The Neighbor’s Boat

 

The Dunphy’s neighbor has a new boat that they leave in the driveway. Many of the family members are impacted by the visibility of the boat. This represents spillover effects and mean that an externality is present in the market for boats. Some family members see the boat as having a positive externality. Others see the boat as having a negative externality. As there is a relatively low number of people impacted by the boat (the Dunphy’s and other nearby neighbors), Coase theorem suggests that an efficient outcome can be negotiated. But will the Dunphy’s be able to get to it? Claire is immediately interested in finding regulations that restrict how residents can store large property like a boat. Many communities, especially home owner associations (HOAs), have rules pertaining to this situation. These rules are designed to lower the transaction costs associated with these externalities by providing a standardized process for dealing with conflicts between neighbors that settles disputes, thereby increasing the likelihood that an efficient outcome is attained. However, often these processes can end up creating problems themselves. What happens, for example, if the neighbors get together and decide that it’s OK to store the boat in a visible place? If they do and the enforcement agency requires a change, it can make things worse.

Who’s the Smartest?

 

The Dunphy girls both have new boyfriends. Phil and Claire have them over for lunch to get to know them better. Haley’s new boyfriend is an astrophysicist. Alex’s new boyfriend is a firefighter. Astrophysicists require years of high level education. Fire fighters are skilled and well trained but the training they go through doesn’t take quite as long. Who has the most human capital? (Meanwhile, Claire and Phil are trying to determine whether or not Claire is smarter than Phil, Haley’s boyfriend is upset because his theory has been debunked, and Like is stirring the pot with trivia questions. He even references another popular clip in economics.).

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?

A Spider in the Courtroom

 

It’s Halloween and Americans love to wear costumes. Sometimes, they wear costumes to work. This scene underscores the importance of professional dress. The way that we dress is a signal to the world about who we are. Is the stenographer sending the right signal to the court by wearing a spider costume? Do you suppose she would have gotten the job if she dressed like this for the interview? Her choice of attire also casts a negative externality in court as Mitchell and the jury aren’t able to concentrate as well. These social costs are likely outweighing her private benefits.

Tankless Job

 

Phil is trying to sell the house next door to a couple. In order to make the house as desirable as possible, he wants to put his family’s best foot forward. He wants the buyers to want to live beside his family. So, he has the kids outside gardening. This demonstrates adverse selection, signaling and the importance of spillover effects/positive externalities. Good, helpful neighbors are desirable and can increase a property’s value, especially if they take good care of their yard. Thus, there are positive externalities associated with landscaping. To discuss signaling and adverse selection, consider that someone is less likely to move if the neighbors are good than if they are bad. So, it’s entirely reasonable to consider the housing market as being characterized by adverse selection. Phil is doing all he can to signal that he and his family are good neighbors in order to get the couple to by the house and to pay a high price for it. But are they good neighbors? (At the end of this clip, you’ll see the other possible new neighbors. Which new family would each of the Dumphies prefer to live beside? Why?)

Barkley the Butler Dog

 

Jay bought a bog butler in a casino gift shop and thinks that everyone loves it, but Gloria detests it and tries to get rid of it. Every time she comes home, she’s reminded of the dog and it ends up scaring her. While Jay loves it, he’s perhaps not taking into account the cost it has on others in the family.

Summer Journal

 

Luke was supposed to keep a journal all summer, but when school starts again, he realizes he only did one day. Luke’s focus on the present (at the beginning of the summer) imposes large negative externalities on his back when it’s time to turn in the work later in the summer.

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….