Academic journal article Journal of Private Enterprise

Using Drew Carey in the Classroom

Academic journal article Journal of Private Enterprise

Using Drew Carey in the Classroom

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Commentators on the current state of higher education often point out that most teaching in universities is done the way Socrates did it 2,400 years ago (Vedder, 2004). Recendy, however, a number of writers have begun systematicaUy developing the pedagogy of using videos in conjunction with teaching economics.1 Since 2007, comedian Drew Carey has released tens of entertaining, short documentary videos that can be used with great success to highUght core economic concepts as weU as market-based poUcies.2 These videos are a useful addition to the classroom toolkits of college economics professors because showing them can enliven a lecture and bring the issues closer to home. Most importantly, the videos can be connected to the topics of the standard principles of economics curriculum: supply and demand, price controls, opportunity cost, and so on.

The main difficulty for an instructor showing these videos is in making the connections between the topics of the standard curriculum and the storyline of the videos. Some videos definitely work better than others for this purpose. On the other hand, as I hope to convince the reader with this note, these videos definitely can be used with great effect for the purpose of teaching microeconomics. Many of these videos are highly complementary to each other. This facilitates showing multiple videos in one class session or using them as the basis for a writing assignment that requires the students to compare and contrast two or more videos.3

As examples of how multiple videos can be complementary to each other, combining the first video I will discuss, on technology and trade, with the video on the middle class and the one on immigration usually makes for a nice discussion on the connections between globalization and innovation.4 The other two videos I discuss in this article are on kidney sales and medical marijuana, and together these two can provide the backdrop for a discussion on health policy, perhaps combined with the video on "bacon dogs."5

II. Mexicans and Machines: Why it's Time to Lay off NAFTA (7:43)

This video, originaUy released during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, begins by highUghting the negative view that some in the media and government have toward the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It then equates this position with the view the Luddites had toward technology in nineteenth-century England. After showing the video in class, we scrutinize the concrete arguments the video puts forth. We also explore some arguments that the video does not discuss, but which are nevertheless related.

The deep point that I aim to stress with this video is that globalization and technology are intimately related. Indeed, globaUzation can be defined as the gradual reduction in the costs of trade, where the reductions (e.g., transportation and transaction costs) were often caused by technological advancement.6 Mexicans and Machines can be used to iUustrate the effects of both technology and tariff reductions on jobs and wages. During the lecture, after we have watched the video together, I analyze a demand and supply model for both skiUed and unskiUed workers, in both the US and Mexico. This results in a simultaneous analysis of four related markets.7 I explain how in the United States, globaUzation, like an improvement in technology, decreases demand for unskilled labor but increases demand for skiUed labor.

The particular model I highUght of course rests on simpUfying assumptions. For example, the new technology here is labor saving in nature; see Taylor (2008, pp. 92-94) for a textbook treatment. EssentiaUy, the main arguments have long been known. Hazlett (1952, p. 48) discusses how the introduction of a new machine can create new (skiUed) jobs: Tom Jones "has just got a new job in making the new machine, and Ted Brown... has just got a job operating one..."

The video also describes how, Uke technology, tariff reductions destroy some jobs but create other jobs as weU. …

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