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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Street Strider Embarrassment

 

Phil wants to ride his street strider, but his whole family thinks it is very uncool. Luke points out that he has friends on the street that might see, and Claire not so subtly threatens to leave him if he rides it suggesting she is not getting any joy from him enjoying his street strider and in fact it is harming their relationship.

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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.

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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.).

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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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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.

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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 Dunphys prefer to live beside? Why?)

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Never Bitten

 

On their way out the door for their big night, Manny and his father walk through a mist of cologne. Gloria notes that despite the terrible smell, she’s never seen him get a mosquito bite.

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Site for a Sauna

 

Jay spends some time in the sauna au naturale, but Mitchell doesn’t appreciate the eyefull. Their awkward exchanges have been impacting other guests at the spa as well.

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Gasp in 20 Pages

 

In order to get some alone time from their partners, Mitchell and Jay decide to head to the desert, but they didn’t think they’d run into each other at the same spa. In the middle of reading the same book, Mitchell comes across a shocking detail and spoils part of the book for Jay who is sitting across the pool.

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Gangster Attire Optional

 

On their way to Phil’s father’s wedding, Phil asks his family to dress like 1920 gangsters, but it seems like they are the only guests their in costume. Phil is notorious for embarrassing his family and each member relates a time Phil did something that made him happy, but imposed social costs on others.

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Externalities in a Small Room

 

The Dunphys are having their house fumigated so they have to squeeze into a small hotel room. The neighboring dogs are barking all night and a train runs through around night time. Luke tries to set off a cologne bomb and ends up stinking up the whole room.

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The Virus

 

Mitch gets sick on his honeymoon, but spreads it to everyone else in the family. Each member goes through the pain they endured because Mitch didn’t quarantine himself. Only later in the episode do they find out that Mitch isn’t patient zero.

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