Mike is sent to do some snooping, but he’s going undercover as a repairman that’s been hired. The customer is averse to electricity and had requested that no power tools be used. Mike knows this, but needs the customer out of the area so that he can snap some pictures. He brings power tools to ensure that the customer gives him some privacy. From an economics standpoint, Mike makes a compelling case for power tools as it relates to productivity.
He could make the repairs things the old-fashioned way: “going at it like Fred Flinstone.” The tools, as Mike explains, helps turn a two-day job into a one day job. Capital investments and technology helps producers lower the cost of producing items. From a PPF standpoint, it allows the curve to shift outward and producers to be able to produce more stuff given a fixed amount of time.
Mike and Jesse need to get in touch with a dubious individual, who currently lives in a blocked off house. Mike’s plan is to wait until the person comes out of the house on his own. However, Jesse thinks he can speed up the process. After he fails to talk the person out of the house, he starts digging a hole in the front yard. Very soon after, the individual comes out and asks Jesse if he can continue digging instead. This account emphasizes that Jesse has skills that Mike does not, and, therefore, he can contribute to the success of the daily operations.
Gus and Mike have both been shot. However, the personnel at temporary medical facility they found themselves in only focus on saving Gus. Jesse is frustrated by this because Mike and he are very close. Nevertheless, the doctor points out that Gus is the priority because he is the one paying his salary. This is also visible in our current medical system. Specifically, those who have the ability to pay often receive priority and extra-quality healthcare, which may not be equitable, but may be, perhaps, efficient.
Walter, Jesse, and Mike and splitting the proceeds from a new, methamphetamine-production business. The scene demonstrates how businesses incur various expenses while providing instructors and students with a lively example about the different cost types. Once Mike divided the revenue into three equal stacks, he goes on to do an accounting of all the costs they have incurred while producing their latest batch. One can observe that some the costs such as the ongoing expense with keeping former collaborators quiet are fixed, while others, such as the cut to the dealers or the fee for the drug mules (i.e., those who transport the methamphetamine from its production to distribution location) are variable. Actually seeing each pile of cash shrinks, as they account for the costs of the business, provides a visceral example about costs, profit, and the relationship between the two.
This clip may also serve as a catalyst for discussing, once again, the role of institutions in shaping the behavior of economic agents and the consequences brought about by their lack of reach into black markets such as that for methamphetamine. Walter is surprised to find out that the cost with the mules is 20% of the revenue. However, Mike adds that transporting the methamphetamine involves risks (i.e., of being robbed by a rival gang or being caught by the police and sent to jail) and the cost is justified – in economics jargon, such costs represent the compensating differential for hazardous work conditions. Outside black markets, a robbery is solved by simply reaching out to the police or other specialized authorities. In other words, property rights may be enforced through the judicial system. However, in the case of methamphetamine this is not possible. This way, those who move the drug must also guard it and enforce the property rights over it through violence. Hence, the steep cost of transportation that characterizes the methamphetamine-producing business.
This clip also provides a detailed account of various activities that form the underground economy and underpin the $1,392,800, methamphetamine business. For example, dealers receive $13,240, mules (the ones who transport the methamphetamine for distribution purposes) get a flat 20% (after the dealers have been paid) or about $278,560, miscellaneous production-related expenses total $120,000, expenses with concealing the laboratory add up to $165,000, while the lawyer/money-laundering fees are $54,000. As part of the methamphetamine production, all these activities are illegal, thus not recorded officially, and hence part of the underground economy. The figures associated with such activities may find their way into official data, however, as fictional activities/services conjured by money launderers. This illustrates once more the difficulty that arises from accurately measuring the volume of the economy be it as the gross domestic or gross national product.
This description comes from Duncan, Muchiri, and Paraschiv (Forthcoming)
After running out of their primary ingredient, Mike suggests that they go back to producing using pseudoephedrine. Walter quickly points on that their equipment isn’t designed for this and it will reduce their yield significantly. Mike argues that the alternative is not making anything at all and that making some product is better than making no product at all. This scene serves as a nice example of why firms may operate at a loss rather than shut down. As long as the price of the product is greater than average variable costs, firms will operate in the short run.
After a failed first attempt to gain full control over a key production input and get the blue methamphetamine off the market, Declan, a Phoenix-based dealer, meets with Jesse, Mike, and Walter. Right from the start, Walter tries and appears to succeed in convincing Declan that collaboration is the best path forward. This way, Walter’s superior blue methamphetamine remains in production and the methylamine, the key input, is used in the most efficient and profitable way. Further, Declan and his crew would serve as their distributor. This way the parties specialize according to their comparative advantage while all parties economize and gain from trade.
Mike and Jesse attempt to get out of the business of producing the blue methamphetamine. In doing so, they attempt to sell their share of the methylamine, a key input in the production of methamphetamine, to Declan, a competitor from Phoenix. However, the Phoenix producer wants it all, theirs and Walter’s. This way he can control the entire market for methamphetamine. Because he knows that he can reproduce a similar product, he recognizes that having all thousand gallons would make it so that Walter couldn’t be competition in the market. Having control of the market will give this producer monopoly power, which will allow him to be even more profitable. Controlling a scarce resources is a common way that monopolies create barriers to entry in a market, resulting in the market power.