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YouTube / We The Economy
YouTube / We The Economy

20 Short Films About Economics

YouTube / We The Economy
YouTube / We The Economy

We The Economy is a series of short films about economics intended to address a series of crucial topics like "What is the Economy?" and "What is Money?" in simple, accessible videos. Now, because the videos are simple and accessible, they don't go deep on detail...but they do a pretty good job of covering the basics.

The project is headed by Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame) and Paul Allen (of Microsoft fame), and the films are a decent (and free) introduction to economic concepts. Here's the first one, directed by Spurlock, describing how "the economy" got started, using a wildly historically inaccurate (but amusing and instructive) set of cave-people:

Here are a few more in the series. First up, Lemonade War, featuring Patton Oswalt and Werner Herzog. (If you don't get why Herzog is going off the philosophical deep end in this video, check out the second clip in my review of Burden of Dreams.) The only complaint I have about this film is that the ending implies some sort of citizen revolt and change in the regulatory system, but doesn't really explain how that would work. But still, it makes a point in just a few minutes. Again, these are short films, not in-depth discussions. Have a look:

And here's That Film About Money (a two-parter), exploring the idea of what money is and how the fractional banking system works. Very good stuff:

There's much more where these came from.

(Via Open Culture.)

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geography
This State Was Just Ranked the Best in the U.S.
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Every year, U.S. News and World Report assembles its list of the Best States across a variety of metrics. Categories like health care, education, economy, and quality of life are measured statistically—education, for example, looks at the graduation rate in high schools, while the unemployment rate correlates with job opportunities—and assessed against areas where states may be lacking, like disparities in income between genders or unfavorable crime statistics.

After considerable crunching of numbers, the U.S. News data analysis has crowned a new "best" state: Iowa.

The Hawkeye state finished in the top 10 or top five in key areas like health care, job opportunities, and overall infrastructure. Farming, a longtime identifying trait, has taken second place to manufacturing plants. And while plenty of Iowa is rural, its technological innovations are advanced: the state actually leads the nation in building high-speed internet access into the fabric of its communities.

There are other factors that paved the way for Iowa's placement—affordable housing, for example, where it ranks second overall in the country, and health care affordability. U.S. News points to a sluggish population growth for younger residents and less-hospitable resources for entrepreneurs as drawbacks.

In the full list, Minnesota grabbed the second-place spot; New York, the 25th. Louisiana appears at the bottom. 

[h/t U.S. News]

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Big Questions
Why Do Honeycrisp Apples Cost So Much?
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Apples to apples is no longer a valid comparison. As gastronomic writer Sarah Jampel at Food52 has observed, shoppers who prefer a premium fruit experience by opting for Honeycrisp apples can pay up to four times as much as they would for other varieties. When did Granny Smiths become the RC Cola to Honeycrisp’s Coke?

According to Jampel, the answer invokes the old law of supply and demand. There’s plenty of demand for the apple, but prices get engorged when there isn't enough to go around.

The scarcity is a result of the Honeycrisp’s eccentric nature. Introduced commercially in 1991 after being invented by University of Minnesota scientist David Bedford, who cross-pollinated seeds to create a more durable and winter-resistant apple, the Honeycrisp tree demands very specific soil and maintenance requirements. The fruit can ripen at various times, necessitating more frequent harvests; the skin is thin and delicate, so they must be trimmed off by hand. Many of the trees are so delicate they require a trellis [PDF] to support their branches.

All the extra labor means more time and money—the latter of which is passed along to the consumer.

Growers who didn’t anticipate the surging popularity of Honeycrisps were also caught off-guard. As trees can take up to six years to bear enough fruit for commercial purposes, the number of trees currently producing isn’t really proportionate to the level of demand.

That will change as more are planted, although it might be a little while before the Honeycrisp proves to be on the same economic footing as its Red Delicious counterpart. Before you celebrate a cheaper version, remember that growers looking to feed the market might opt to grow the apple in less-than-perfect conditions that could affect its famously crunchy taste. Enjoy it while you can.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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