It’s the 4th of July, and Joe isn’t as excited as his parents are about the holiday. Gloria mentions that Joe should be excited to live in America because she grew up in a banana republic. The zinger is that Banana Republic is the only store available that she could have shopped at, but a banana republic is a political economy term used to describe a country with an economy that is dependent on a single export. Gloria, originally from Columbia, could also have come from a banana republic.
See more: absolute advantage, Banana Republic, comparative advantage, development, exports, inequality, international trade, political economy, trade
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.
See more: altruism, behavioral, charity, framing, incentives, inequality, poverty
The family is headed to Disneyland, but Manny is caught up in a simulated stock market game for school. It’s near the deadline and he wants to make sure he wins the competition, but volatility in the stock market has caused his portfolio to finish below expectations. Even though they’re playing with fake money, Manny dreams of the things he could afford if only he was rich, implying there’s a level of inequality among the haves and the have nots.
See more: income, income inequality, inequality, money, personal finance, stock market, volatility, wealth
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.
See more: budget balance, comparative systems, inequality, macro, role of government, taxation
Cam convinced Mitchell 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 its 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?
See more: altruism, GDP, gross domestic product, luxury goods, opportunity cost, positional good, quality of life, risk, risk aversion, standard of living, tradeoffs
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. At the same time, 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, some might argue that the company isn’t taking advantage of its workers since the workers 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.
A second use of this clip comes from the role of spouses in the household production model. The happiness of each individual party is important, but the other partner’s utility enters the utility function of each individual. This interdependency is important because it explains why some partners may opt for a decision that doesn’t maximize their own utility, but instead do so because it maximizes their partner’s utility.
See more: altruism, externalities, income inequality, interdependent utility functions, labor law, living wage, negative externalities, political economics, private benefits, social costs, specialization, structural unemployment
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.
See more: gentrification, growth, imperfect competition, incentives, income inequality, market structures, monopolistic competition, preferences, product differentiation
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.
See more: human capital, incentives, income inequality, labor, productivity, tournaments, wages, winner take all