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Balan-Caplan Debate: Suggested Topics?

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Not only do I look down on thinkers who won't bet; I also look down on thinkers who won't debate.  The flip side is that I particularly admire thinkers who propose bets and debates.  I'm pleased to report, then, that economist David Balan emailed me out of the blue to set up a debate at GMU for spring, 2010.

If David's name doesn't ring a bell, he's a DC-based economist.  You can read his papers here.  You may remember him from the Balan-Hanson paternalism debate (see here and here).

What should we debate about?  In the past, Balan strongly disagreed with my view that American partisan differences are mostly rhetorical.  (It's no secret that he likes Obama and thinks Democrats are much better than Republicans).  So I thought we could debate about that.  But the topic's still up in the air, and we're taking suggestions.  Anyone?


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COMMENTS (17 to date)
kingstu writes:

Partisan Differences - I disagree with your point about these being mostly rhetorical. The differences are VERY small overall but even small differences can be quite meaningful. For example, the difference in the DNA between any primate and a human may only be 1%, but that 1% creates a vastly different animal.

After reading Mr. Balan’s post about partisan differences, he may not be rational enough to debate this topic. Does he really intend to imply that the Republican Party is controlled “in no small number” by “predatory plutocrats”, “homicidal sociopaths”, and “religious nuts?” Is this indicative of his overall world view?

There seems to be a fair amount of healthcare papers in his selected works page you linked to. How about this?

Debate the merits of universal healthcare (UK style) vs. a more market based healthcare system (Singapore style).

MD writes:

What about a thinker who will engage in written debates, but not verbal debates? Do you look down on this thinker?

Some people suck at verbal debates - they get all flustered and can't perform regardless of whether their ideas have merit.

von Pepe writes:

How about:

Will studying pirates help fix the current economy and macroeconimcs?

Arthur_500 writes:

Group Loyalty and Collusion David J. Balan, Federal Trade Commission
Manfred A. Dix, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources

Abstract
This paper begins with the assumption that collusion can be sustained by means of group loyalty among members of a cartel. Obviously, such loyalty would make it easier to sustain collusion for a cartel of a given size. In this paper we show that the existence of group loyalty can make it possible for the cartel to profitably expand its size by inculcating group loyalty into an entrant. We show that expanding the size of the cartel can be profitable for the incumbents if the loyal entrant displaces a non-loyal entrant. We also show that it can be profitable to expand the cartel even if there would not be non-loyal entry, if there is a way for the entrant to transfer profits to the incumbent and if the mechanism by which loyalty is inculcated also serves to reduce the costs of the loyal entrant relative to those of non-loyal entrants.


May I suggest debating how loyalty to a political party or to a specific candidate may influence an economist's thinking. In other words, they become so vested in their membership in a particular group that they are subject to fuzzy logic and ignore the facts.

David J. Balan writes:

When Bryan and I talked about possible topics, he suggested the one referred to in the post. I was worried that this would become too much of a conventional political debate, but he said that the cool twist would be that instead of Democrat vs. Republican, it would be "hate Republicans and sort of like Democrats and really like Obama" vs. "they all suck more or less equally." I take his point: this may produce an interesting twist on the familiar debates. But I'm inclined to think that we can do better, with something related to health care being the most promising candidate. But I'm open to being guided by what people want to see. I think extra weight should be given to the wishes of people who actually plan to attend the debate, if any.

Sam writes:

How about actually looking at a functioning socialized health care system (such as the one in Alberta, Canada, which has fee-for-service reimbursement to physicians) vs. a different model, such as Singapore's?

It's frustrating to see people talking about "Canadian" healthcare without understanding that each province sets its own healthcare policy.

Matthew C. writes:

Let's see.

By March of next year, it is easy to predict widespread national disgust with Obamanomics, its unprecedented deficit spending, its insane nationalizations of vast portions of the private sector and its coddling of the bankleptocracy following in GWB's footsteps.

So let's plan on debating the merits of the Obama - Pelosi - Reid government.

Bill writes:

Would Dave be willing to take the negative against this quote from Bryan:

"economists' arguments in favor of socialized medicine are largely rationalizations of a policy that they favored long before they studied economics."

Or maybe just (not a quote from Bryan): "Economists' usual arguments in favor of socialized medicine are wrong."

These have the nice features of Bryan being right while Dave has pretty much the entire sub-discipline of health economics on his side.

Dr. T writes:

You've got a DC economist who supports Obama and thinks Democrats are superior to Republicans. He's either a Democratic flack like Krugman or he's running around wearing blinders. Why debate him at all?

Amaturus writes:

As an undergrad, maybe I'm too young to care that much about the health care debate, because I'd be much more interested in a debate about the effectiveness of the Bush/Obama stimulus measures and the classic overarching debate about government intervention. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to fly out to GMU to see the debate, but I thought I'd offer some student input.

Giedrius writes:

OT: it would be interesting to hear you publicly debate Tyler Cowen about social costs/benefits of religion. He's got really annoying lately.

Sam Wilson writes:

I can just about promise that I will attend the debates. I'd like to see both of you defend your fundamental views on the role of government and its efficacy. To keep this from becoming another tussle over the MRV, I would choose prompts that relied less on voter preferences and more on the interests of business and political elites. I suppose I would ask each of you to explain the rift between optimal public utility (indeed, if such a thing even exists) and policy outcomes.

Who will be moderating?

Jesse writes:

I would pay to see this debate (no, not really).

I hope it ends up on the web somewhere, very exciting.

Monte writes:

What should we debate about?

How about the Butler Act?

wesley writes:

Maybe as part of a larger debate on health care, I'd like to hear your guesses on which variables contribute how much to health care costs, e.g. is emergency room overuse 10% responsible, third-party payment system 20% responsible, consumer demand for many and expensive procedures 30% responsible? Even without econometrics to back you up I'm curious to see how greatly guesses can differ. A suggested method: together come up with a list of half a dozen variables or so beforehand (one can be "other") and then, PTI-style, assign a percentage to each; then talk about it.

hacs writes:

I have not seen discussions about health care alternatives whose basic structural hypothesis of the mental models used to analyse those alternatives are detailed and compared. Many disagreements seem to be founded on different mental models, but the discussions are focused on their outcomes, confounding the real debate.

Joe Cushing writes:

I think most libertarians see both parties as more the same than different. Both parties grow government in terms of power and costs. The differences in how they grow government are subtle.

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