A group of economics professors have pooled their collective brainpower to come up with a new way to teach their students — and the general public — about economic principles. They’ve created a site called The Economics of Seinfeld that uses the hit TV series from the 1990s to explain basic financial concepts.
Here’s how the authors describe their aim:
It is the simplicity of Seinfeld that makes it so appropriate for use in economics courses. Using these clips (as well as clips from other television shows or movies) makes economic concepts come alive, making them more real for students. Ultimately, students will start seeing economics everywhere — in other TV shows, in popular music, and most importantly, in their own lives.
Sound stupid? It’s actually kind of clever. Here, for example, is their capsule summary for one episode:
Economic concepts: arbitrage, fixed costs, incentives, variable costs
Kramer and Newman hatch a scheme to arbitrage bottles from NY, where the deposit is 5 cents, to Michigan, where the deposit is 10 cents. They can’t figure out how to make the costs work; gas is too expensive (variable costs), and there’s too much overhead (fixed costs of tolls, permits, etc.) with using a semi to haul the bottles in volume. Finally, they hatch a scheme to use a mail truck, which lowers their variable and fixed costs to zero.
Each episode is tagged with the economic concepts it covers, such as “arbitrage” and “variable costs” in the above example. Clicking on a tag will bring up all episodes with similar themes. Each capsule summary also includes information about where to locate the appropriate clips on the Seinfeld DVDs. (Unfortunately, copyright issues prevent The Economics of Seinfeld from posting clips of the show; you have to look them up yourself.)
I realize this site probably has limited appeal, but I’m squarely in its target audience. I love Seinfeld (especially the early seasons), and think it’s hilarious to use the series to teach people about money. Not bad for a show about nothing!