Right next door to where Mitch was taking trumpet lessons was a massage parlor offering massages for the exact same price as trumpet lessons. Cam believes Mitch has been practicing the trumpet for two years now, but it turns out that Mitchell has just been getting regular massages. Utility maximization assumes that when two items are the same price, consumers will chose the item with the higher utility. While Mitch originally thought he wanted to learn how to play the trumpet, he realized each additional massage generated higher levels of utility than another trumpet lesson.
See more: equimarginal principle, marginal utility, substitutes, utility, utility maximization
Jay is shocked that Manny won’t eat pickles, so he won’t let him leave the table until he tried one. Gloria thinks Jay is being a hypocrite and forces him to try blood sausage. Then Jay decides Gloria need to try something new too: scratching the dog, Stella’s, belly. While they all seem to hate what they try at the time, we see Gloria petting Stella’s belly voluntarily and Manny surreptitiously eating a pickle at the end of the episode. This highlights the need for full information in order to know your true preferences.
See more: behavioral, full information, preferences, tastes and preferences, utility
Cam’s dad, Merle, is fighting with Cam’s mom and they are considering a divorce. While there are utility gains from separating from partners, Merle believes he can do better than his current wife because he sees Jay and Gloria as role models. Gloria, however, paints a bleak picture of Merle’s future. Does Merle really have better options waiting out there or would he maximize his expected utility by staying with his current wife?
See more: cost benefit analysis, expectations, opportunity cost, tradeoffs, utility
Claire’s favorite holiday is Halloween, but last year she may have went a little overboard to the point that the homeowners association forbid the Dunphey’s from doing particular things this Halloween. Claire’s goal is each Halloween is to produce a scary experience for trick-or-treaters visiting, but even Phil thinks she may have gone too far investing in professional grade makeup. He suggests that she could be twice as scary without wearing any makeup at all.
Another way to view this clip is through the impact of private benefits and social costs. Claire spends a lot of money each year on Halloween decorations, but her private benefits may not exceed the social costs imposed on neighbors (at least according to the HOA). The social costs of her decisions include someone wetting themselves and someone having a heart attack. While Claire may factor these into her investment decision, the HOA determined that the social costs outweigh the social benefits and has opted for a command-and-control approach to Halloween decorations at the Dunphy house.
See more: command and control, decreasing returns, diminishing marginal returns, government regulation, marginal utility, negative externalities, negative returns, role of government, utility
Luke is finally tall enough to go on the rollercoasters and Disneyland, but Phil may be at the age where he can’t handle that pressure. The self-proclaimed “King of Rollercoasters” visibly diminishes as Luke seems to be unfazed by the G-force. While each ride adds a bit of additional joy to Phil’s overall utility, the marginal cost is clearly increasing as he continues to ride each ride. It’s not long before Phil’s marginal cost outweighs the marginal benefit of one more ride.
See more: decreasing returns, diminishing marginal returns, increasing marginal cost, marginal utility, marginal benefit, marginal cost, negative returns, utility, utility maximization
Its Halloween and Gloria often ties to coordinate her costume with Jay, but he usually just accepts whatever Gloria picks for him. At this point in their marriage, he’s tired of being the “ugly” sidekick while Gloria goes as some beautiful character. The two would like to coordinate their outfits so that they are both happy, but what they may not be able to match correctly. Consider this a modern version of the Battle of the Sexes game.
See more: Battle of the Sexes, choices, coordination game, game theory, interdependent utility functions, payoff matrix, preferences, utility
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
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.
See more: charity, donations, efficiency, emerging markets, gift giving, growth, interdependent utility functions, preferences, utility
Claire is feeling under the weather but has too much to do. Phil offers to help her out with her errands and pick up some slack until she feels better. One of the gains of partnerships is that if one person goes down, the other can pick up the slack.
See more: gains from trade, gains to marriage, risk pooling, risk sharing, 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
Mitchell complains to Jay about Cam being too nice, and Jay complains to Mitchell about Gloria not liking his dog butler. In the beginning of the scene, the two complain about the actions of their partners and how it imposes a cost on them that they feel their partner is not considering. Jay loves his dog butler, but he also doesn’t want to upset his wife. Cam spends a lot of time helping people and animal, but Mitchell feels it is sometimes a burden.
Jay notes that they are both with people who are very different and that maybe that makes their relationships better. The concept of interdependent utility functions is that people maximize combined utility of a household/relationship even though that means they way not be maximizing their own individual utility functions.
See more: assortative mating, gains from trade, gains to marriage, interdependent utility functions, matching, preferences, utility
After a successful trip to Vegas, Jay decides to purchase a dog butler statue as a gift for himself. He thinks 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 clearly receives private benefits from his purchase (and he also thinks there are social benefits), Barkley has imposed an external cost on Gloria, which Jay has clearly not considered.
The Coase Theorem would suggest that if Gloria is truly unhappy about Barkley, she could arrange some form of payment to get Jay to put him away. We learn later that the fight between them was enough for Jay to recognize that he’s imposing a cost on Gloria, and instead decides to get rid of the butler.
See more: Coase Theorem, external costs, externalities, negative externalities, preferences, utility
Cam is talking to a lady at Lily’s play class about movies to make small talk, and they have very different opinions on how talented Meryl Streep is. Cam loved her performance in Sophie’s Choice and has a hard time thinking about having to choose between Lily and Mitchell. The first concept in the opening scene covers subjective preferences of individuals. Cam believes Meryl Streep is the best actress, implying he’s able to rank performers, a necessary condition of utility theory.
The ending scene ties back with the movie, Sophie’s Choice, where Streep must chose between her child or her spouse. Cam weighs the same issues and realizes he would struggle having to decide between saving family members. While most tradeoffs are not as serious, each decision we make includes opportunity costs, which must be considered in the decision making process.
See more: choices, preferences, ranking, opportunity cost, subjective value, tradeoffs, transitivity, utility
Mitch and Cam have a house guest who made breakfast using the expensive caviar that they had been saving for a special occasion. While enjoying their wonderful meal, they realize that there are all sorts of things that they have never used because they were waiting for the perfect time. This demonstrates choice paralysis. Cam and Mitch have seemingly endless choices for when to consume these special things but they never actually do. Choice paralysis says that we have a difficult time making a choice when there are too many options. As a result, we cannot chose and end up with a sub-par outcome.
See more: choice paralysis, choices, framing, positional goods, preferences, utility, utility maximization
Gloria is sick and Cam tries to help around the house. Gloria’s family remedy for colds is a bit smelly and Cam accidentally uses Joe’s cape in the process. Gloria immediately recognizes this will be and issue and points out that Joe has a strict ranking set when it comes to that cape. Joe loves the cape so much more that he even places the cape above his own father. Part of utility theory requires transitivity, which is the ranking requirement of consumption.
See more: preferences, ranking, subjective value, transitivity, utility
Cam and Mitch have been married 3 months, but it seems like their honeymoon will never end. Cam continues to give Mitchell flowers even though he clearly doesn’t enjoy them as much as he used to. He may have loved the first bouquet, but eventually he may start to hate them.
See more: diminishing marginal returns, gift giving, inefficiency, preferences, rationality, utility