Making Economics Come Alive

Use specially-selected segments from John Stossel's television program and specials to explain economic concepts in your high school or college classroom. John Stossel's engaging approach will inspire interest in your students and liven up the discussion in your classroom.

This 75-minute DVD (released 2011) covers both macroeconomic and microeconomic concepts, with an emphasis on macroeconomics. This DVD includes:

  • 18 video segments with English and Spanish subtitles (2-8 minutes each)
  • A comprehensive Instructor's Manual (70+ pages, English and Spanish versions)
  • Test bank of multiple-choice questions (English and Spanish versions)
  • A Slide Show presentation to enhance your classroom presentation (English only)

For each of the 18 video segments, the Instructor's Guide provides a list of the concepts covered, lesson objectives, a brief description of the video, a preview question to help you introduce the clip in an exciting manner, discussion and analysis questions, and an extension activity.

The video segments are divided into six sections:

PART 1: ECONOMICS OF PROPERTY RIGHTS

PART 2: REGULATION AND UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

5. Regulation: Louisiana Florist

The licensing of florists in Louisiana is used to analyze the incentive structure that often underlies regulation. Mike Rome from the Louisiana State Florists Association addresses the need for the licensing requirement. Monique Chauvin, an unlicensed florist who has been in business for more than ten years, disputes this claim.

6. The Unintended Consequences of the Ethanol Subsidies

Ethanol subsidies have been promoted by leading figures in both political parties. However, recent research and analysis has been more critical of ethanol use. General Wesley Clark from Growth Energy argues for continuation and expansion of the ethanol subsidies. David Boaz of the Cato Institute argues against the subsidies. Ben Schreiber from the environmental group Friends of the Earth reveals that ethanol is now believed to be worse for the environment than oil-produced gasoline. The clip highlights two important unintended consequences of the ethanol subsidies: higher feed prices for ranchers and higher prices for food produced from corn and other grain products.

7. The Unintended Consequences of Minimum Wage Laws

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Advocates of the minimum wage, like Christian Dorsey from the Economic Policy Issue, would actually like it to be higher and argue that it's a fairness issue for employees. Critics, like Russ Roberts, an economist from George Mason University, argue that the minimum wage leads to higher unemployment, especially among teens, and eliminates some jobs from ever being created. John Stossel interviews Warren Meyer of Recreation Resource Management and discusses his response to higher minimum wage rates.

PART 3: PUBLIC CHOICE AND CRONY CAPITALISM

8. Trade Restrictions and Crony Capitalism

Regulations, subsidies, and tax breaks have grown rapidly in recent years. They are often designed to favor some businesses and sectors relative to others. Politicians engage in this type of crony capitalism as a means to obtain votes, contributions, and political support from organized interest groups at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.

9. Stimulus Spending and Crony Capitalism

The 2009 $800 billion spending bill included funds for Serious Materials to promote production of energy efficient windows. Serious Materials was the only manufacturer to receive such financial assistance and special treatment. The company vice-president for projects and policy is married to the government's overseer of weatherization program, who was in charge of $16.8 billion in stimulus money. While all of this is legal, it is a reminder of how the political process alters incentives.

10. Political Versus Market Choices

Viewers are asked to think about how their welfare would be affected if they were forced to choose among the bundles of goods available in three alternative carts rather than buying the bundle they prefer when visiting the grocery store. This choice is similar to that confronted when choices are made by majority voting rather than through markets. When issues are decided by voting, the majority or their elected representatives will decide for everyone. With democratic voting, the majority imposes its preferences on the minority, and individuals in both groups will be required to consume and pay for many items they would not have purchased if they had been permitted to decide for themselves.

PART 4: GOVERNMENT SPENDING, DEFICITS, AND DEBT

11. Are We Heading Toward a Debt Crisis?

John Stossel and his two guests discuss the size, growth, and economic consequences of the national debt. When the segment was produced in 2010, the national debt stood at $13.5 trillion. Even though 71% of Americans believe federal spending is too high, a majority of Americans do not want to cut entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. These entitlements are the largest expenditures of the federal government. The panelists conclude that if interest rates are 5% and the debt continues to grow at the current rate, in 2080 Americans will spend 35% of GDP just to pay interest on the debt.

12. Can Government Spending be Cut?

John Stossel discusses how there is widespread agreement that government spending should be reduced, but notes that this agreement breaks down when specific cuts are considered. The Third Way organization provides "A Taxpayer Receipt," which identifies specific government programs paid for from the payroll tax on a typical worker. John mentions specific cuts offered by the liberal Center for American Progress, the libertarian Cato Institute, and the libertarian Reason TV. The dollar amounts are identified with graphics as John discusses them.

13. Growth of Government

The clip begins with recent spending items passed by Congress and quotes Thomas Jefferson who said, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." A graphic illustrates federal spending per person since 1792 and shows exponential growth in recent decades. For most of the nation's history, the federal government spent only a few hundred dollars per person, but today, the federal government alone spends $10,000 per person.

14. Spending, Taxes, and the Role of Government

An interview with Columbia University Professor Marc Lamont Hill begins the clip and presents the perceived need for government spending. He advocates that government must provide national defense, housing, health care, and education. A long list of specific taxes that Americans pay is highlighted with interactive graphics. Arthur Brooks is interviewed at the end of the clip, warning about changing America from a "maker nation" to a "taker nation."

PART 5: INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND TRADE BARRIERS

PART 6: WHY SOME NATIONS PROSPER AND OTHERS STAGNATE