optic Christmas Tree, because it is better for the environment, but Jay thinks it is ugly and does not want it in his house. This clip highlights both positive externalities of the fiber optic tree (environmental benefits) and negative externalities of the tree (Jay’s psychic costs). Jay and Manny have been trying to cut down their own Christmas tree for hours, but it is not budging and keeps ruining their tools. Jay has finally had enough and says Pritchetts know when to give up. All their previous effort is a sunk cost, and it would take too much effort relative to the reward of a half burned tree to keep going.

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Claire’s 20-year Vacation

 

It is the first day back to school for the kids, but also Claire’s first day at her new job working for her father, Jay. Claire’s husband Phil tries to be supportive, but refers to the last 20 years that Claire has spent as a stay at home mom as a vacation.

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Stay-at-Home Mom

 

It is career day at Luke’s school, and the teacher asks Claire to speak about her job as a stay at home mom. She points out that she actually has a lot of different jobs, and while she would like to go back to work, it is hard to find a job after you have been out of the labor force for 15 years.

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Welcome to the Year 2025

 

Phil has programmed everything in the house to be controlled by his iPad. He can now turn on lights, the TV, and the fireplace from his device. He notes that it is like being in the future.

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Framing a Yard Sale

 

Luke and Manny’s class is having a yard sale to benefit UNICEF. When Mitchel doesn’t want to donate Cam’s pants, Luke tries to re-frame the charity attempt to guilt his uncle into donating more money. Framing is one tactic to get people to do something they may not have done under the original design.

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Money Delgado

 

Manny is playing the stock market game at school and gets so involve that he doesn’t enjoy the family’s trip to Disneyland because he is worried about the market volatility.

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Cam Gets a Job

 

Since Lilly is now in school and Cam and Mitchell are not adopting another baby, Mitchell thinks it is time for Cam to get a job. Their friend Longeness offers him a job at his boutique to help Mitchell out. Cam accepts because it does seem like a great match for his tastes and skill set, but Jeoux let’s the cat out of the bag that it wasn’t a sincere offer, and Cam is very offended that Mitch thinks he is too lazy to get a job.

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Walking to Canada

 

When a classmate’s house burns down, the Pritchett family bands together to find things to donate to their cause. Manny and Luke are put in charge of a remote controlled helicopter that Manny has been coveting. Luke convinces Manny to fly it and they promptly lose the helicopter. Manny is scared of what Gloria will do when she finds out and threatens to walk to Canada if they do not find it. Luke replies that he hopes Manny likes taxes. Canada does tend to have higher tax rates than the United States, but there are also differences in the services provided by the two governments.

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One Nice Thing

 

Cam convinced Mitchel that he needs to be kinder so Mitch invites a messy colleague who is going through a breakup to spend the night at their place. Unfortunately, she takes him up on it. Determined to keep their beautiful, brand new, designer white sofa (their one nice thing) in mint condition, they give up their bed for her and sleep on the floor. In this clip, they wake up and discover that she has moved onto the couch. This couch is more expensive than one from Rooms to Go and so it counts more towards GDP. Owning an expensive couch is an indication of Mitch and Cam’s high standard of living. Yet, does a high standard of living mean a higher quality of life? Robert Kennedy didn’t think so:

[GDP] counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

–RFK, Speech at University of Kansas, March 18, 1968.

Another perspective on this clip: resources are scarce. At it’s heart, economics is about how we choose to use those resources. Purchasing this couch moved Mitch and Cam on to a higher indifference curve than before they purchased it so their utility is higher than it used to be. But could they have been on an even higher one if they chose to buy a cheap couch and spend their money on something else? Traditional economics says that Mitch and Cam are rational and made the best decision. Is it possible that they could have made a mistake? What if they incorrectly estimated the cost of maintaining the couch. Could this also demonstrate time inconsistency?

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Who Uses a Fax Machine?

 

After receiving a nomination to a major closet expo, Jay receives a phone call who expects to be full of congratulatory remarks. He instead finds the dial tone from a fax machine that has misdialed the number the intended. Jay, who isn’t the most technologically savvy member of the family, wonders why anyone might still be using a fax machine.

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L’expo de Internationale

 

There’s a lot going on in this clip. The main focus is on Claire and Jay. Pritchett Closets (which Jay founded and Claire runs) has been selected to participate in the Expo Internationale du Closet! Both Claire and Jay are over the moon excited. But why? Participating in this event exposes them to an international market. They can expect a big increase in demand for their product. The second focus is on Manny. Manny has moved out but found that there are certain things about living at home that he really misses. This is something that a lot of people discover when they move out. These early lessons in personal finance can be tough!

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It’s All About Dignity

 

Mitch is working on a big case about the rights of vulnerable workers. In it, he argues that a company is preying on the lack of options available to people who are homeless and hiring them for extremely low wages. He believes that this is a violation of labor laws and tries to get the notice of the press. However, Cam is stealing the spotlight as a successful high school football coach who is openly gay. Traditional economics holds that trades which are voluntary (such as employment) are mutually beneficial. As such, is the company truly taking advantage of its workers or do they benefit from the employment opportunity? Political economics suggests that you cannot ignore the power inequality between the company and the workers. When a large power imbalance is present, exploitation is possible. Which is more in line with Mitch’s perspective? Traditional economics or political economics? Would the people who are homeless be helped by increasing the wage? How would that impact structural unemployment?

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Andy Never Gives Up

 

Andy is Jay and Gloria’s new “manny” (a male nanny). He’s also been hanging out a lot with Haley, which makes Phil and Claire suspect a budding romance. In this scene, Andy approaches Phil because he wants to becoming a real estate agent. He knows that he’s going to need to acquire more human capital before he’s able to do that so he asks to work as Phil’s new assistant. In this scene, we watch Andy interview for this job. We also find out why Haley and Andy have been spending so much time together – they are practicing interview skills. Interviewing is like everything else and requires a special set of skills that we can get by practice. The better someone is at interviewing, the shorter the amount of time is that s/he will be among the frictionally unemployed (unemployment that results because it takes time to match the right worker to the right job).

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Columbia Clothing Coincidence

 

Jay got new glasses that make him look like an old man but they work really well. So well that he realizes that Gloria’s family members in Columbia are wearing his old clothes. Notice that Gloria says that they sometimes send the clothes back. In the US, people frequently donate clothing to people in less developed countries. Many economists argue that this is counterproductive and leads to a surplus of clothing in these countries. That surplus can hurt markets and cost jobs.

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Role Reversal

 

After Mitchell quit his job, Cameron went to work to support them. Both Mitchell and Cameron think their partner is happy with this role reversal, but both are miserable and want to return to their original arrangement.

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Working Girl

 

Claire is going to meet an old friend from work, but her kids are surprised to find out that she once had a job. She describes why she chose to leave the workforce.

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Just Text Me

 

Claire is trying to get the kids downstairs for breakfast and is shouting across the house. Hailey doesn’t understand why Claire won’t just text them, but Claire refuses. Improvements in technology should make everyday life more efficient, but Claire wants to stick with tradition.

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Gentrification & Cupcakes

 

Manny lost Luke in a “sketchy” neighborhood. He and Phil enlist Gloria’s help to track him down. When they arrive in the neighborhood, they find that it has changed quite a bit since Gloria lived there. When searching for a girl, they have the option of visiting one of the four area cupcake stores, each specializing in a different area.

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Claire Petitions the HOA

 

Homes and yards that are improperly maintained decrease the property value of neighbors. This is a negative externality. To prevent this from happening, many modern neighborhoods have an HOA. The HOA decides what changes homeowners are allowed to make to their property and act as a non-market solution to externalities. They only allow changes that either do not impact the property value of other homes (no externalities) or that increase the property value of other homes (a positive externality). In this clip, Claire attends her HOA’s meeting. She submitted a proposal to build a “she shed” in her backyard that was denied. She believes this was not appropriate because the shed won’t be visible from the street and will not impact neighbor property values. What she doesn’t know is that her son, Luke, intercepted the request and responded with a fake denial so the HOA doesn’t understand why she is so belligerent. Phil shows up to warn her but is a little late….

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Training a Champion

 

Jay takes Joe out to the driving range and discovers that Joe is a natural. Joe’s natural skill is a form of human capital that gives him the potential to earn a large salary in the future. Human capital is often acquired through years of training, education and hard work. But sometimes, luck gives some people an edge over others. If Joe works hard and practices, he could follow the path of other young golfers with natural talent like Tiger Woods and Lexi Thompson. Jay wants to do all he can to make that happen.

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Winning at all costs

 

Cam is desperate to win the football game and be a winner. He overhears the opposing team’s coach plans for the next play. Does he act on this insider information? Yes. Using insider information in buying and selling financial securities is illegal because it gives someone an unfair advantage. Similarly, many would consider Cam’s actions cheating. In fact, Cam feels really guilty about it but Mitch encourages him to keep up the facade because winning is also important to him.

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Frozen Assets

 

Haley is in a bind and needs some money real fast. She goes to Luke, but he isn’t really in a position to give her any money because he’s decided to freeze his cash. He even remarks to Haley that he isn’t very liquid right now, but we’re not convinced he actually knows about liquidity.

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Manny Helps Jay Double Tap

 

One of the tougher topics to get across to students is why older Americans start to leave the labor force. One explanation for the leave is that they see a decrease in their human capital and that some of their previous training is no longer relevant. This clip does a good job bringing humor to a topic that often sounds derogatory.

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