EXT. HALL O’ ‘GRAMS - DAY Establishing shot of the building. INT. HALL O’ ‘GRAMS - CON’T The silent PENGUIN, BOB, and CHARLIE are in a Museum-like room filled with holograph pads and slots to insert quarters and pay for a lesson. It is the “Great Hall of Economics”, and we see numerous floating heads of important figures: Carl Menger Eugene Bohm von Bawerk Frederich von Wieser Joseph Schumpeter Ludwig von Mises FA Hayek Karl Menger (son of Carl) Fritz Machlup Israel Kirzner Ludwig Lachlmann George Reisman, Jesús Huerta de Soto James M. Buchanan & Gordon Tullock Donald Boudreaux Tyler Cowen Dierdre McCloskey Bob Murphy Art Carden Antony Davies Invisible Hands cast ...all under a banner that says “Austrian School Economists”. A little further back is a sign for “Chicago School” and another for "Heterodox". In the very back, there are signs for “Keynesians”, "London School", "Georgists", "Marxians & Neo-Marxians", etc. BOB Where are we? CHARLIE In the great hall of economics! In this room, you can hear a lecture from economists throughout history! Charlie puts a token in a slot. CHARLIE My favorite is this economics caveman... A hologram of Seamus appears. HOLOGRAPHIC SEAMUS AAAAAAAAAAAAAAKSHULLY, akshully akshully akshully, akshully akshully akshully BOB Agh! I would pay NOT to hear a lecture from him! CHARLIE That’s an option, too! Charlie puts more tokens into the “shut up” slot of the machine and the hologram turns off. CHARLIE Just another example of subjective value in action! I would pay money to hear your friend talk, whereas you, and a few YouTube commenters, would pay money not to hear him! BOB What is this Subjective... value? CHARLIE It just means that everyone values stuff differently. Y'know when we talked about scarcity and how we still need money to figure out what people value? BOB Yeah. CHARLIE Well, that's because we only really know what stuff is worth when buyers and sellers agree on a price. BOB What? That’s ridiculous! Isn't value based on how much work something takes to make, or how badly we need it? CHARLIE Well, that’s all certainly part of it... We all take a lot of that into account before we agree to any kind of economic exchange. The seller thinks about how much work their product took to make, and the buyer thinks about how much they really want to have it. BOB AH HA! I told you! Penguin shakes his head, then waddles over to a nearby display, picking up a tablet. CHARLIE But the value of goods and services isn't actually determined by the labor that goes into making them. BOB Uh... Aren't you contradicting yourself? CHARLIE Well, no. Here, listen to the guy who figured this out in the first place. Charlie drops a token in the slot next to the floating holographic bust of CARL MENGER. It comes to life. HOLOGRAM CARL MENGER Value isn't an inherent property in goods. Neither is value an independent thing. A good may have value to one individual but no value at all to another individual under different circumstances. Bob glances over the Penguin’s shoulder as he plays a handheld game on the tablet. BOB Ehhhhhh... I don’t get it. CHARLIE Here’s a few tokens, I'm sure one of these guys can help. Bob takes Charlie’s tokens and wanders off screen. Penguin keeps playing the game. Charlie looks at her video watch for a moment. CHARLIE (calling to Bob) Did you figure it out yet? Bob is standing next to a vending machine. BOB I may or may not have decided to buy pepper jack cheese balls instead. CHARLIE Oh, I don’t think they have those in that machine... BOB AH! What a cruel and dystopian future! I guess I’ll just have to go with black pepper cheese balls instead. CHARLIE They don’t have those either. BOB Ugh. Well, I’m not eating Zest Mix! I’ll hold onto these for later. Bob puts the quarters back in his pocket. CHARLIE Sorry you didn't find something you wanted, but... It is another example of subjective value! Bob's stomach grumbles and he tries to bite the token, as if it could be made of chocolate. CHARLIE When we're thinking about buying something, we’re always choosing based on available options, not infinite options. So we have to rank our preferences. And our preferences are going to affect the price we're willing to pay. BOB That makes sense. And less I want something, the less I'm willing to pay for it, right? CHARLIE Exactly... Which is why you flat out refused to buy the zest mix! An ALIEN MAN named ROBERTO, rolls up with a food cart. ROBERTO (shouting like he was at an 1890s baseball game) Tacos for sale! Get yer tacos here! Step right up, folks! CHARLIE Oh, hey Roberto! ROBERTO (dropping the affect) Hi Charlie! BOB Tacos? You have TACOS?! I would pay 300 dollars for a taco right now! ROBERTO (Back to being old-timey) Well, you're in luck, my good sir! Each taco is just 50 cents. Charlie swipes her wristband again and we hear the same "ca-ching" noise from Episode 2 as Roberto gets paid. Bob scarfs several tacos down near instantly. SMASH CUT TO: A few moments later. Bob is now fat and covered in taco stains. BOB Ahhh... Get that cart away! I never wanna see another taco again... CHARLIE So just to be clear you wouldn’t pay 300 dollars for one now? BOB No way! CHARLIE See, even the amount of money you were willing to pay for a taco changed in just a matter of moments! You place a totally different value on the tacos now than you did when you were still hungry. Bob rubs his belly. BOB True. CHARLIE Now imagine what happens when millions of people are making the same choices every day. The economic value of different goods & services is constantly changing all the time. BOB Yeah... I... I guess monetary value is subjective after all. CHARLIE Yep. And that's also why it’s impossible for people to effectively plan the economy. BOB Fair enough! Speaking of planning, Roberto, any plans for opening a restaurant? Those tacos were amazing... ROBERTO I would love to, but I don’t have the capital right now. BOB Capital, eh? (to Charlie) I thought you said government wasn't telling people what to do any more. ROBERTO Not that Capitol... Capital! Money and resources used in the production of economic goods. CHARLIE (to Roberto) If you’re looking for investors, I’ve got some money saved! Let’s talk! BLACK AND WHITE NEWS REEL NARRATOR: Next time on a very special Common Sense Soapbox… CLIP from Episode V.

Common Sense Soapbox


About this show

Short videos with a punchy, comedic tone and entertaining Socratic characters taking on trending issues and important concepts from a classical liberal perspective, written & animated by Seamus Coughlin.

What Is Stuff Worth? It Depends.

November 26, 2019

At the Hall o' Grams, Bob learns an important lesson about what things are actually worth. Is it how much work it takes to make? Is it how necessary it is? Is it how many tacos you can eat in one sitting? Find out on this week's episode of Common Sense Soapbox: Bob to the Future!

Written by Seamus Coughlin, Jennifer Maffessanti, and Sean W. Malone
Animated by Seamus Coughlin
Edited by Sean W. Malone


All Shows

Invisible Hands

Popular YouTube host Kevin Lieber (VSauce2) hosts this informative and entertaining video series designed to introduce key concepts of economics to younger audiences through credible arguments, comedy... And puppets!

Connect with FEE