It’s Phil’s 50th birthday and Jay decides to try and sneak a gift to Phill that Cam had given him before. What Jay doesn’t realize is that Cam had inscribed the front cover and as Phil begins to red the inscription, Cam recognizes it is the same book that he gave Jay before. Giving gifts can be seen as wasteful if the giver doesn’t fully know the recipients preferences and willingness to pay. The entire family tends to give each other gifts that the others don’t always want, but this time Jay didn’t even take the time to open the book in the first place.
See more: deadweight loss, exchange, gift giving, inefficiency, irrationality, self interest, subjective value
Cam and Mitch are having a nice breakfast with Jay, but it turns out jay only invites them to breakfast because he has to meet a club minimum in order to keep his membership. We learn that Jay also buys people gifts from the club shop so that he can help his balance and even offers to get Cam and Mitch some spa services. This incentive mechanism by the club ensures that people aren’t just joining the club for the golf perks, which have relatively low profit margins.
See more: altruism, gift giving, incentives, self interest
Cam has setup a panel that includes Alex, Haley, Manny, and Luke. His original goal was to showcase alternative options beyond college for the high school. It turns out the principal isn’t a fan of that idea, but only because he’s more interested in winning the “Golden Apple” award, which is for schools that have 60% of their class going on to college. His self-interest may push some students into a path that they aren’t meant to be on.
At the start of the scene, we learn that Cam’s not sure he believes everyone should go to college, but he isn’t sure how to proceed once he finds out that his principal is encouraging him to only talk about the benefits of college. Midway through the show, Mitch convinces Cam that if he can make it wear the principal doesn’t get the Golden Apple award, Cam may be promoted to Head Principal which comes with more perks. Cam goes along with it, and switches the theme of the panel to focus on non-college options.
See more: college, education, human capital, human capital investments, incentives, self interest, signaling, signals, skill building
Luke and Manny’s class is having a yard sale to benefit UNICEF. Manny thinks the point is for them to learn about global altruism, while Luke thinks to point is to beat the other class. The teachers have used the incentive of a pizza party in order to encourage their classes to do their best in raising money. Jay is unhappy with this method and would prefer to write a check instead.
See more: altruism, charity, donations, incentives, self interest
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 buy the house and to pay a high price for it. But are they good neighbors?
At the end of the scene, you’ll see the other possible new neighbors. It’s clear which family each of the Dunphys would prefer to live nextdoor.
See more: adverse selection, externalities, housing markets, negative externalities, positive externalities, preferences, private benefits, private costs, self interest, signaling, social benefits, social costs, spillover benefits, tradeoffs
Alex is graduating from high school soon so Phil, Claire and the kids are visiting Cal Tech. Claire thinks Cal Tech is the perfect place for Alex but she’ll find out soon that she and Alex have different preferences. College is one of the ways that we build human capital. As we learn more things, we become more productive and our labor is more valuable. Alex is already really bright and loves academics so college is a good fit to set her up for doing impressive things in the future.
Claire wants a great school that’s close. Alex wants a great school that’s far away. We also learn that Cal Tech has 5 Nobel Laureates on staff, suggesting that Cal Tech itself has a lot of human capital, making it a highly productive college.
Alex learns why Cal Tech might be a better choice for her than an East Coast school. What is more important: the quality of the program or proximity to home? Choices are tough and everything has a cost. Here’s Alex’s current dilemma: stay close to home and attend the best program in the country OR go to a college on the east coast with a weaker program.
See more: cost benefit analysis, incentives, human capital, nonpecuniary benefits, opportunity cost, preferences, self interest, school choice, signaling, skill building, tradeoffs, utility
Dylan’s band is in need of a drummer, and Cam steps up to fulfill that role. Both Mitch and Haley show up to support their boyfriends, but something unexpected happens after the first song. Cam is in the groove and decides to perform an impromptu drum solo. Mitch originally found his solo impressive, but it ended up going on so long that he experienced diminishing marginal returns. In the beginning, each additional batch of time added to Mitch’s utility, but it wasn’t as impressive as the first unit of time, and eventually was more embarrassing than it needed to be.
See more: diminishing marginal returns, self interest, utility
Economists often suggests that competition improves efficiency in markets and Jay seems to agree. He fosters competition within his family to help them achieve their goals. In an earlier scene, we learn that Jay withholds praise to encourage his family, but this year they have all seemingly surpassed his expectations. But are they really achieving those goals? The truth comes out in this clip. It turns out that they’re a family of cheaters and not a family of winners. Jay’s decision to incentivize them with praise has some stark unintended consequences.
See more: cheating, competition, ethics, incentives, moral hazard, motivation, self interest, unintended consequences
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. The decision making process involves weighing the costs (his morals) versus the benefits (winning).
See more: cost benefit analysis, ethics, insider trading, morals, self interest