Bryan Caplan  

Totally Conventional Views Which I Hold

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As soon as Tyler posted his "Totally Conventional Views Which I Hold," I felt the urge to do the same.  In no particular order:

1. Most academics are out of touch with the real world and have little useful to say about it.

2. American democracy is dysfunctional and will not noticeably improve.

3. A U.S. fiscal crisis is coming in a couple of decades due to aging, but we'll muddle through.

4. The E.U. will muddle through its current and impending problems, too.

5. Most old movies, poetry, and classic literature are boring.

6. Amazon and Netflix are awesome.

7. 80% of the bad stuff Democrats say about Republicans is true.

8. 80% of the bad stuff Republicans say about Democrats is true.

9. Unemployment of 5% or higher is extremely inefficient and socially dangerous.

10. You should marry someone who agrees with you on all important issues.  Life will provide you with all the conflict you need to keep things interesting.

11. You should marry for true love.

12. You should not travel to countries with murder rates over 1-in-10,000.

13. Work hard, avoid conflict, and you will be rewarded in the long-run.

14. Teens should be actively discouraged from pursuing long-shot careers in sports, art, music, literature, and space exploration.

15. Raising kids is the most meaningful thing most people will ever do with their lives.

16. Teenage boys should stop taking stupid risks, and teenage girls should stop associating with teenage boys who take stupid risks.

17. Most kids, no matter how rebellious, eventually turn into their parents.

18. You should buy a lot of stuff at CostCo.

19. With low interest rates and the mortgage interest deduction, buying a house that costs at least three years' of pretax income is a great deal.

20. Bourgeois is best.

For contrast, here, here, and here are some of my less conventional views.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (36 to date)
Noontime Spender writes:

William Carlos Williams and Hart Crane boring?

Andrew_FL writes:

On 12 your threshold, going by wiki's charts, would exclude quite a few countries. I'd think this would be highly misleading, anyway, if most murders are not of tourists. shouldn't travel to Puerto Rico? Or Louisiana for that matter...

Of course it goes without saying you should never go to Washington DC.

On the whole this strikes me as you being very risk averse.

gmm writes:

Are you saying that buying a more expensive house is better?

blsdaniel writes:

You are definitely wrong about #18. What's so great about CostCo? I mean, I don't know much about it, but that's the whole point: CostCo is so obscure that it's hard to even find out anything about it on the web, for crying out loud.

And, frankly this whole name, CostCo, sounds like a ripoff of Costco.

(And now THERE is a magnificent store!)

Art Carden writes:

15 or 30 year mortgage?

honeyoak writes:

Andrew_FL, if you look at the wiki tables it is scaled by 1:100,000 not 1:10,000
Haiti has a murder rate of 1:10,000

mike davis writes:

Agree on all except

5: Most movies, poetry and literature are boring, old or new. But it’s total worth it for the chance to encounter the good ones (e.g., We endure Wagner to get to Verdi).

12: Murder rates are local. You can find a safe place in a dangerous country (and a dangerous place in a safe country.)

16: True, but this is like saying it should stop snowing in Boston.

18. True, but a mystery. With a child on the way, I find I’d rather go to CostCo than a sports bar. What is it about that place???

19. Not always. It depends on how long you intend to stay and how strong your credit.

Jeff writes:

I agree with most of these, so I'll just comment on a couple quibbles:

1. You've made a big deal in the past about creating a "bubble." Do you worry this makes you more out of touch than average? Are your public pronouncements affected by the thickness of your bubble? Likewise, how do you know that other people are out of touch, given you have this bubble? Maybe other people appearing out of touch is merely a symptom of your own out-of-touchness. It is strange that someone would boast about avoiding "the real world" via this bubble, advocate others do the same, and then chide his peers for being out of touch with the real world. Of course, me agreeing with most of your points here would imply either that I am also out of touch (very possible) or that you remain a pretty good judge of the real world despite the bubble. I would bet on some combination of the two.

14. Too strong. It depends on the teen, I think. For example, teens from wealthy or upper middle class backgrounds aren't going to suffer much from making high risk, high reward career choices. The same talents that helped make their parents or grandparents wealthy should be working for the kids, assuming a high rate of heritability, so their odds of making it big as, say, an actor are probably better than average (if still low), but they should be able to switch careers if that doesn't work out and still enjoy relatively high levels of success.

Brad writes:

Yeah the murder rate stuff is not a good metric.

Places that would be out according to the posted list.

Puerto Rico
US Virgin Islands
St Kitts
Cayman Islands
Dominican Republic (Where I head with my family in 4 weeks)

I would go to pretty much any of those and have gone to a few on the list.

Most of those places have mananged to carve out safe areas for tourist.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Agree on all except I'd qualify the one about American democracy (relative to what? Sure you can point to dysfunctionalities but that seems trivial - relative to meaningful alternatives it's a pretty good deal), and the murder one which people have covered.

I'm curious, reading 7 and 8 (which I agree with) what you think of corollaries for libertarians. I think it's pretty fair to say that 80% of the bad stuff Republicans and Democrats say about libertarians is true (actually I might scale back that percentage for 7, 8, and this corollary a little bit but the point is it's true and it's pretty symmetric).

Philo writes:

1. What does 'dysfunctional' mean? *Less than ideal*? If so, your statement about American democracy is awfully weak.
2. *Having* kids is important. But I thought your view was that it doesn't matter so much (within normal limits) how you *raise* them.

Warren Lee writes:

2. American democracy is dysfunctional and will not noticeably improve.

7. 80% of the bad stuff Democrats say about Republicans is true.

8. 80% of the bad stuff Republicans say about Democrats is true.

Pretty much sums up the disaster that we as humans live, depending on other humans to rules over us when they don't even have the capacity or moral fortitude to guide their own step. Liars, hypocrites and failures. All of them.

On a lighter note: you're right Amazon and Netflix do freakin' rock, lol.

Andrew_FL writes:

@honeyoak-Yes, and I'm capable of dividing by ten. All places I mentioned have ratios above ten in one hundred thousand.

d writes:

1) I think this applies to you and many others on the question of open borders. You've had a biased experience of interacting with people of all ethnicities from the right side of the bell curve.

"14. Teens should be actively discouraged from pursuing long-shot careers in sports, art, music, literature, and space exploration."

I totally agree with this one, but I don't think it's a conventional view among millennials. Maybe harsh experience will change my generation's views.

Anônimo writes:

Kuehn: Agree on all except I'd qualify the one about American democracy (relative to what?

Relative to small autocracies ou quasi-autocracies like Singapore, Hong Kong, Liechtenstein, etc.

Tom West writes:

"14. Teens should be actively discouraged from pursuing long-shot careers in sports, art, music, literature, and space exploration."

I'd agree with Jeff that if you're middle class and above, you can probably afford to try and fail unless you've really burned all your bridges.

Moreover, for many, if they had real aspirations and/or some indications that they might succeed but didn't even try, they will end up haunted for the rest of their life by "what-if".

Luckily for me, while my son's first love is orchestral music, he is clear-eyed enough to see how peers that are way better than him struggle to make any living at all.

I am, however, encouraging him to play recreationally (community orchestras, etc.) after university.

austrartsua writes:

1. Agreed. (However, somewhat paradoxical, seeing as you are an academic yourself. Shades of “This statement is false”?).

2. Replace with “all democracy”. There is nothing uniquely dysfunctional about the American brand.

4. I hope the EU burns in a blaze of socialist stupidity.The days of blistering economic growth seem to be long gone for that pessimistic, reactionary, backward, continent. Ironically for a people obsessed with sustainability, low-growth/no-growth economics is not sustainable.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Anônimo -

Fair enough, although surely a lot of this boils down to whether you think of autocracy as definitionally dysfunctional, which I lean towards.

I say "lean towards" because I think the real question here is "does it achieve goals with high frequency and efficiency", and one of the important "goals" is going to be respnosiveness to citizen demands. That's not quite ruling out autocracies definitionally but it's close.

If the there's some other definition of dysfunctional it's very possible American democracy may lose out. Other regimes can make the trains run on time, sure.

khodge writes:

1. When we have a president who thinks that holding a paying job is "like a spy behind enemy lines" it is pretty obvious that he is an academic.

16. That's what teenage boys do and, if they survive, they become a huge asset to the economy and the gene pool.

2. THESIS: American democracy is an amazing thing: PREMISE: the bottom line is that it is politics; PREMISE: politics is the art of keeping 300,000,000 people happy;
PREMISE: keeping 300 million people happy is, in essence, why you offered your list to us.
CONCLUSION: rethink your thesis.

Justin writes:

I agree with the principle of #14 but your list of vocations is problematic.

Pursuing a career in sports should be discouraged both because the odds of success are vanishingly small and because the fallback plan if you don't achieve the dream are very limited. You don't build a lot of skills training to be a professional athlete that can be applied to any other career. Pursuing a career in space exploration, on the other hand, has lower odds of success but is much less risky because you're building a lot of skills that are easily transferable to other careers. Someone that is pursuing a career as an astronaut generally involves getting undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees before applying to NASA. Even if they fail, they've got credentials and knowledge that are relatively easy to parlay into a good, if earth-bound, career.

Dain writes:

"Teenage boys should stop taking stupid risks, and teenage girls should stop associating with teenage boys who take stupid risks."

When they're older this means attempting to start a business, most of which will fail. But somehow I don't think this is what you mean.

stubydoo writes:

There is exactly one item on the list which are absolutely, colossally wrong about. That's the one about traveling to countries with high murder rates.

Murderers are not in the habit of targeting ordinary American tourists doing ordinary American tourist activities. Many, many Americans have travelled to e.g. Brazil; vanishingly few have run into any serious trouble.
(Brazil is significantly above your proposed threshold).

The places you shouldn't go as a tourist are those where there is a war either going on or on the verge of breaking out. Pretty much everywhere, local law enforcement is solid enough in key tourist areas, though doesn't necessarily protect you from small time scams and theft. The state department website is a good source, though interpreting its warnings should be adjusted by noting the things that authoritative foreign sources say about traveling to the USA.

The rest of your list is pretty wise.

Sieben writes:

I disagree that careers in sports are high risk. Elite American athletes are not actually elite by world standards. Just look at the Olympics and how the Bulgarians/Russians/Chinese train and perform compared to their American counterparts. Despite our first-world status and diverse gene pool, American culture lacks grit and discipline. Exercise is perceived as this huge stressor you have to do in a very limited and controlled way, and then back off to recover from. Better to just keep your head down and study for the MCAT...

Not every kid can play professional Basketball or Football for obvious biomechanical reasons, but there's no reason your child can't be elite at something.

Most American parents simply don't have the tools to help their child win because they themselves are not winners. America produces office jockeys - low risk, low energy, mediocre reward, and all the self-esteem and depression problems that come with it.

In general, most American parents don't have the tools to do much of anything right. How many parents do you think read the wikipedia article on corporal punishment in order to inform their parenting? ACE study for the nonbelievers.

Tom DeMeo writes:

I wish you would reconcile view # 9. "Unemployment of 5% or higher is extremely inefficient and socially dangerous." with your views on open borders.

Jordan B writes:

So don't visit Mexico or Brazil?

Or Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia, or Belize? (All of which are incredible)

Hell, Peru is right up there on the border. I can't imagine not seeing Machu Picchu and all of those amazing Incan ruins because I was afraid of the boogeymen.

What a timid, narrow perspective.

White Light writes:

You should not travel to countries with murder rates over 1-in-10,000.

But we should surely let those people immigrate to our country, right?

Peter writes:

Should one also avoid US cities with murder rates above 1/10000? Such as Washington, Dallas, Houston, and Oklahoma City?

Warren Lee writes:

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David C writes:

I have often visited 6 Caribbean countries with murder rates above 1 in 10,000, and they are among my favorite places on earth. Stunning natural beauty, friendly and engaging people, wonderful climate. Dominica and St. Lucia have some of the most beautiful mountains in the world (and I live in Switzerland).

The murders in those countries are, I bet, largely connected to marijuana cultivation and sales. It is easy enough to avoid conflict with those engaged in such activities, just don't try to compete with them or actively threaten them with discovery.

RJ writes:

[Comment removed for supplying false email address and for rudeness. Email the to request restoring your comment privileges. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog and EconTalk.--Econlib Ed.]

Kolya writes:

How on earth can you reconcile #12 and your open-borderism?

Jon writes:

American democracy is not just dysfunctional. It doesn't exist. We are an oligarchy. And I guess I have to wonder, is that Bryan's preference? If voters are irrational we wouldn't want democracy. We don't have democracy, so for Bryan is rule by the rich better?

Bryan talks about how the public is mistaken on economic matters and so democracy is a problem, but the opinions of the public matter very little. What matters is the opinion of the rich, since they run the country. Are the rich rational? That's probably the more important question.

Penelope writes:

On 5. Most old movies, poetry, and classic literature are boring.

Another way of putting this would be: "It is very difficult to recapture the mentality from which old movies, poetry, and classic literature were once felt to be exciting."

But that would require a less self-congratulatory, presentist point of view.

Tom Jackson writes:

"5. Most old movies, poetry, and classic literature are boring."

I thought it was interesting that Bryan omitted "music." I mostly listen to classical music these days, and although I do listen to living composers, mostly I listen to dead ones.

Floccina writes:

Sieben did you ever notice that people from those other countries only do well in unpopular sports.

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