Bryan Caplan  

GMU's Visionary

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Last week, my colleague Dan Klein kicked off the Public Choice Seminar series.  During the introduction, I recalled some of his early work.  But only after did I realize how visionary he's been. 

In 1999, when internet commerce was still in its infancy, Klein published Reputation: Studies in the Voluntary Elicitation of Good ConductSeventeen years later, e-commerce towers before us, resting on a foundation of reputational incentives - everything from old-fashioned repeat business to two-sided smartphone reviews.  

In 2003, long before Uber, Airbnb, or serious talk of driverless cars, Klein published The Half-Life of Policy Rationales: How New Technology Affects Old Policy Issues.  This remarkable work explores how technological change keeps making old markets failures - and the regulations that arguably address them - obsolete.  (Here's the intro, co-authored with Fred Foldvary).  Fourteen years later, the relevance of Klein's thesis is all around us.  Transactions costs no longer preclude peakload pricing for roads, decentralized taxis and home rentals, or full-blown caveat emptor for consumer goods.  So why not?

I'm not going to say that Klein caused these amazing 21st-century developments.  But he did foresee them more clearly than almost anyone.  Hail Dan Klein!




COMMENTS (4 to date)
David R. Henderson writes:

Dan Klein definitely does march to the beat of a different drummer. And, as you have documented, it has paid off.

Don Boudreaux writes:

Bryan: Nicely and importantly said.

Thomas Sewell writes:

It's amazing how frequently in the last few years I've been in the middle of a discussion with someone and said, "Look, you should really go study Public Choice economics, it covers all this".

Peter Gordon writes:

Yes, when the points Bryan mentions seem plain-as-day, it is because Dan explained them to us many years ago.

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