2012 Writing Contest: Economics on TV?
Third Place Essay
Hit and Run
ABC's Modern Family is a popular hit sitcom known for its ability to make people laugh hysterically at a somewhat "normal" family living their crazy lives. In one of my favorite episodes, called "Hit and Run," Claire, wife to husband Phil and mother of Luke, Alex, and Haley, decides to run for City Council. This episode exemplifies many of the basic economic concepts in a humorous and entertaining manner.
When Claire is driving one day, she almost runs over her husband Phil, who is power- walking across the street. She gets flustered and rants on and on about how a stop sign is needed at the intersection in order to prevent future accidents, especially since she almost hit a car before almost hitting Phil. It is here that we see one of the most basic economic concepts in action: costs and benefits. There are basic costs such as raw materials needed for the construction of the stop sign and the cost of labor needed in order to assemble it. In addition to these basic costs, the money needed to install the stop sign may come from residents in the form of local income taxes, which could possibly cause taxes to be slightly higher. Also, in the episode, current councilman Bailey tells Claire that if there is to be one stop sign built, everyone is going to want one. This too could potentially cause higher income taxes in order to pay for not only one stop sign, but several others as well.
As with the costs, there are also benefits, and Claire's plea to put in the stop sign has many. The first, and probably most obvious, benefit of having a stop sign would be that it would be safer for the community, specifically pedestrians. They would be able to run or walk (or, in Phil's case, "power walk") without the fear of being hit by a car. Similarly, drivers will not have to worry about hitting a pedestrian if they simply stop at the stop sign. However, if drivers run the stop sign, this could potentially benefit the government, which may see an increase in revenue from drivers running the stop sign, getting tickets, and having to pay for them. This could be seen as a cost to drivers as well because the more traffic tickets they get, the higher their insurance is going to be. Looking at it from a realtor's perspective, the decision to put in a stop sign could increase the value of homes because buyers see that it's a safer neighborhood with a stop sign to regulate the speed of cars, especially if they have young children who would want to play outside.
The final economic concept that is seen in this episode is opportunity cost. Claire, being a stay-at-home mom, knows very well how to manage her time, making sure the kids are taken care of, the cooking and laundry are done, and the house is clean. When she decides to run for office, however, Phil reassures her that he can take care of everything and have it all under control. Claire's opportunity cost of running for city council is leaving her normal routine in Phil's control. Of course, it would not be a comedy if Phil actually had everything under control. He ends up knocking Luke in the eye while trying to get him a band aid, giving Alex nighttime allergy medicine instead of daytime, and making her practically fall asleep, and finds out that Haley got $900 stolen from her in order to buy fake ID's for her and her friends. Through all this chaos, if Claire had just stayed home instead of going down to city council and leaving Phil in charge, none of this would have happened, In addition to Claire's opportunity cost, Phil is giving up his time to stay at home with the kids when he could be out working at his job as a realtor, trying to make sales on houses and provide for his family. This is Phil's opportunity cost.
Overall, this episode of Modern Family not only causes viewers to laugh, but has economic concepts hidden within the plot as well. Costs, benefits, and opportunity costs are the three most prominent in this episode. When trying to learn basic economic concepts, it can be as easy as simply relaxing on the couch and watching an episode of your favorite TV show.
Bowman, Donna. Modern Family. A.V. Club. 11 Oct. 201 l. Web. 23 Feb.2012.
“Hit and Run,” Modern Family. ABC. 11 Oct. 2011. Television.
Modern Family. ABC. Web. 23 Feb. 2010. http: l l abc.go.com/shows/modernfamily/
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