Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

July 2005

A Monthly Archive (46 entries)

Be Fruitful and Multiply by 1.5

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
This weekend I first heard that according to Jewish tradition, the obligation to "be fruitful and multiply" requires one to have a minimum of one girl and one boy. This claim seems to check out. This got me thinking: What... MORE

Give This Woman a Nobel Prize!

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
A relatively unknown economist, Emily Anne Schneider, already seems to be giving up on her ambition to win the Nobel Prize. In any case, I still hope it goes to Anne Krueger first. Krueger is much more than the co-discoverer,... MORE

What's Wrong with Conventional Economics?

Alternative Economics
Arnold Kling
Michael Blowhard summarizes two books attacking mainstream economics. For most of the "Changing Face" crowd, the field needs some correction, but nothing fundamental. One mathematical-modeling whiz says straight-out that there's nothing wrong with mathematical modeling that better mathematical modeling can't... MORE

The Peak in Oil Supply

Energy, Environment, Resources
Arnold Kling
is still in the future, according to Daniel Yergin. There will be a large, unprecedented buildup of oil supply in the next few years. Between 2004 and 2010, capacity to produce oil (not actual production) could grow by 16 million... MORE

Useless Information

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
When you cite a book, you're expected to list its city of publication. As in: Sheffrin, Steven. (1996). Rational Expectations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Questions: Does anyone care what city a book was published in? Why do you need to... MORE

The Common Sense of Bayesianism

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Bayes' Rules is central to modern economics and modern psychology. According to Bayes' Rule, a rational person starts with some beliefs about probabilities (his "priors") and changes them in a particular way as new information arrives, in order to reach... MORE

Surveillance Costs and Benefits

Cost-benefit Analysis
Arnold Kling
In this essay, I argue that in the wake of the London bombings that screening passengers is still not cost effective. I am pretty sure that any cost-benefit analysis of "equal-opportunity" screening would reach an adverse determination. Crude racial profiling... MORE

Usually Look on the Bright Side of Life

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
[Note: This post may be better if you hum as you read.] I am a firm believer in the view that complaining about problems usually makes them worse. I have endured my fair share of bad service in restaurants, but... MORE

The Food Court Economy

Growth: Causal Factors
Arnold Kling
In the second essay in a series, I write, Think of the economy as a restaurant, or, better yet, as a Food Court. Behind the Food Court there is a farm, where plants and animals grow spontaneously in adequate but... MORE

Resistance versus Avoidance

Public Goods
Bryan Caplan
Sunday I declared war on a pair of yellow jacket nests at the base of my house, and it got me thinking. According to conventional wisdom, when I use an anti-yellow jacket spray, I impose a negative externality on other... MORE

Which Doctors Should You Fear?

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Some doctors keep abreast of the latest medical research. Others keep practicing the medicine they learned thirty years ago. We should all prefer the first kind, right? An interesting post by Russ Roberts on the accuracy of medical research has... MORE

The 1000 Milestone

Econlog Administrative Issues
Bryan Caplan
Econlog has just passed a milestone: 1000 total posts since inception!... MORE

Perry Mehrling, Fischer Black, and Elvis

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Arnold Kling
In this essay, I continue to praise Perry Mehling's biography of Fischer Black. Thanks to an outstanding new intellectual biography by Perry Mehrling, I have been reminded of Fischer Black's distinctive perspective on finance and economics. I want to use... MORE

Health Care Corruption

Economics of Health Care
Arnold Kling
Stephen Cha attacks the pharmaceutical industry's practice of showering gifts on physicians. Food, trinkets, pens and coffee mugs were being handed out to the whole office staff, about 20 people including med students and doctors -- all courtesy of Merck... MORE

Resolving the Sibling Paradox

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Intelligent critiques of evolutionary theory are extremely rare, but they do exist. Probably the best of the lot is philosopher David Stove. Stove has zero sympathy for religion; his complaint about evolutionary theory is that it makes false predictions. One... MORE

An Envy Tax?

Income Distribution
Arnold Kling
Catching up on a week's worth of blog reading, the best thing I missed appears to be this post by Will Wilkinson. Richard Layard points out that one's perceived position in the income distribution is a better predictor of self-reported... MORE

The Economics and Philosophy of the Cruise Ship

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've taken cruises to Bermuda, the Bahamas, and in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. And of course I'm not one to just sit back and enjoy the food. My mind soon wanders back to economics and philosophy. Tyler Cowen's recent... MORE

Emotions and Decisions

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Arnold Kling
The Wall Street Journal reports on a neuroeconomics experiment that compared emotionally-impaired investors with normal investors. The 15 brain-damaged participants that were the focus of the study had normal IQs, and the areas of their brains responsible for logic and... MORE

Good Reading Recommendation from Tyler Cowen

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Arnold Kling
A while back, Tyler Cowen recommended Perry Mehrling's book on finance theorist Fischer Black. I read it while on vacation this past week. I strongly endorse Tyler's recommendation. Black co-developed a formula for option pricing which garnered a Nobel Prize,... MORE

Hamilton on Bernanke on Bubbles

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
James Hamilton leaps to defend Ben Bernanke's skepticism about housing bubbles. As a guy who bought a Northern Virginia home in 2000, I sure hope they're right.... MORE

Medians, Means, and Irrationality

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Commercial speech does not currently enjoy the same protection under the Bill of Rights as other forms of speech. Donald Wittman has an interesting argument in favor of the double standard: The law of large numbers may explain the puzzle... MORE

Professors for Drugs

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Alex Tabarrok wants the freedom to buy drugs without having to beg a doctor's permission, and I couldn't agree more. When I mentally review my last five doctor's visits, virtually the sole benefit I got was access to a drug... MORE

What I Learned At the Library

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I'm in the last stages of my book on voter irrationality. Last week, I reached the part in my plan when I search for recent, relevant articles that I've missed. My plan: Scan all the articles published from 1999 to... MORE

E for Excited

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I am now officially excited about the movie version of V for Vendetta, opening this November. In case you haven't heard, V for Vendetta is a supremely excellent graphic novel about an anarchist philosopher's one-man war against a fascist dictatorship... MORE

Two Flawless Articles on Overconfidence

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Well, they're very good, anyway. The first is a 1999 gem by Philip Tetlock: "Theory-Driven Reasoning About Plausible Pasts and Probable Futures in World Politics: Are We Prisoners of Our Preconceptions?" (American Journal of Political Science 43(2): 335-66). The second... MORE

Critical Care Insurance

Economics of Health Care
Arnold Kling
The Wall Street Journal reports on a new form of health insurance. The illnesses covered under the policies vary. Policies typically insure for certain forms of cancer, heart disease and stroke, but some cover a far longer list of ailments,... MORE

Capitalism: You Look Marvelous

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
The most unintentionally funny magazine in the world is Adbusters. The world's got to be pretty good if the only thing you have left to bemoan is Ronald McDonald. The letters to the editor are a scream - the bitterest... MORE

Middle Class Squeeze

Income Distribution
Arnold Kling
Robert J. Samuelson writes, Since 1970 the size of the average home has increased 55 percent (to 2,330 square feet), while the size of the average family has decreased 13 percent... the new American home is a residential SUV. It's... MORE

Hospital Infections: a Point for Hanson

Economics of Health Care
Arnold Kling
This news story reports, Hospitals in Pennsylvania are underreporting a serious infection problem that, by their estimates, last year sickened 11,668, killed 1,793 and added $2 billion to the bill. ... Charles Inlander, a local consumer advocate and member of... MORE

Big Brains and Free Samples

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
I was intrigued by Arthur Robson's explanation for why "intelligence and longevity were simultaneously exaggerated in humans." ("The Biological Basis of Economic Behavior" 2001. Journal of Economic Literature 39: 11-33): Not only has human brain size increased dramatically over the... MORE

Rule By Fools Is the Rule

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Brad DeLong keeps asking "Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Fools?" (see here, here, and here for starters). This makes me wonder whether he'd ask the same question if he came across the following passage from Jeffrey Cohen's... MORE

A Little Hope for Hong Kong

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
Dan Klein has alerted me to the presence of two free-market organizations in Hong Kong, the Lion Rock Institute and The Hong Kong Centre for Economic Research. It's a start. Klein also pointed me to a nice lecture on what... MORE

Hong Kong: Statist at Heart?

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
Hong Kong has had the freest economy in the world since 1970, the earliest year covered by the Economic Freedom of the World data set. Indeed, it's higher now under the Communists than it was in 80's! And it's hard... MORE

fighting African poverty

Income Distribution
Arnold Kling
In this essay, I offer some advice for people who care about African poverty. 1. The world is a complex place. The farther you are removed from a situation, the less likely that your intervention there will do good and... MORE

Imperfect Information and the Generation Gap

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
I recently argued that economics could help evolutionary psychology explain why parents and their children disagree. If your actions have externalities for your siblings or other kin, the optimal choice for your parents' genes differs from the optimal choice for... MORE

Minimum Consistency

Price Controls
Bryan Caplan
Radley Balko amusingly reveals that ACORN, a group that crusades for the minimum wage, has been trying to pay its employees below the minimum wage for years. Ad hominem attack, right? No, there's more to it: In a suit ACORN... MORE

Socienics

Regulation and Subsidies
Arnold Kling
What do the Kelo decision and eugenics have in common? In this essay, I argue that both involve a faith in government to manage social good while overturning individual rights. we are entitled to hope that our legislators and appointed... MORE

Income Distribution Facts

Income Distribution
Arnold Kling
While the consistently pessimistic and erroneous Louis Uchitelle is reassuring elitists that America's middle class is insecure and in need of help, economist Steve Rose is crunching some numbers. The approach used here tracks family incomes over 15 years for... MORE

Improving Student Evaluations

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
When professors complain about grade inflation, they rarely mention that their students are the easiest graders of all. The main way that colleges evaluate professors' teaching is with student evaluations. Students typically rate how good their professor was on a... MORE

Anti-Foreign Bias Strikes Again

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
The Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science blog features an interesting graph comparing the actual and perceived percentange of foreign-born residents in 20 European countries. Consistent with my research on anti-foreign bias, people overestimate the percentage of foreigners in... MORE

The Case for Social Security Reform

Social Security
Arnold Kling
Allan Sloan praises General Motors. the company traded that implicit pension obligation for explicit debt with an interest rate of 7.5 percent and an average maturity of 19 years... GM says that without the big 2003 deal, it would have... MORE

Freak Storm

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
James Q. Wilson and I offer similar criticisms of the economics book that became a best-seller. Wilson writes, My advice is this: if you find something that intrigues you in Freakonomics, do not rely on the book to give you... MORE

Evolutionary Psych and the Generation Gap

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Watching War of the Worlds reminded me of one of the big puzzles in evolutionary psychology: Why do parents and their children disagree? "I only want what's best for you" is every parent's slogan, and if Darwin is right, how... MORE

Is Health Care Worth It, Con't

Economics of Health Care
Arnold Kling
Following up on Bryan's post, a couple of points. He quotes Robin Hanson to the effect that a RAND study found that people who reduced health care spending by 25 or 30 percent showed little benefits, although "Blood pressure may... MORE

Your Money or Yourself

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
Most people care a lot more about money than I do, but even so, almost no one wants to be married for their money. It's puzzling. You might say that since marriage is a long-term contract, people only want to... MORE

Three Last Gasps on Health Economics

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
I've been meaning to reply to Trent McBride and Tyler Cowen (see here and here) on my doubts about the effects of medicine on health. McBride poses three challenges: Challenge #1: Don’t you have to recognize the non-mortality benefits of... MORE

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