Here is a list of some of the great interviews with Ken Elzinga along with an interesting excerpt from each.
What is a common financial mistake you see people make?
This is a thoughtful question, in part because it is difficult to pick one – so I’ll mention three common mistakes. First, it is a mistake to focus a lot of energy on making money, and then not give comparable thought about how to allocate it wisely – as between consumption, saving, and giving it away. Second, it is a mistake to think one can consistently pick winners in the stock market, and in the process not capture the benefits of diversification. Third, I think many people save too little, either because they do not understand the power of compound interest, or they put too much emphasis on current consumption versus future consumption. Read more…
RF: You have written on the relationship between religion and economics. Many religious people are often hostile to the market system because they believe that markets ignore issues of social justice. Why do you think such concerns are prevalent among people of faith?
Elzinga: I am not sure I have a particularly good answer to that question, but I’ll hazard three reasons why so many religious people are hostile to market allocation.
First, we need to realize that many people, perhaps especially seminarians, simply do not understand what Adam Smith called “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty.” They do not find the benefits of, indeed the genius of, the market system to be obvious and simple. Incidentally, many of my students at the University of Virginia are the same way.
Many people who have not had so much as one course in economics are confident of their ability to opine on economic subjects. That said, there are clergy who do understand the hidden logic of economic analysis. I admire the work of Father Robert Sirico at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich. He and others are doing pioneering and important work in bringing knowledge of how markets work to clergy and seminarians.
Second, we need to acknowledge that many people do not like the spirit of enterprise that is part of the market system. There are many members of the intellectual class who admire the creativity of writing a poem or composing music. And rightly so. But many of these same people will not admire the creativity involved in coming up with a new product, a new service, or a new form of business organization. Ask yourself this question: Have you ever observed a writer in an important journal or newspaper object to the substantial earnings of an entertainer? I haven’t. But the earnings of business entrepreneurs are regularly viewed as somehow suspect, undeserved, or undertaxed.
Third, people of faith often are marked by a deep concern for the poor and oppressed. Now the world was full of poor and oppressed people long before the development of the modern market system. Markets have made possible the prospect of the bulk of an economy’s population not being poor and oppressed. Paradoxically, it is the very success of the market system that tempts those who believe in a preferential option for the poor also to believe that if the government were to step in, some kind of mopping-up action would take place and we could end all poverty.
To my mind, the sad thing about many churches is that they have abdicated the responsibility to help the poor, and explicitly or implicitly invited the state to take over the role of compassion. One of the most remarkable things I have ever read was by Peter Bauer, the great scholar of economic development who did so much to teach economists how counterproductive government-togovernment aid is in helping the poor in other nations. Bauer was asked in an interview what a person who wanted to help the poor in a less developed country should do. His response: Give your money to a missionary working in that country. Read more…
What do you think is the biggest misconception beginning students and others have about economics? Are there points that you figure students do not understand that you take extra care to explain carefully?
The four biggest misconceptions I face (and I think they are more prominent today than twenty years ago) are: (1) that the purpose of studying economics is to make money in the stock market or to somehow get rich; (2) that economic wealth can somehow be manufactured or produced by government mandate; (3) (believe it or not) that people in the U.S. were generally wealthier in the 1950s and 1960s than they are today; and (4) that environmental conditions in the U.S. are worse today than they were in the 1950s or 1960s. Read more…
From the perspective of an economics professor, what do you find most fascinating about the beer brewing industry in the United States?
I don’t think there is any other American industry that’s had the trend to consolidation that brewing has had and then at the same time have a thousand new entrants come in almost in your lifetime – certainly in mine. Read more…
This is a great free podcast done as part of a homecoming game speaking series.
Professor Ken Elzinga will speak about an industry beloved by many college students, the beer industry, but he will link beer to its sister industry, wine. His credentials for the task, you ask? Professor Elzinga has written several scholarly articles about the beer industry and has also been an economic consultant to several major brewers. He, however, is a teetotaler which puzzles some of his students and disconcerts some of the brewing firms for whom he has consulted. Listen online…
Leadership as power vs. Servant Leadership. Listen online…
This journal article is titled “Fifteen Theses on Classroom Teaching.” It provides a glimpse of how focused Elzinga is on perfecting the classroom experience. Here is a summary:
- Thesis #1. Economics Does Not Produce Many Great Teachers
- Thesis #2. Thesis # 1 Is Not Surprising
- Thesis #3. It Is Harder To Be a Great Teacher in Economics Than in Most Other Disciplines
- Thesis #4. Economics Lectures Are Like Refrigerators
- Thesis #5. Good Lectures Need Stories
- Thesis #6. Good Teaching Requires a Willingness To Bleed and Die over Audio and Visual Technology, over Lighting, and over Classroom Ventilation
- Thesis #7. Teaching Involves Paying Attention To Student Preferences, Asking What It Is Students Want To Consume or Learn
- Thesis #8. Economists Think of Themselves as Teaching a Way of Thinking. Just as Much, We also Are Teaching Vocabulary
- Thesis #9. In an Internet Age, Formal Credentials Count for Less. This Has Implications for Teaching
- Thesis #10. Although It Is Not Easy To Learn about Master Teachers in Economics, There Are Resources for Learning How To Incrementally Improve Teaching Itself
- Thesis #11. When All Is Said and Done, There Are Two Basic Styles of Classroom Teaching: Apollonian and Dionysian
- Thesis #12. When All Is Said and Done, There also Are Two Basic Ways of Relating to Students, Two Mindsets a Teacher Can Adopt Toward Students. These Are the Teacher-as-Servant Mindset and the Teacher-as-Master Mindset
- Thesis #13. Good Teaching Is Not Complicated; It’s Just Hard
- Thesis #14. Good Teaching Requires No Radical Change in Curriculum; No Special Flair that the Teacher Must Possess; and I Know of No Evidence that It Requires Radical Changes in Educational Technology
- Thesis #15. Good Teaching also Requires No Extraordinary Self-Confidence or Unique Gifts
As an assistant professor, I once tried to schedule a room in the student union for a faculty Bible study and was told no. I asked if I could schedule a room to discuss the writings of Karl Marx. No problem. But the gospel of Mark: that was apparently off limits to discuss on grounds. Read the entire talk…
For years, I wrote a personal letter of congratulations to every student of mine who got an A-plus. I was proud of them, and they made me look good, too. I still do this, but now I write a letter to every student who fails my classes. Last fall, I wrote 30 of these letters.
I suspect Jesus would have thought first to write the F students. Christian higher education would, I hope, recognize before I did that the A-plus students already get lots of strokes. It took me about 20 years into my career to catch on to writing the young men and women who failed my class and whom perhaps I had failed as their teacher. Read more…
1. Good students rarely miss a class. If you attend 80-100% of classes you will get an A. It is statistically impossible to fail if you attend over 80% of classes. Where you sit in the classroom is the best predictor of your academic success. Try to sit in the first two rows. Discover the other three keys to success…
Advice to entering first year students. Listen online…
In my experience, most sermons on tithing boil down to “give more, give often — to us”. But the information I really want is the whys and hows behind tithes and offerings from the giver’s perspective and whether the New Testament changes anything.
Here’s a sermon that answers those questions. Listen online…
Lecture at the Center for Christian Study. Listen online…
Advice to undergraduate students on what is really important in life.
“More people have their Christian life hindered by the pursuit of peer success than by the pursuit of financial success.” Listen online…
Lecture at Darden Christian Fellowship. Listen online…
A simple 12 minute camera interview with Ken Elzinga. Watch online…
“The economics element of our books sets them apart from other mysteries,” Elzinga says. “Agatha Christie uses psychology to crack her cases. One of her protagonists, Miss Marple, uses women’s intuition. Our hero uses economics.” …
“My favorite fan letter came not from a student,” Elzinga told the New York Times in 2002, “but from a woman who was a professor of economics whose marriage was on the rocks. She gave one of our mysteries to her husband who, upon reading it, said he now understood his wife’s way of thinking. Their marriage was saved. True to her professional colors, she told us buying our book was more economical than marital counseling.” …
Subject that causes you to rant? I’m not much of a ranter. Like most economists, I can restrain my enthusiasm for people who want the government to help the poor but won’t give their own time or money to do so. Read more…
Not strictly an interview, this is Ken Elzina’s testimony in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
C. Overview of Testimony
8. The remainder of my testimony is organized as follows. In Section II, I discuss the economic principles of antitrust remedies. In Section III, I apply these principles to the remedy proposed by the non-settling States. I find that proposal deficient in terms of my principles. Many of its provisions are not connected to the violations of the antitrust laws, it would be difficult to implement, and it furthers the interests of competitors, not consumers. Indeed, its implementation would make consumers worse off. In Section IV, I apply the same principles to the Proposed Settlement, concluding that it is more than adequate to address the acts found anticompetitive by the Court of Appeals. Moreover, it does so in a way that keeps costs of administration and compliance down, and it focuses on protecting consumer welfare, not the interests of competitors. Read the entire deposition…
Kenneth G. Elzinga is the Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics at the University of Virginia. His two major claims to fame are his antitrust expertise and his co-authorship of a highly successful trio of murder mystery novels in which the sleuth, dubbed Henry Spearman, solves the murder using principles of economics. Read more…
- Professor Ken Elzinga: True Success
- Professor Ken Elzinga: Is Elzinga a Sinner?
- Professor Ken Elzinga: The Top Ten Questions in the Bible
- Professor Ken Elzinga: One Thing U.Va. Will Not Teach You
- Professor Ken Elzinga: Ken Elzinga: What It Means to Deny Jesus
- Podcast: The Economics of Beer and Wine: Sibling Industries
- Jefferson Society: Kenneth Elzinga on Unconventional Leadership Principles
- Fifteen Theses on Classroom Teaching by Kenneth G. Elzinga
- Christian Academe vs. Christians in Academe
- Different To Make A Difference
- Move-In Day at the Center for Christian Study by Ken Elzinga
- Cheerful Economics and Spiritual Capital by Ken Elzinga
- On Tithing As An Investment by Ken Elzinga
- Econ 101: Mystery novelist polishes his Spearman