Economic Perspectives

Goals:

  • Articulate differences between traditional and political economics
  • Discuss the concept of household production
  • Differentiate between individual utility maximization and interdependent utility maximization

Relevant Clip(s):

Overview/Description:

Understanding the role of spouses in an economics setting can be challenging for students because many have not been a serious relationship where household decisions are an important part of the process. Traditional economics suggests that people specialize in their comparative advantage to maximize production, but it focuses on individual utility maximization. In households, the happiness of an individual is a function of the spouse’s happiness. This interdependence means that we may not always be in line with traditional economic analysis and instead focus on an area of political economics. This discussion guide works through the economic perspectives face by Cameron and Mitchell.

Discussion Questions:

Start by working through Who’s the Wife to see the internal struggle that Cam and Mitch’s fathers have in trying to determine the more “lady like” of their sons. Jay admits that his confusion is based on his exposure to the idea that men go to work and women stayed home to care for the house. Does this concept of specialization conform to notion of comparative advantage? Is this more in line with traditional economics or political economics? What harm comes to those who chose to stay out of the work force.

Later in the series, Mitchel loses his job as a lawyer and Cam decides to start substitute teaching at the local school. In their role reversal, the two are experience life as the other. Each believe the other is happy with their new roles, but it turns out they are both miserable. Neither wants to admit this to their partner, but why? Is this the most efficient decision for their combined household happiness? Why might one partner chose not to reveal their dissatisfaction?

Mitchell does eventually go back to work, and Cam becomes the new high school football coach. In the clip, It’s All About Dignity, Cam accidentally paints Mitchell as the “Mrs. Coach” and he assumes the role as head of the household. This upset Mitchell a lot because he believes his work as a public defender is valuable, and perhaps more important than being a football coach. Which is more in line with Mitch’s perspective, the traditional economics perspective or the political perspective. In Mitchell’s case, he’s arguing in support of people who he believes were being taken advantage. Would the people who are homeless be helped by increasing the wage? How would that impact structural unemployment?