Bryan Caplan  

The Counterintuitive Explained

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Although I've argued that basic economics is intuitive, I recommend this short Wikipedia article on the counterintuitive.  Its best example:
[A] policy of catching large fish and throwing back small ones may be counter-productive. In response to that policy, evolutionary pressure may select for small fish. A counterintuitive improvement may be to catch only medium sized fish, leaving the biggest free to breed, creating evolutionary pressure for fish to grow quickly through the medium size.

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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Daniel Kuehn writes:

Is this something of a response to the "economics is hard" discussion?

I agree - most economics is intuitive. However, it's precisely the non-trivial, not uncommon counter-intuitive findings of economics that are important to keep pointing out, because they are so easily missed. Most may indeed be intuitive, but you can get in a lot of trouble ignoring the counter-intuitive findings.

Chris writes:

I laughed a bit when I read this. I grew up near the ocean and have been an avid fisher since a young age, and this is precisely the approach that I and most of my avid fisher friends take. When we fish together, no one bats an eye when a monster fish is returned to the sea. When we take less experienced anglers out, they nearly fall out of the boat watching us throw large fish back.

MicroNomics writes:

Speaking of selection by fishermen returning catch to the sea, google "Heike crab".

Kurbla writes:

Returning small fishes is not evolutionary pressure, it is managing of existing fund. The selection is lucky guess at the best; the specie would have trouble to satisfy existing + additional criteria for survival. Great Danes cannot survive in woods.

mdc writes:

"...creating evolutionary pressure to grow quickly through the medium size?"

Ok, how about this: "Catching the large fish creates evolutionary pressure for fish to grow quickly through the large size until they are so heavy they cannot be lifted by a human?"

Or perhaps "...catching the medium sized fish still leaves only small, but now reduces the average size of fish you catch as they have less time to grow."

JimS writes:

I've long thought that it was obvious we are doing it wrong here in Alaska regarding returning Salmon. Why have a lower size limit on returning salmon who are going to spawn and die as soon as they get past the fishermen and bears. We should have an upper limit. Is it any wonder my father in law is always talking about how much bigger they were 50 years ago.

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