30,000 Pounds of Bananas - Harry Chapin
He passed a sign that he should have seen,
In "30,000 Pounds of Bananas," Harry Chapin tells the story of a truck driver that is delivering bananas to Scranton, PA and crashes because he was going too fast down a hill. Using the lyrics, explain the idea of opportunity costs for the driver. What were the opportunity costs of the company that the driver worked for? Do the marginal benefits of moving so much produce at one time outweigh the marginal costs of having a tired and inexperienced driver out on the road for so long that he sacrifices his own safe driving so he can go home to his wife? How might the incentives of the company and the driver be mis-aligned? Is this an example of a principle-agent problem? Why or why not?
[Provided by Matt Olson, Beloit College]
American Saturday Night - Brad Paisley
She’s got Brazilian leather boots on the pedal of her German car
It’s a French kiss, Italian ice
By reflecting on the lyrics in the songs, explain how free trade, limited limited trade barriers, liberal immigration policies, and broader markets, increase human welfare.
Welcome To The Future - Brad Paisley
My grandpa was in World War 2
How does technological progress make us better off? Comment by using the two examples provided in the lyrics.
Silas Stingy - The Who
In "Silas Stingy", The Who describe a man so in love with his money that he cannot bear to be away from it. Silas even denies himself basic necessities, such as food, to keep as much money as possible. The song ends with a description of how Silas goes to great lengths to protect his existing money from thieves, only to discover that he spent it all in the process. Putting aside Silas' unhealthy obsession with currency, explain how the fractional reserve banking system can help him expand his supply of money through the system of required and excess reserves and loans. On the other hand, explain to Silas why FDIC insurance is necessary to guarantee his money, and how these conditions may make his money safer in a bank than under his mattress. Be sure to also explain inflation and how it can gradually erode the real purchasing power of Silas' money when stored in a bank, even when the money is protected by FDIC insurance and being expanded by the fractional reserve banking system. Finally, make a case for Silas to deposit his money in an FDIC-insured banking institution or keep his hard assets, based on your own opinion of the pros and cons for Silas of fractional reserve banking, FDIC insurance, and the accompanying inflation.
Light Pollution - Bright Eyes
Conor Oberst sings about a man who has lost his job and is now doing “anything to serve a function or to occupy some time” because he feels he must make a living somehow. Opportunity costs, as well as marginal costs and benefits must be weighed against each other to decide if the subject has made a rational decision. The lyrics indicate that the cost of his new lifestyle is a loss of income from his day job. The benefits are more leisure time and a new attitude.
[Provided by Emillea Cohen, Beloit College]
Should I Stay Or Should I Go? - The Clash
The Clash sings about the angst of decision making in their song “Shall I Stay or Should I Go?” Economic theory states that rational decision makers weigh the marginal benefit one receives from an option with its marginal cost, including the opportunity cost. The lyrics give us a rough assessment of the costs (“If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double”). However, little is mentioned regarding the marginal benefit. In fact, the singer tells us that he needs additional information (“Darling you gotta let me know”) and fears that he must make a decision under conditions of imperfect information.
Speculate on what the marginal benefits and the marginal costs might be for staying and going.
[Provided by Jim Davis, Santa Rosa Junior College]
Reno - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen sings about the demand and supply of sex and the subsequent equilibrium prices of different acts in "Reno". Why might some activities result in a higher price than others? Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in SuperFreakonomics provide some evidence that the price of vaginal sex with prostitutes in Chicago is about $80 and oral sex is $37. Why, if Springsteen can be believed, might sex more expensive in Reno than Chicago?
[Provided by Simon Medcalfe - Augusta State University]
Ghost Town - The Specials
The Specials sing about "all the clubs have been closed down". What has caused this? That is what factors have shifted demand for clubs and which have shifted supply? Draw representative demand and supply curves. In the introduction to the video the announcer says it is "1981 and a song that conjures up the era". How does this song reflect that time? (P.S. The Specials are a British band and Top of the Pops was a British music show on TV).
[Provided by Simon Medcalfe - Augusta State University]
Glamorous - Fergie feat. Ludacris
The singer in the song enjoys the glamorous life of expensive things, however she still likes going to Taco Bell. Does this imply that Taco Bell is not an inferior good for Fergie? What about for the average wealthy person.
Ludacris says, "I've got enough money in the bank for the two of us". While they are "taking trips from here to Rome" what is the bank doing with their money? In order to make the actual deposit expansion multiplier get closer to it's potential, would the bank want to maximize or minimize the excess reserves it is holding?
[Provided by Dillon Hess - Beloit College]
Money To Blow - Birdman
This song makes it seem like all rappers have enough "money to blow". Using economic reasoning, explain whether you think Birdman is the exception or the average? What is the problem with only analyzing the lifestyles of rappers you see on television?
What is the opportunity cost of becoming successful enough to have "money to blow?" Does it vary across industries? Your answer should include a discussion of industry specific human capital.
[Provided by Ulysses Smith - Beloit College]
The Fear - Lily Allen
I want to be rich and I want lots of money
And I am a weapon of massive consumption
In "The Fear," Lily Allen sings about a young woman who lives in a trailer but dreams about living with unlimited resources in a large estate. The narrator's utility for some costly but tangible goods (such as clothes and diamonds) is high. On the other hand, her utility for some intangible but costless goods (qualities of cleverness and funniness) is very low. Are these bundles of goods comparable? If not, why not? Why doesn't the narrator care about the clever/funny bundle, especially if it does not have a traditional market value? How does the narrator view clothes and diamonds? Does some of their value come from something other than their market price? What are the trade offs between these two bundles? Also, what is a weapon of massive consumption anyways?
[Provided by Katharine Bigott - Beloit College]
Aint No Rest For the Wicked - Cage the Elephant
This song outlines three different scenarios in which people use illegal means in order to get money. The chorus of the song explains these actions by mentioning a couple popular cliches such as: "Money don't grow on trees," and " There ain't nothing in this world for free." What do you think the economic advantage is to engaging in illegal activity? Do you think that it is their economic state that drives people to commit crimes? Is partaking in illegal activity a never- ending cycle? In other words, is there really "no rest for the wicked" as long as their is scarcity?
[Provided by Jerrica Zaric - Beloit College]
Paperback Writer - The Beatles
The subject of the song states that he wants to be a paperback writer but he "needs a job." How would you classify his employment status? Is he unemployed? Actively seeking new work? Do you think self-employment creates a measurement problem for the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Also if it took him "years to write," does this suggest anything about the opportunity cost of his time?
[Provided by Xilong Zhu - Beloit College]
Can't Buy Me Love - Beatles
I'll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I'll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too
Does money have any intrinsic value? What are the functions of money? How does demand for money affect its supply? How do you think the supply of money versus the supply of diamonds has changed since the since the Beatles wrote this song? What's the reason for the difference? Although money can’t buy love, money can buy a diamond ring. How does the money supply change today if you pay for the diamond ring with credit as opposed to a debit card?
[Provided by Marlie Pykelny - Beloit College]
Money's Too Tight To Mention - Simply Red
What is the singer saying about economics? What is his financial situation and why is he in such an intense pursuit of cash? What are the problems and reasons of bank and family for not lending him the money? What is your point of view on money in such desperate situations? Is "money too tight to mention?"
[Provided by Ilija Bojovic - Beloit College]
Original Pokémon Theme - Billy Crawford
In the song, the narrator insists that he has to “catch ‘em all.” How elastic is the narrator’s demand for pokémon? Considering the law of diminishing marginal utility and the six factors that change the demand for a good, how realistic is his stated elasticity? In other words, is it usually efficient to “catch ‘em all”?
[Provided by Rhiannon Roselle - Beloit College]
Milkshake - Kelis
“It’s better than yours/…/I can teach you/But I’d have to charge.” What sort of market structure is Kelis operating in: price taker, price searcher with low entry barriers, or price searcher with high entry barriers? How would competition affect Kelis’s market and what is she doing to protect her profits?
[Provided by Rhiannon Roselle - Beloit College]
Voodoo Economics - Faker
You got the curtain call
It's all about danger
The speaker is consoling a friend who can’t quite cut it in show business. He makes light of the situation by telling his friend, “You got the kitchen hand job easily/ You'll be king of this here town.”
Is “the friend” better off for taking this job right away and making some money? If this person were to remain unemployed, how long would they be considered part of the workforce? What type of unemployment is this: frictional, structural, cyclical?
[Provided by Shelley Quade - Beloit College]
Money, Money, Money - Joel Gray
If you happen to be rich and you feel like a night's entertainment
If you happen to be rich and you find you are left by your lover
Money makes the world go round
What is the main purpose of the money according to the song? Is money really that powerful? Can it replace happiness in your opinion? What is the purpose of the money if not to afford happiness? Is the song being realistic about the role of money? Why or why not?
[Provided by Ilija Bojovic - Beloit College]
Slow Motion - Third Eye Blind
Ms. Jones taught me English, but I think I just shot her son
In the song "Slow Motion" we see a young man appearing to make several bad decisions. To many, these decisions are irrational. But are they? Explain the young man's actions as a rational. Your answer should discuss the marginal benefits of conducting the violence, drug intake, and sex as compared to the marginal costs of each action.
[Provided by Rajeev Viswanathan - Beloit College]
Tobacco Island - Flogging Molly
What was the economic advantage to engaging in slavery? Why did they choose to engage in economic ventures in Barbados rather than remaining in their home country, especially given the high start up costs (ship construction, supplies for the voyage, etc)? What are the opportunity costs of starting up a overseas economic venture? Given the high levels of unemployment in Enlightenment-era Europe, why didn’t more Europeans join colonization efforts in order to escape
[Provided by Tim Schutt - Beloit College]
Day Job - Gin Blossoms
In "Day Job," Gin Blossoms lead singer Robin Wilson sings about the disillusionment that greets many college graduates, and wonders whether he should return to college and complete his degree. When might the marginal benefits of a greater possibility of graduating and finding a better job be exceeded by the marginal costs of spending time and money at college instead of being fully employed? Should the singer return to college due to the sunk costs of already having attended for some time? What are the opportunity costs of completing college?
[Provided by Kevin Axe - Beloit College]
Pretty Girl From Cedar Lane - The Avett Brothers
The narrator expresses his decision not to put the effort into trying to win the girl’s love because the more time he spends the less energy he has. How do the marginal benefits and the marginal costs of this effort influence his decision? Keeping the concept of sunk costs in mind (“…I’ve done it before”), should the amount of time he has already invested in the girl influence his decision? Why or why not?
[Provided by Emory Nelms - Beloit College]
10 Dollar - M.I.A.
In "10 Dollar" M.I.A. sings about a young child who had her sights set on better things but is stuck in the sex industry. What are the costs and benefits of this girl engaging in the underground economy? How are the opportunities for this girl different since she comes from a developing country? Is her choice rational to charge 10 dollars for sex?
[Provided by Sophie Kaufman - Beloit College]
Career Opportunities - The Clash
The offered me the office, offered me the
In the song, Clash lead singer Joe Strummer sings about job opportunities available and how he doesn’t want any of them. Does this mean he is unemployed? If so, what type of unemployment is it? What is the opportunity cost of him not taking the job? Can it be beneficial for the economy if citizens don’t take jobs offered to them? In the song, Strummer mentions many of his “career opportunities”, many which are jobs with the government; do you think it is beneficial for the government to offer low-paying jobs to jumpstart the economy? Weigh both the pros and cons for of Strummer's decision to not join the labor force.
[Provided by Bebe Santa-Wood - Beloit College]
Shipbuilding - Elvis Costello
After reading the reading the lyrics describe the sacrifices (opportunity costs) of going to and preparing for war.
[Provided by E. Frank Stephenson - Berry College]
Don't Go For The One - Gaelic Storm
I bumped into Harvey back home last year
"I was down in the snail shop she told me to go
the one, the one, don't go for the one.
According to the song, what is Harvey's reservation price for an evening with his friend the narrator, as illustrated by his behavior? What are the opportunity costs of Harvey's activities? Why do people partake in what to outsiders seems like risky behavior? Put yourself in Harvey's shoes and justify his behavior in cost-benefit terms. Are his costs really that "the misses will kill me/I'll surely be done"?
[Provided by Alex Ebner (Student - Beloit College)]
Girl Your Marginal Benefits... - Mike Toomey
Now girl being with you has always been so tough
Cause girl your marginal benefits far outweigh your marginal costs
Put yourself in the shoes of the "girl". Should she be pleased at the line "with each passing minute your marginal cost goes up?" Why or why not?
Refugee - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have
Honey, it don’t make no difference to me
Most people interpret “Refugee” as a song about a woman who’s had a rough go of it in life. But, embedded in the song is a message of the role freedom plays in NOT living like a refugee. Petty, in some sense, is telling listeners that freedom promotes a better life. This message is one that is consistent with many of the findings in macroeconomics: more open and economically free societies prosper; societies that are less free struggle. How would you define economic freedom? How does this differ than your definition of political freedom? How, specifically, does freedom tend to make people more prosperous? Finally, what can policymakers do to increase freedom in a society?
[Provided by Scott Beaulier (Mercer University)]
A Man Needs A Maid - Neil Young
Many rock stars like Neil Young get a maid. Why don’t they do their own cleaning and fix their own meals? If you were thinking about getting a maid what information would you need to make that decision? For example, if you could hire a maid for $100 per day to cook and clean, would you hire her? Does your answer differ if you are a successful lawyer or a burger flipper? Why?
[Provided by Simon Medcalfe (Brenau U.)]