Don’t You Wish You Thought of This? Econ Professor Focuses on Beer

(Photo: Steve Jurvetson)

From the (Saskatoon) Star-Phoenix:

When Jason Childs and his colleagues went about devising a new course in economics at the University of Regina, they wanted to find a focus that didn’t involve the overused and fictitious widget.

What they arrived at was a product that was historic and central to people’s lives – and something most undergraduate students are familiar with: beer.

Childs, an associate professor of economics, said the Economics of Beer course had 80 seats, and they were filled in about two weeks. The course began in early May and finishes near the end of June.

“Basically, it’s an exploration of some economics concepts, in particular microeconomic concepts, and the brewing industry,” he said. “Beer is a really neat example because it allows you to talk about just about every fundamental concept in economics.”

Childs is also interested in the economics of happiness:

Not surprisingly, the economics of beer and happiness are related. For example, in most pubs, people are happy because beer is a good way to celebrate, he said. Childs’ economic view on happiness is that it isn’t tied to wealth but rather to income, because the latter allows you to acquire items that make you happy.

“It’s having that flow – always getting the next thing is what really seems to lead to happiness,” he said.

“Having stuff isn’t happy, getting stuff is – and that’s an important message … It’s the act of acquisition that I honestly believe makes us happy.”

(HT: Mike Meier)

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  1. hanmeng says:

    Why do movies and TV so often show unhappy people going to pubs to get drunk? Beer rarely seems to make them happier.

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    • DMac the Destroyer says:

      And if there’s anything I’ve learned in my short time on this earth, it’s that movies and TV are an accurate and complete depiction of real life

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  2. Hope says:

    Professor Ken Elzinga has been using his experience working with Guinness to teach introductory economics for years! He fills two 500-person lectures every fall. I think it’s more because he’s a great professor (and human being) who teaches well than because he talks about beer though.

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  3. Michael Gerba says:

    I travel internationally for business and I use the “Beer Index” as my purchasing price parity to compare economies of different countries. I have never actually charted the prices of beer in the different countries that I travel but over the last 16 years of “officially” being able to drink beer I have a pretty good sense and memory of what I have paid in different counties. It took the idea from the Economist’s “Big Mac Index” but since I normally do not eat at McDonald and like beer it works for me. I would be very interested in knowing if any economists out there track a “Beer Index”.

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    • Lakshmi says:

      I think the problem with a beer index is that beer (or rather, alcohol) is often taxed/heavily taxed in various parts of the world, and may not offer an accurate idea of actual purchasing power parity. That said, it is one of my personal proxies as well, since it is something I tend to consume across travels.

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  4. Greg says:

    The class sounds neat, but I found that last sentence disturbing.

    “Having stuff isn’t happy, getting stuff is – and that’s an important message … It’s the act of acquisition that I honestly believe makes us happy.”

    Perhaps my personal view on happiness is uncommon: that happiness comes from accomplishment and personal growth rather than material acquisition.

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    • Dali says:

      Actually it’s pretty much the same things tho … the “stuff” doesn’t necessarily refer to materials, talking about accomplishment, I think its much more satisfying when michael phelps won all those medals than having all those medals on his wall.

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    • Jack says:

      The happyness has its price.Maybe the number of consumped beer is a proxy.

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  5. Joe says:

    Being drunk doesn’t make me happy… getting drunk does.

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  6. FDUK says:

    What a load of …

    Plenty of people in pubs are unhappy, many are unhappy because of alcohol. Ask any alcohol councilor if drinking makes you happy. Mr C may be a great economist but he’s got no idea about pubs.

    Acquiring things does not make you happy, its your mindset not circumstances that makes you happy. Acquisition is like chocolate cake, makes you happy for a moment but there is always a price to pay. True happiness is part genetic, part environment and part what you do.

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    • James says:

      For me, it’s lose-lose. Being around drunk people when I am sober makes me unhappy, and if you get me drunk, ain’t nobody gonna be happy. (Which is why I don’t get drunk.)

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  7. El Conquistador says:

    Beer bongs for extra credit…

    Beer does seem to be a quasi-perfect market. Great competition, lots of good info available, and externalities are negligible – well, except for that annoying guy at the bar trying to tell you more about his favorite micro-breweries.

    What about coffee? Am I the only one that feels that coffee prices – at coffee shops – behave like a price fixing scheme? I pay exactly the same price for a regular cup of joe at Starbucks, my local coffee shop, a regional chain, or the university cafeteria…

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