Archive for the ‘Written assignment prompt’ Category

Why Textbook Prices Keep Climbing   Leave a comment


Summary: Something strange is going on in the textbook market. The price has steeply increased over the past decade–and they’re only getting higher. There is a disconnect between the chooser (the professors) and the buyers (the students). Technically, the professor is the consumer, and they’re spending their students’ money. The podcast offers the opposite: high school textbooks, where costs are kept low because the books are paid for by the schools.

Original Air Date: October 3, 2014

Length: 14 minutes 56 seconds

Discussion Question/ Prompt: Propose a solution to the rising textbook price problem. (Example: a price ceiling? professor awareness of prices? incentives for lower prices?)

How To Steal A Million Barrels Of Oil   Leave a comment

nigerian stolen oilLink:

Summary: The Nigerian Internet hosts many ads for stolen oil, inspiring the question: how? Why?  Nigeria has one of the top oil reserves, and it is controlled by the government. They lose about $10 million a day from oil theft. This podcast dissects how they get away with it.

Original Air Date: October 29, 2014

Length: 19 minutes 30 seconds

Discussion Question: The podcasts says that this problem is for the Nigerian government to solve. Should it be an international issue?

Prompt: The podcast does not reflect on the legally sold oil, and the effect the stolen oil has on that market. Write how you think the stolen oil would change the market for legal crude oil in the international arena, paying specific attention to the quantity and the prices.

Outsiders By Design   Leave a comment


Summary: This podcast was inspired by the death of Gary Becker, an economist who’s work was inspired by the idea of discrimination. His approach was called ‘rational choice’–that people will make rational decisions to maximize their own utility and wealth. In the end, a lot of people strongly disagreed with his research. The program then goes on to illustrate two more examples of medical researchers who were outcast by their fields of study. By the end, however, Gary Becker won a Nobel Prize.

Original Air Date: September 18, 2014

Length: 41 minutes 40 seconds

Prompt / Discussion: Sometimes people will not agree with your research conclusions or ideas, such is the case with Gary Becker. Why do you think Becker’s ideas were/are so controversial?

Fixing the World, Bang-For-The-Buck Edition: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast   Leave a comment


Summary: Return on Investment (ROI) analyzes at the most efficient way to spend money. An example given is the difference between curing malaria and HIV/AIDS. To cure malaria, it would cost about $1,000 per person, while it would cost ten times that to cure HIV/AIDS, and it is decided that they would rather save 10 people from malaria before they save one from HIV/AIDS.  The United Nations, with their Millennium Development Goals coming to a close, will be looking to set new goals in 2015, to be completed by 2030. One of the issued they will focus on is how they are setting goals, and how to be more efficient with the help of the Return on Investment analysis.

Original Air Date: October 2, 2014

Length: 43 minutes 34 seconds

Prompt / Discussion: You are a member of the United Nations, and are put in charge of coming up with new development goals for 2015. You have $100 billion to invest in various development aid. Discuss how you would prioritize between an important, expensive goal (such as getting all kids into school, which was one of the Millennium Development Goals), and something that might not be seen as highly important, but cost effective.

How Stuff Gets Cheaper   Leave a comment

stuff cheaperLink:

Summary: The Planet Money team looks at how some things get cheaper over time. The podcast hosts visit a company called Monoprice, whose job it is to find out ways to make things cheaper–in other words, a lot of detective work.

Original Air Date: November 28, 2014

Length: 14 minutes 11 seconds

Prompt: Write a brief letter to Monoprice with your thoughts on their job. Is it efficient? Is it cost-productive?

Free Money   Leave a comment

free moneyLink:

Summary: This podcast discusses arbitrage (free money), using the example of used textbooks. Arbitrage (free money) is a risk-free way to buy low and sell high. You can find one thing that’s selling for two different prices, and exploit the mistake.

Original Air Date: November 7, 2014

Length: 14 minutes 29 seconds

Prompt: Imagine you find an opportunity like the one discussed in the podcast. Write an outline of how you would go about this discovery, and what your plan of action would be.

Discussion Question: A woman in the podcast said their practice was immoral. Do you agree or disagree? Is what these two men are doing wrong? Use economic thinking in your discussion.

How Do You Decide Who Gets Lungs?   1 comment


Summary: This podcast outlines the organ market or rather the non-existent, scarce organ market that doctors unfortunately have to face when they put their patients on an organ waiting list.

Original air date: May 18, 2012

Length: 15:11 min

Discussion Prompt (1): Consider the ten principles of economics that Mankiw discussions in Chapter 1.  How do they relate to the situation in this podcast?

Discussion Prompt (2): This podcast gives examples of how different systems for allocating lungs create incentives (for doctors, for patients) and thus impact choice.  How do you see that incentives, choices and outcomes are impacted if they allocation is based on: whoever is sickest? What if they allocation system is based on who is on the waiting list first?  What if the system was a market-based system based on ability to pay? Use examples from the podcast or your own thinking that expands beyond the podcast content.

Follow-up Prompt: You all make some good observations here and lead me to think that it is also important to think about the goal of the system – is the goal to be fair? is the goal for patients not to have to wait? is the goal to have the most number of patients live ? Is the goal to save the sickest?  How do you think that understanding the ‘goal’ helps us to see the problems and options for allocation?

Written Assignment Prompt: The podcast mentions doctors signing up patients for lung transplants before they need or are sick enough for them. What are the ethical issues associated with such a decision? Why don’t we see markets at work in this scenario? How might you create an alternate system for allocating this precious item?