Bryan Caplan  

Replies to Critics on Cato Unbound

Good News on California School... Steven Levitt's "Daughter Test...
Highlights from my reply to Greg Clark:

I am pleased to in principle accept Greg's proposed bet:

So if Bryan wants to bet even odds that farmland prices will be higher relative to average wages in 30 years time, I am happy to accommodate him...
We just need to work out (a) whether this is a bet on U.S. farmland prices relative to U.S. average wages, or world farmland prices relative to world average wages; and (b) what we'll consider the canonical measure of the price of farmland. For simplicity, I suggest we stick to the U.S., use the United States Department of Agriculture's measure of the average value of farm real estate, and settle on January 1, 2041...
Also: When Clark remarks...

But the empirical evidence population on idea production is weak, especially once we move to population sizes beyond those of remote island communities.

... I respond:

What would it take to convince you, Greg? The more populous periods of human history--most obviously the last few centuries--clearly produced more scientific, technological, and cultural innovations than earlier, less populous periods. More populous countries today produce many more scientific, technological, and cultural innovations that less populous countries... Here's a challenge for you: Name the most credible measure of idea production that isn't at least moderately positively correlated with population.

Highlight from my reply to Matthew Connelly:

I'm puzzled by Connelly's claim that, "Fertility is not, after all, a good in and of itself, unlike liberty, prosperity, or good health." It seems to me that, all else equal, it is very "good in and of itself" when one more person gets to enjoy the gift of life. Yes, you can point to downsides and trade-offs. But you can do the same for prosperity and health.

Matt, why are you so much more worried about "fertility cults" than "prosperity cults" or "health cults"? All can be rationales for oppressive policies. All have been. But as I said in my previous reply, libertarians have more convincing ways to defend liberty than flatly denying the goodness of these ends.

P.S. In case you missed the connection, Connelly's the author of the outstanding Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population - featuring a great moment of libertarian populism.

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Jim Glass writes:

The average price per acre of farmland in the USA has risen over the 50 years 1960-2010 from $861 to $2,140 (in 2010 dollars) says That's about 1.8% per year. Wage growth has averaged 0.8% in recent decades. Looks like a good bet to me.

Garth Zietsman writes:

The absolute number of Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Economics or Literature and the number of Fields Medals per country are all unrelated to population size.

Lord writes:

Correlation isn't causation and in this instance likely the reverse may be true, greater idea production supports more population. The curious thing is while cities are more productive, there is more population growth away from them. While idea production may result from greater densities, it actually produces lower population growth.

David C writes:

Jim Glass, I think you misunderstand the bet. Bryan is betting that the issue of land scarcity will be solved or greatly reduced. If the 1.8% for land and 0.8% for wages growth rates continue, Bryan will lose the bet.

Jim Glass writes:

I didn't say the good bet was Bryan's side. :-)

But to even the chances, one might adjust the growth of price of farmland by the change in the amount of it -- down 20% since 1960. And meausure it against growth of compensation instead of wages, as wage growth is skewed low by the increasing amount of compensation going into non-wage benefits.

Anyhow, I don't see that these measures really are the best to test farmland scarcity being "solved".

The 1.8% drops to only about 1.4% growth of farm land value, after subtracting the 20%.

That 1.4% is a heck of a lot lower than the 3% GDP growth during the period -- even while the US population being fed grew by 67% (120 million), and with US farms exporting ever more food to the whole world on top of it.

All that indicates we've already had a pretty darn good reduction of the farmland scarcity problem even with total land rent rising faster than the average wage.

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