Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

September 2013

A Monthly Archive (75 entries)

The Status of Unemployed High-Status Papers

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Every now and then, prominent economists release working papers that never get published.  What should we conclude when an elite article suffers from "long-term unemployment"?1. The signaling story: Even prominent economists can't publish their paper, so it's probably terrible.2. The... MORE

Henderson's Godwin's Law

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
If you read blogs much, you've probably come across Godwin's Law. Godwin's Law states: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. I think it's basically correct. However, one could formulate... MORE

The Great Malemployment Debate

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
From an early age, my father warned me that if I refused to major in engineering, I could easily end up driving a taxi.  As I matured, I discovered that his over-the-top warnings had a firm basis in fact.  Many... MORE

Happy birthday, Ludwig von Mises

Economic Philosophy
Alberto Mingardi
Today, 132 years ago, Ludwig von Mises was born in Lviv. Mises has been perhaps the last great system builder in social sciences, one of the great economists of the century (see here an insightful profile by co-blogger Art Carden),... MORE

Airplane Repo: Paean to Private Property

Property Rights
David Henderson
While channel surfing recently, I came across "Airplane Repo" on Discovery. It is what its name implies: it weaves together stories, typically about three, of people whose job is to repossess airplanes. Based on about 6 cases I've seen, typically... MORE

Maxim Lott on the Carrier Cost Overrun

Political Economy
David Henderson
Maxim Lott has a short, excellent piece on the cost overrun for the almost-$13 billion (yikes!) aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford. Of course, I'm biased, because he quoted me and used the two best quotes I gave him. Here's... MORE

What I've Been Reading Lately

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Art Carden
1. Orson Scott Card, Xenocide and Children of the Mind. According to the introductory essay for Xenocide and the postscript to Children of the Mind, these were originally supposed to be one book. They comprise a very interesting end to... MORE

For Natalism

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Jason Sorens critiques natalism over at Pileus.  Here's my point-by-point reply.  Jason's in blockquotes, I'm not.The main advantage of more people is a deepening of the market and the division of labor. More people means more ideas and more specialization.... MORE

Me in Dallas on Friday

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
Friday I'm a keynote speaker for the O'Neil Center's "Entrepreneurship in Education" conference, held at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  Admission is expensive, but students are eligible for sponsorship.  If you're there, please say hi.P.S. I'll be packing the... MORE

I apologize if I've over-emphasized the "for the children!" meme recently, but today's FEE article from Jeffrey A. Tucker, "The Abolition of the Playground: How Regulation Stifles Spontaneous Order and Play" deserves to be read widely. It's popular to say... MORE

Who is Mrs Merkel?

Eurozone crisis
Alberto Mingardi
Mrs Merkel won the German elections by a landslide, gaining an impressive 41.5% of votes. However, the most notable unintended consequence of Mrs Merkel's triumph is that both the other right-of-the-center parties, the liberals of the FDP and the newly... MORE

The Homage Statism Pays to Liberty

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here's an odd thought for a libertarian: The government very rarely tells me to do anything.  Once per year, the IRS orders me to pay federal income taxes.  Once per year, the state of Virginia forces me to pay state... MORE

Optimal Minimum Wage?

Labor Market
David Henderson
David Lee of Princeton University and Emmanual Saez of University of California, Berkeley have an article in the Journal of Public Economics titled "Optimum Minimum Wage Policy in Competitive Labor Markets." It has two strange results, one that I understand... MORE

Tyler Long-Term Unemployment Bet

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Tyler just bet me at 10:1 that U.S. unemployment will never fall below 5% during the next twenty years.  If the rate falls below 5% before September 1, 2033, he immediately owes me $10.  Otherwise, I owe him $1 on... MORE

Of Mice and Men, Morals and Markets

moral reasoning
Bart Wilson
Good morals make for good markets is hardly a contentious claim. Reputations for honest dealing grease the wheels of commerce. But does it go the other way? Do markets foster good morals? The intuition of most people is that markets... MORE

What Bewley Learned

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I mistrust prescient empirical researchers.  If you claim that your research confirms your predictions in every detail, you might be a genius, but you're probably just extremely unobservant.  One of the reasons I so greatly admire Truman Bewley's Why Wages... MORE

One of the most compelling characters in Adam Smith's work is the person he refers to as "the man of system." Here's Smith's oft-quoted passage from The Theory of Moral Sentiments: The man of system, on the contrary, is apt... MORE

Why Don't Wages Fall During a Recession?: Q&A With Me Channeling Truman Bewley

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I finally got around to reading Truman Bewley's Why Wages Don't Fall During a Recession cover-to-cover.  The book is a miracle - easily one of the five best empirical economics books I've ever read, and possibly the best of the... MORE

Weekend Wall Street Journal

Economics of Health Care
David Henderson
I rarely do a potpourri of various links but the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal this weekend had 5 good op/eds: the Weekend Interview, the two unsigned "Review and Outlook," and two pieces by non-WSJ authors. 1. Weekend... MORE

Friday Night Video: David Friedman vs. George Smith

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Rarely do I get totally engrossed in watching a debate, especially one that's almost 2 hours long. But I recently discovered this 1981 debate between economist David Friedman and philosopher George Smith on the issue: Ethics vs. Economics as a... MORE

A Pacifist History of Westeros: Gochenour Guest Post

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Zac Gochenour, who co-authors with both me and David, is also my go-to Game of Thrones savant.  Here's his reaction to my recent post on pacifism and GoT.I think that your analysis is very much in line with Martin's intent.... MORE

Bleg: The Right Way to Read Tyler

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Please read Tyler's post, then answer the following two questions:1. What percentage of Tyler's readers never have and never will read anything else about the relevance of changing household size for claims about economic stagnation?2. What lesson about the relevance... MORE

What's 'freedom' (regular human beings version)?

moral reasoning
Alberto Mingardi
The Online Library of Liberty is hosting a symposium on George H Smith's most interesting book, "The System of Liberty." Jason Brennan, David Gordon and Ralph Raico commented on Smith's lead essay--and the whole thing is well worth reading. Jason... MORE

Today Tyler chides anti-stagnationists who point to falling household size: Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Persons per family household: 1990: 3.22 2000: 3.24 2010: 3.24 Not so much change, and if you look you will see there is also not so much... MORE

Game of Thrones and the Common-Sense Case for Pacifism

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
[Warning: Full of book and show spoilers.]"And those who have not swords can still die upon them."  The words are J.R.R. Tolkien's, but they could just as easily have come from the pen of George R.R. Martin, author of the... MORE

Tupy: Wealth Saves Lives

Cross-country Comparisons
David Henderson
Over at Cato at Liberty, Marian L. Tupy reports the good news on worldwide child mortality. He quotes a UN report: In 2012, approximately 6.6 million children worldwide--18,000 children per day--died before reaching their fifth birthday, according to a new... MORE

Seth Helps Students Select Careers; Does Anyone Else?

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Seth Roberts has an interesting take on the real purpose of college.  He starts unpromisingly:Almost all college students want to figure out what job to choose. The answer will depend on what they do well, what they enjoy, and will... MORE

Regulating your diet

Economics of Health Care
Alberto Mingardi
Food taxes are apparently proliferating, all over Europe. Finland introduced taxes on sugared products; France now has a special tax on all soft drinks and Hungary increased taxes on food with high fat, sugar and salt content. The trailblazers on... MORE

My posts last week explained why the government should regulate, if not prohibit outright, meals cooked at home as a matter of public health and also as a matter of employment and prosperity (1, 2). Here's another idea. You require... MORE

Four Readings from Frederic Bastiat

Economic Philosophy
Art Carden
File Frederic Bastiat under "under-appreciated thinkers." I'm talking about Public Choice in my principles of macroeconomics class tomorrow, and here are a few readings from Bastiat that continue to inspire me: 1. "What is Seen, and What is Not Seen."... MORE

The We in Wealth

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bart Wilson
The first economic experiment in our Humanomics class is based upon my research article with Sean Crockett and Vernon Smith. The idea for the project came from an honors course that Vernon and I have co-taught using experiments to teach... MORE

Free Market Schizophrenia

Economics of Health Care
David Henderson
Ted Levy, a physician friend of mine who has often commented on this blog, sent me the following. I thought it was good enough to post. It's essentially a very sharp non-economist's way of explaining what economists call "the theory... MORE

Galton's Demented Idea

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In 1873, Francis Galton, founding father of modern statistics and behavioral genetics, publicized a demented idea.  It begins promisingly:My proposal is to make the encouragement of the Chinese settlements at one or more suitable places on the East Coast of... MORE

Mark Perry: Food Prices Have not Risen Much

Statistical theory and methods
David Henderson
Annual increases in food prices over the last four years have averaged less than 2%, which is the lowest average food inflation rate over a 48-month period in almost 50 years. Although it might seem like food prices have been... MORE

Coase on Regulating Goods and Ideas

Regulation
David Henderson
One of the articles by the late Ronald Coase that I highlighted in my recent Wall Street Journal encomium to him was his clever 1974 piece, "The Market for Goods and the Market for Ideas." I had remembered the highlights... MORE

I appreciate the feedback on yesterday's post about underground dinner parties, but I don't think people understand just how serious this is. Just a few minutes ago and just a step or so away from my precious perfect snowflake one-year-old... MORE

Incentives in Foreign Policy

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
David Henderson
One of the issues I emphasized in my speech last night, "The Economic, Moral, and Constitutional Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy," was the role of incentives. Here's part of what I said: Now consider the incentive problem. Neither the... MORE

Here's an excerpt from the latest draft of The Case Against Education. Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 The link between practical skill and worldly success is subtler than either mainstream defenders or contrarian detractors of modern education imagine.  The skillful do a... MORE

Via Scott Shackford, at Reason, we learn of "The Scourge of Illegal, Underground Dinner Parties." In short, people are paying to attend dinner parties featuring fancy food. And such transactions are unregulated. Naturally, people are concerned. Presumably, some of those... MORE

Perhaps the most relevant of Mencken's aphorisms

Economics and Culture
Alberto Mingardi
David Henderson has celebrated H.L. Mencken's birthday by posting some of his best aphorisms on democracy and politics. I would just like to commend the following one, which seems to me to be the most relevant for contemporary policy issues:... MORE

Sometimes, "Not My Problem" Is the Right Answer

Austrian Economics
Art Carden
Last week, I linked to the LearnLiberty "Why are YOU a Libertarian?" Tumblr. Twitter user @EricPaulDennis posted the following: @Econlib @artcarden @LearnLiberty Because its easier to say, 'not my problem,' than to consider solutions. (?)— Eric Paul Dennis (@EricPaulDennis) September... MORE

Mencken on Government

Public Choice Theory
David Henderson
Some of my Facebook friends are celebrating H.L. Mencken's birthday with their favorite quotes from Mencken. One that pops up again and again is this one: Democracy is the theory that the common man knows what he wants and deserves... MORE

What Is the Forced Organ Donation Hypothetical?

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I often appeal to the forced organ donation hypothetical.  See for example my common-sense case for pacifism.  But what precisely is the hypothetical?  Here's an excellent explanation, courtesy of Judith Jarvis Thomson:[I]magine yourself to be a surgeon, a truly great... MORE

Faustian Economics

Alternative Economics
Bart Wilson
We solve: "In the beginning was the Payoff." Immediately I stop. Did I just quaff? A one-time buzz is too specific; The inception could be more generic. It must be wishful free and stark attentive; Perhaps: "In the beginning there... MORE

Bleg: Questions for Noah Smith

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
Tomorrow I'll be hanging out with blogger Noah Smith all day.  Have any questions you'd like me to ask him?  With his permission, I'll share responses.Earnest questions only, please.... MORE

On Thursday evening, September 12, I will be giving a speech in Marina, California. The title: The Economic, Moral and Constitutional Case For a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy Details are here.... MORE

The Gratitude of Bryan Cranston

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston knows the secret of happiness: gratitude.I think if you believe in past lives, I must have been an extremely deprived being.  I must have been mistreated, beaten, and forced into indentured servitude because this life... MORE

Life Extension: Economists vs. the Public

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Earlier this year, Pew surveyed Americans' beliefs about life extension.  I was appalled by their nihilistic responses.  Worst of the bunch:Asked about the consequences for society if new medical treatments could "slow the aging process and allow the average person... MORE

Psychohistory and us

Politics and Economics
Alberto Mingardi
OpenCulture has just re-published some predictions by Isaac Asimov about life in 2014. I read Asimov as a teenager and, as I'm sure many of you were, I was always delighted by his science fiction and his sense of humor.... MORE

Academic Freedom: For Professors Only?

Economics of Education
David Henderson
This past weekend, I was engaged in a fierce debate on Facebook about academic freedom. What led to the debate was was a video that has gone viral. The video is of William Penn, an English professor at Michigan State... MORE

Liberty Fund's own Sarah Skwire is one of my favorite people, and by reading some of her columns in The Freeman I've been able to catch up on the classical education I thought I had and always claimed but eventually... MORE

Business, Lobbying, and the Big Picture

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When the sugar industry lobbies for sugar tariffs, economists are quick to cry "Rent-seeking!"  A concentrated interest lobbies for a concentrated benefit, paid for by a diffuse public - nothing mysterious.  Strangely, though, businesses also often lobby for Big Picture... MORE

Assad Pulls a Keystone

Energy, Environment, Resources
David Henderson
Why has the little nation of Qatar spent 3 billion dollars to support the rebels in Syria? Could it be because Qatar is the largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the world and Assad won't let them build a... MORE

Stephen Hicks on War and Philosophy

Cross-country Comparisons
David Henderson
My friend and fellow immigrant from Canada, philosopher Stephen Hicks, has posted a 9-minute video in which he considers the major wars of the 20th century. His point is that philosophy is practical and that one can see that by... MORE

This is an almost 2-hour video of a forum held at Butler University in April. The participants are Mike Munger, Robert Skideslky, Richard Epstein and moderator Russ Roberts. The transcript is here. Some highlights: 00:08:40: Mike Munger's "beauty contest... MORE

Motivated Numeracy and the Enlightenment

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Kevin Drum and Chris Mooney have already posted excellent summaries of this neat study of motivated numeracy.  You should read them.  But if you prefer the digest version: Even unusually numerate people take off their thinking caps when the numbers... MORE

Why Should We Go To War With [Name]?

Politics and Economics
Art Carden
A few years ago--I think this was at Division of Labour--I asked readers to go to RandomCountry.com, spin for a Random country, and then make the case for war with that country. With the prospect of military adventures in Syria... MORE

What I've Been Writing Lately: On Immigration

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Art Carden
Over the summer, I had an exchange on AL.com with Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks about immigration. AL.com declined my rejoinder to Representative Brooks because they generally don't publish back-and-forths, but given that Congress is apparently set to take up immigration... MORE

Why are YOU A Libertarian?

moral reasoning
Art Carden
The Institute for Humane Studies' LearnLiberty.org project has created a Tumblr asking people why they are libertarians. This one caught my eye. Shayne, age 20, is a LIBERTARIAN because I cannot remember a time without WAR abroad and WAR at... MORE

Further Notes on Schooling

Economics of Education
Art Carden
Friday's post got some great comments. Here are a few additional notes on schooling from someone new to home schooling (homeschooling? Home-schooling?): 1. What does it say about the quality of your product when you have trouble giving it away?... MORE

My Superintelligence Skepticism

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky's debate on the future of superintelligence is now a free e-book. Cool cover:The transcript of their in-person debate starts on p.431.  I conditionally agree with Robin: If a superintelligence came along, it would do so... MORE

I, Coffee

International Trade
David Henderson
For instance, even the relatively simple GVC [global value chain] of Starbuck's (United States), based on one service (the sale of coffee), requires the management of a value chain that spans all continents; directly employs 150,000 people; sources coffee from... MORE

Ken Minogue's last essay

moral reasoning
Alberto Mingardi
The New Criterion has just published a version of Ken Minogue's last essay, that he presented in a Mont Pelerin Society meeting in the Galapagos Islands, just a couple of days before he suddenly and sadly passed away. In the... MORE

Henderson on Coase

Obituaries
David Henderson
My op/ed on Ronald Coase's work was published in today's Wall Street Journal. Here's an ungated version published by the Hoover Institution. While, of course, I discussed the two articles that were most responsible for his winning the Nobel Prize,... MORE

I'm going to start an occasional series here at EconLog titled "Research That Should Get More Attention" based on books and papers I read (and re-read) that more people should, in my humble opinion, read (and re-read). The first installment:... MORE

Economics as a Branch of Literature

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bart Wilson
Shortly before arriving at Chapman University in 2008 I discovered some essays by Frank Knight. Every graduate student in economics learns about or, at least, has heard references to Frank Knight, one of the original members of the "Chicago school... MORE

The Mixed Messages of French Schooling

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I finally got around to reading Eugen Weber's classic Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914.  It wasn't what I'd been led to believe.  I heard that the book blamed World War I on public schooling: Europe's late... MORE

Coase on Friedman's Methodology

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
David Henderson
My post this morning will be briefer than usual because I'm busy writing a piece for the Wall Street Journal, due this morning, on the late Ronald Coase. But I can't resist quoting from a review of his book of... MORE

Open Borders is a Moderate Position

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
After Fabio Rojas, Vipul Naik, and I created the Open Borders Logo Contest Facebook page, many opponents of immigration joined the page and behaved uncivilly.  When our troika decided to moderate the page, immigration opponents cried foul: "If you believe... MORE

In Praise of Productive Labor

Labor Market
David Henderson
Yesterday afternoon, I came home from walking at Point Lobos Park with a colleague. We watched probably about a dozen large whales off the shore. It's the most I've ever seen. When I got home, I couldn't park in front... MORE

Ronald Coase, 1910-2013

Obituaries
Art Carden
I checked Twitter a minute ago and learned that Ronald Coase has passed away. Coase's contributions were...Coasean. I'm not sure if I can think of a strong enough adjective to describe what he did in just two articles--"The Nature of... MORE

College football season has started. I plan to go to a few Samford games and I'll keep up with my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide, but this is yet another year when I'm going to try to dial back my enthusiasm... MORE

Daniel Kuehn on Immigration

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
David Henderson
Appropriately, given that it's Labor Day, one of Econlib's two feature articles is on immigration. In "Why the Conventional View of Immigration is Wrong," author and economics graduate student Daniel Kuehn challenges two conventional views on immigration: (1) That the... MORE

Who Is Tyler's Reference Group?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
As soon as I saw Tyler's latest post on "Why the Theory of Comparative Advantage is Overrated," I asked myself, "Overrated by whom?"  The theory clearly isn't overrated by the 95%+ of American adults who have no idea what the... MORE

Robert Murphy on Math in Economics

Economic Methods
David Henderson
Bryan Caplan (here and here) and I (here) have both posted in Econlog on economics in math. You can read our posts and find links to much of the other discussion. Now Robert Murphy has laid out some of his... MORE

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