Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

March 2008

A Monthly Archive (80 entries)

You're Never Too Old to Become a Kidult

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If you think that James Hamilton is just a brilliant quant, think again: He's also a sensitive humanist. Here's a moving tale of his father-in-law's last year:Jack's last year was not an easy one. Everything was becoming increasingly difficult, and... MORE

Jamie-Lynn Spears' Pregnancy: What's the Problem?

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
A lot of folks are outraged that Jamie-Lynn Spears is pregnant. I fail to see the problem. Jamie-Lynn is clearly not going on welfare; her single motherhood will not financially burden any of the people who are complaining. And at... MORE

Modernity and the Gender Gap: It's Counter-Intutive

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
A while back on blogged on the fascinating fact that the religious gender gap is bigger in more advanced societies. In societies where men and women are "socialized" to be the same, they are actually more religiously different. (In case... MORE

The Sub-Utopianism of the Market

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Remember Joel Waldfogel's The Tyranny of the Market? Waldfogel's thesis, as he explains in Slate: "For small groups with preferences outside the norm, the market often fails to deliver." That sounds like bad news for me, because I'm a member... MORE

Jefferson Against Newspapers

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
When I was reading some famous quotes about newspapers, I came across Jefferson's famous line that, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate... MORE

Education and Beliefs About Campaign Finance: An Exception to the Rule

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
More educated people almost always have more sensible beliefs than less educated people. I've said it many times. But this Wednesday at lunch, Erik Snowberg from Stanford pointed out an interesting counter-example: Less educated people have less biased beliefs about... MORE

You Do the Math: Goolsbee on Retirement Investing

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
After I do my taxes, I often start thinking about retirement planning. Here's an old NYT column where Austen Goolsbee gives some sage advice:You probably have not given much thought to political tax risk, however, or perhaps have even heard... MORE

Meltzer on Financial Regulation

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
Allan Meltzer writes, Regulators and most politicians are good at developing rules and restrictions, but poor at thinking about the incentives that the market will face. If the incentives are strong, the market circumvents the regulation. The Basel regulation encouraged... MORE

Politicians: How Outraged Should You Be?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
You all know what Brad DeLong thinks about George Bush. Well, that's what I think about politicians in general. Even so, politicians almost never make me angry. I expect them to be atrocious, and I'm rarely disappointed. When I hear... MORE

Public Opinion as a Political Speed Limit

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose someone said: "People drive 5-15 miles over the speed limit. It's obvious, then, that speed limits have no effect on how people drive." It's a pretty silly argument, isn't it? People drive 5-15 miles over the speed limit in... MORE

The Plunder Economy

Economic History
Arnold Kling
From Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, p. 221: The expansion and maintenance of the trading routes did not derive from an ideological commitment of the Mongols to commerce and communication in general. Rather, it... MORE

I'm frankly puzzled by Tyler's latest attack on the signaling model of education. Not only does he merely repeat an argument that I previously answered; but he fails to tell readers about a new and improved version of his argument... MORE

Education, Assortative Mating, and Inequality

Economics of Education
Arnold Kling
I am going to combine comments on two papers cited by Tyler Cowen. First, he cites a paper on inequality and mobility. It argues that skill differentials are widening, and that parental education seems to be increasingly important. (Note that... MORE

Junk Macroeconomic Science

Macroeconomics
Arnold Kling
Several days ago, Greg Mankiw linked to a list of top economists according to some objective criteria related to published work. I was familiar with most of the top 150, at least to the point of being able to identify... MORE

ROTFL

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Sunday's Simpsons re-run was new to me, and I laughed so hard my I couldn't get out the words to explain the joke to my sons:Homer [mockingly]: Ooh, the PATRIOT Act is so terrible! The government might find out what... MORE

Financial Commentary

Arnold Kling
Russ Roberts said, The Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have orchestrated the survival of Bear Stearns. The defenders of that maneuver argue that if Bear Stearns had failed it would have created a lot of collateral damage, so much... MORE

Posner on What Teachers Want

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Here's Richard Posner being unusually blunt and insightful even for him:From the standpoint of most teachers, right up to and including the level of teachers of college undergraduates, the ideal student is well behaved, unaggressive, docile, patient, meticulous, and empathetic... MORE

Publishing the Unpublishable Paper: Something to Care About

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
One of Robin Hanson's greatest unpublishable papers has finally been published. "Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism" appears in the latest issue of Medical Hypotheses. Here's Robin summarizing the paper and his decade-plus struggle to publish it.... MORE

The "Too Simple to Write a Book About It" Diet

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Yesterday I did a 10-minute interview in my office with self-experimentalist and diet guru Seth Roberts. Today he blogged it:My self-experimentation inspired Bryan Caplan to do his own self-experiment: Could he lose weight by eating less without discomfort? He did... MORE

A Result I Was Happy to Hear

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I often go to movies alone. Tyler convinced me to try, and I haven't looked back. So naturally I'm delighted to hear that S.C Noah Uhrig has found that "Cinema Is Good for You":Using data from wave 12 of the... MORE

Snippets of Subversive Folk Songs

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
I have not had much time to pursue the folk song idea, but I have written a few snippets. [now slightly revised] First, I am trying to do something to the tune of "Union Maid" that speaks to the moral... MORE

Emerson on Tipping Charity

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Over at the Freakonomics blog, Ian Ayres lists Emerson as a famous opponent of tipping, and offers this quote as evidence:I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, yet it is a wicked dollar which by and by I shall have... MORE

Sherry Glied vs. Jacob Hacker

Economics of Health Care
Arnold Kling
In Sunday's Washington Post, Jacob Hacker wrote, getting the government more involved in health care would actually reduce costs, improve quality and bolster the U.S. economy -- which helps explain why public insurance is the secret weapon in both of... MORE

The Paperback Arrives

Economics of Health Care
Arnold Kling
Crisis of Abundance is now in paperback, for ten bucks at Amazon. The fact that Peter Orszag, no ideological fellow-traveler of mine, sounds many similar themes indicates to me that I can feel justifiably proud of the book. Two changes... MORE

Peter Orszag on Health Care Costs

Economics of Health Care
Arnold Kling
He spoke at the Wilson School. The audio sounds bad on my computer, but he makes an important point. If health care costs are 16 percent of GDP, and we could reduce spending by 30 percent with no worse outcomes,... MORE

On the "to be read" list

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Arnold Kling
Murat Iyigun says he cannot wait to get his hands on Joel Mokyr's forthcoming book, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain. Nicholas D. Kristof writes about Matthew Connelly's Fatal Misconception, making it sound like a cross between Liberal... MORE

The Root Causes of Divorce: The Usual Suspects

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Reading Tim Harford's "Is Divorce Underrated?" in The Logic of Life got me wondering about the root causes of divorce. I want to create a list of "main" root causes, not partition logical space; at the same time, I want... MORE

Folk Songs

Economic Education
Arnold Kling
This past weekend, my wife and I attended a sing-along. About fifty of us Baby Boomers, along with a few children and grandchildren, gathered with some guitars, banjos, and other instruments to sing the classic tunes of Woody Guthrie, Pete... MORE

Is "Contagion" the Result of Statistical Discrimination?

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Yes or no: Is financial "contagion" the result of statistical discrimination? I.e., is it just a case where all financial institutions of a given type get judged by the average quality of their type?... MORE

In The Logic of Life, Tim Harford repeats an argument about divorce that I've often heard economists make. One of the challenges that Gary Becker tackled, he explains, is the sharp increase in divorce. Tim goes on:Some commentators have blamed... MORE

Defending Market-Value Accounting

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
Felix Salmon writes, Krugman's saying they're all wrong, and that Bear Stearns, along with other financial institutions, actually has a negative book value. He's not giving any reasons why he's right and they're wrong, he's just asserting it. And so... MORE

The Medium and The Message

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
Not the topic du jour, by any means, but one that has interested me for a long time. Megan McArdle writes, I'm an enormous fan of John McWhorter's book on the decline of formal language, Doing Our Own Thing. I... MORE

Financial Turmoil

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
It's the topic du jour. Start with Alex Tabarrok. In 1997, inflation-adjusted house prices were close to their average levels over the previous half-century. Only four years later, the price of the average home nationwide exceeded anything ever seen before... MORE

Costs and Benefits of the Patent System

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Arnold Kling
Patent Failure is a new book by James Bessen and Michael J. Meurer. Here is a lecture by Bessen. The book's introduction emphasizes the importance of what the authors call "the notice function." An efficient property system notifies non-owners of... MORE

The Power of Mistaken Identity

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
In most twin studies, the twins themselves (or their parents) report "twin type" - i.e., whether the twins are identical (monozygotic/MZ) or fraternal (dizygotic/DZ). This is reasonably accurate, but falls far short of DNA testing. Most behavioral genetic studies rely... MORE

A Historical Anecdote

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
From Supermoney, by 'Adam Smith' (George Goodman), p. 31 - 49: In a Crunch, the country runs very dry of money...... MORE

Monetary Theory and Policy

Monetary Policy
Arnold Kling
In today's econtalk podcast, Tyler Cowen and Russ Roberts discuss monetary theory and monetary policy. It is a wide-ranging discussion, covering several weeks worth of an intermediate macro course. If you are not familiar with the subject, you might have... MORE

Another Parable

International Trade
Arnold Kling
Greg Mankiw writes, A 2006 poll of Ph.D. members of the American Economic Association found that 87.5 percent agreed that “the U.S. should eliminate remaining tariffs and other barriers to trade.” The benefits from an open world trading system are... MORE

Not Fannie Mae!

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
Brad DeLong writes, If I were Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, I would spend the weekend building a legislative vehicle to introduce Monday morning on an emergency basis to give Fannie Mae the resources and the mission to undertake this mortgage... MORE

Speculator of Last Resort?

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
In an unusual move, The Fed is lending to Bear Stearns. My view of what is going on starts with The Risk Disclosure Problem. When times are good, a firm like Bear Stearns keeps its risks under its kimono, and... MORE

The Love of Hierarchies

Institutional Economics
Arnold Kling
Denis Dutton writes, Human beings are naturally hierarchical and they like arranging themselves into hierarchies of skill, age, wealth, competence, experience, whatever. David Brooks writes, they go into one of those fields like law, medicine or politics, where a person's... MORE

Once Upon a Time

Economic Education
Arnold Kling
In a recent comment, Troy Camplin pointed to a short story that he wrote a few years ago. Milton Wilcain was obviously not a very smart man...if he had been intelligent, he would have been allowed to keep his money... MORE

An Army of Spitzers

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
Amidst the tawdriness, I attempt to draw a real lesson. Suppose that we define "Spitzer" as someone who believes in the aggressive use of political power. A Spitzer believes it is his mission to tell us what to do for... MORE

How I Would Advertise Nip/Tuck in the AER

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Last time I checked, there weren't any ads for popular DVDs in the American Economic Review. But after watching the first few discs of plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck, I feel inspired to write a pulpy pitch for economists. Here goes:Watch...... MORE

Birth Order and Safety

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
All the parents of multiple children I know admit that they stress less about - and do less for - the later arrivals: "We went crazy baby-proofing when we had our first baby; but by the time his sister came... MORE

The Outlier Who Would Be President

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Here's a neat piece on the peculiar status of John McCain in Poole and Rosenthal's ambitious empirical analysis of Congress:Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, the two authors of the most widely used estimates of the ideal points of members of... MORE

Why Colleges Need More Money

Economics of Education
Arnold Kling
Inside Higher Ed has the scoop. the majority of full-time professional employees in higher education are in administrative rather than faculty jobs. A university consists of a faculty attached to a fundraising apparatus, where it used to be the other... MORE

Sentences that Should Embarrass Any Grad Student

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
The true author of each of these sentences is a noted Nobel prize-winner. Still, if a grad student wrote any of them, he should be embarrassed. I italicize the words that make each sentence blush-worthy, and follow each with a... MORE

Wisdom of Crowds Blog Experiment

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Dan Phiffer, a blogger I met at SXSW, has set up a little "wisdom of crowds" experiment on his blog. Check it out, and see if you can make the crowd a little wiser. :-)... MORE

My Review of Gregory Clark

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Arnold Kling
Is on the Claremont Review web site (it did not make the dead-tree publication). How is it that in the 19th century, England came to have dominion over so many lands and so many peoples? Though he uses modern quantitative... MORE

What Rothbard Missed: Error or Demagoguery?

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Murray Rothbard seems to misunderstand some elementary lessons about monetary economics. He was a brilliant polymath, so it's hard to believe that this was simple ignorance. Perhaps he got locked into these errors early in his career, and never broke... MORE

I just read Murray Rothbard's The Case Against the Fed, and it brought back to mind my youthful exposure to his whole approach to monetary economics. (See here, here, and here for more). My mature view is that there are... MORE

Selection and Politicians

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
Today's news (usually not my best blog topic) is Eliot Spitzer. When I heard about his, er, affair, I started wondering: Is every successful politician that arrogant? Does our process work that well at selecting for arrogance, or am I... MORE

Sacrificing an Economic Adviser

Politics and Economics
Arnold Kling
Tyler is upset. It seems the Barack Obama campaign is distancing itself from Austan Goolsbee, who is indeed a first-rate economist...Which kinds of advisers will flourish best in a "message consistency" environment? Independent and critical minds, able and willing to... MORE

What is Revolutionary Science?

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Arnold Kling
Bruce Charlton and Peter Andras write, a research foundation working in a specific scientific field might at present spend 100 million dollars per year – and might spread this money among ten 10 million dollar program grants. In all likelihood,... MORE

Where are the Hedge Funds?

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
Tyler Cowen asks, Is/was the subprime crisis simply a mask for a more general revaluation of the meaning and extent of liquidity? Are such revaluations always so bumpy and so lacking in locally stable iterative processes? Earlier, he wrote, we... MORE

International Inequality

Growth: Causal Factors
Arnold Kling
Charles I. Jones writes, By the end of the 20th century, per capita income in the United States was more than 50 times higher than per capita income in Ethiopia and Tanzania. Dispersion across the 95th-5th percentiles of countries was... MORE

Free Lunch at SXSW?

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
I had a shockingly large turnout for my talk at SXSW Interactive in Austin. But the real surprise came during the book signing. I was seated next to Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, and got a glimpse of... MORE

George McGovern, Libertarian

Regulation and Subsidies
Arnold Kling
While Martin Feldstein is proposing more government meddling in mortgage markets, George McGovern writes, There's no question, however, that delinquency and default rates are far too high. But some of this is due to bad investment decisions by real-estate speculators.... MORE

Feldstein's Lender Bailout Proposal

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
Martin Feldstein writes, The federal government would lend each participant 20% of that individual's current mortgage, with a 15-year payback period and an adjustable interest rate based on what the government pays on two-year Treasury debt (now just 1.6%). The... MORE

Civil Disobedience Alert

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
The LA Times reports, Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California's home schooling families. ..."Parents do not have a constitutional right... MORE

Why Does Nurture Affect Religion?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I just finished re-reading The Nurture Assumption by Judith Harris. It holds up like few other books do. But perhaps the weakest part is her discussion of counter-examples - Traits where parenting does seem to make a big difference. The... MORE

Energy Scenarios

Energy, Environment, Resources
Arnold Kling
I spell out my conjectures. ScenarioMost Economical TimeframeRemarksCarbon Competition2008-2020Cheapest energy sources, except for political barriersConservation2008-2015Smarter electric grid, better car batteriesNu-cu-lar2013-2030It works, but at what risk?Franken-fuels2020 and beyondThe most likely revolutionSolar Singularity2025 and beyondHope it happens... MORE

Gary Gygax, RIP

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons and the father of the thousands of role-playing games it spawned, has died. And while I think he made a bundle off of his ideas, he only got a small fraction of the... MORE

Jonah Goldberg's Alternative Title

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
He writes, the one thing libertarians grasp better than conservatives or liberals is the danger of the category error when it comes to the role of government...The fundamental insight of libertarianism is that the government is the government. It cannot... MORE

Podcasting is so 2005

Growth: Consequences
Arnold Kling
What delicious irony that Steve Marglin tries to argue against modernity--saying that we need more community and less stuff--in an appearance on...YouTube. Will Wilkinson keeps sounding like he wants to put "community spirit" into the utility function, so that economists... MORE

Thursday through Sunday, I'll be at the 2008 Public Choice meetings for the first time since I became a dad. Reviewing the schedule, here's what stands out to me:Mitchell, Matt — Justices, Presidents and Nominations: A Public Choice Model of... MORE

Who Will Be Less Bad for Trade?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Bhagwati says Hillary's worse than Obama:[W]hereas Mr Obama’s economist is Austan Goolsbee, a brilliant Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD at Chicago Business School and a valuable source of free-trade advice over almost a decade, Mrs Clinton’s campaign boasts of no... MORE

Hamilton: Trade-offs, Not Tightropes

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
James Hamilton is one of the few macroeconomists whose short-run forecasts never sound like quackery. His latest analysis is full of insight:Some analysts are saying that Fed Chair Ben Bernanke is walking a tightrope-- if he does not drop interest... MORE

The Civic Duty to Know Your Limits

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
Selwyn Duke says it short and sweet in "Why Most Voters Shouldn't Vote":Most of us agree that having an educated populace is a prerequisite for a sound democratic republic. We also know that not everyone is well-educated. Thus, it cannot... MORE

Progressives, Eugenics, and Airbrushing

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
In a history of Swarthmore's economics department, Joshua Hausman wrote, Nearing is also the only Swarthmore professor to have taught eugenics in an economics class. He omits his past interest in eugenics from his 1972 autobiography... In a 1912 book,... MORE

Economics and Sociology

Economic Methods
Arnold Kling
Reviewing the last chapter of Tim Harford's The Logic of Life, Fabio Rojas writes, the market system itself, as indicated by Tim’s concluding chapter, depends on population, innovation, and liberal economic institutions. These, in turn, depend on psychology, group culture,... MORE

Security Symbolism

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
Megan McArdle writes, Perhaps I am too jaded by excess air travel, but most of our homeland security seems designed to A) Increase the power of congressmen and agency heads or B) Put on a show for the yokels rather... MORE

Who Owns Oil

Energy, Environment, Resources
Arnold Kling
Nansen G. Saleri writes, Modern science and unfolding technologies will, in all likelihood, double recovery efficiencies. Even a 10% gain in extraction efficiency on a global scale will unlock 1.2 to 1.6 trillion barrels of extra resources -- an additional... MORE

Life Under Socialism

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
Ibsen Martinez writes about life in Venezuela. Consider breakfast. My breakfast, to be exact. It's been months since I have had an oatmeal breakfast or a nice cup of espresso with a drop of milk because coffee and milk has... MORE

Kurzweil on Solar Power

Energy, Environment, Resources
Arnold Kling
LiveScience quotes Ray Kurzweil. "It is doubling now every two years. Doubling every two years means multiplying by 1,000 in 20 years. At that rate we'll meet 100 percent of our energy needs in 20 years." Simple. Next problem? This... MORE

There's a Name for What I Am

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
It's "kidult":While many people in their forties have families and responsibilities, an increasing minority still resemble teenagers. Scary, wrinkled, grey-haired teenagers, with some kind of terrifying premature ageing disease, but teenagers nonetheless. It’s enough of a phenomenon to have been... MORE

How People in the Biz Explain the Subprime Crisis to Their Families

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
The world's gone topsy-turvy: Last night my wife read me this graphic novel. It's funny, informative, honest, and rated R. Enjoy.... MORE

Who Says Economics Causes Asperger's?

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Patri son of David son of Milton begins by approvingly quoting Stu:When I have a problem that concerns one of my kids... I could visualize my child standing on the other side of a line, next to "The Problem", with... MORE

Jeremy Horpedahl argues that you can make most public support for bigger government vanish simply by mentioning that more spending means higher taxes. I'd like him to be right. But I'm not convinced. First, overall government spending passes Jeremy's Mueller... MORE

Return to top