Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: February 2006

An Author Archive by Month (25 entries)

Why Experiments are Misleading

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Tyler Cowen discusses an interview with Harvard's Mullainathan, in which he talks about a bank's randomized marketing experiment: “What we found stunned me,” he says. “We found that any one of these things had an effect equal to one to... MORE

Eternal Temptation

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
I just found out that my Internet service provider sells its services on a lifetime basis. For a $300 lump-sum payment, I will never have to worry about quarterly service fees OR domain registration for my website again. Should I... MORE

Red-Handed Ratchet Effect

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Robert Higgs is famous for his analysis of the "ratchet effect." As Higgs explained in his Crisis and Leviathan, governments expand during crises, then conveniently fail to return to their initial size after the crisis ends. Of course, it's possible... MORE

Lenin and Goebbels: Can You Tell Them Apart?

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
You probably can, but mostly because Lenin is such a terrible writer: Goebbels: Bourgeois social theory is primarily concerned with the individual. It is thus essentially determined by pity, or compassion, or the Christian love of one's neighbor or similar... MORE

Back in the day, I was one of the research assistants for the Collected Works of Hayek. Frankly, the more I read, the less impressed I was. Among other things, Hayek spends a lot of time unconvincingly blaming socialism on... MORE

Less Stumped

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
The high bidder called my wife this morning, suggesting that his price could come down. When he found out the price we paid, he asked a lot of questions, and exclaimed "You got a great deal!" So perhaps his strategy... MORE

Stumped

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
A dead 80-foot tree was leaning precariously toward our house, so my wife asked three tree-cutting firms to submit bids. The spread was absurdly wide: $1900, $875, and $3200 for the same job. How is this possible? The quality and... MORE

You're Not Fooling Anyone: The Futility of Libertarian Euphemisms

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
Yesterday GMU had a mini-debate between Dan Klein and Pete Boettke on "Is It Time to Retire the Label 'Austrian Economics?'" Dan said Yes; Pete said No. Dan's proposal, roughly, was to (a) expand the set of heroes to include... MORE

Economic Theory for the Socially Perplexed

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
Why is getting along with other people so complicated? Shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm have explored this question with hilarious results. But last week Rick Harbaugh of Indiana University came to speak at GMU, and convinced me that... MORE

Honest Measurement

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Arnold isn't happy about measuring happiness. His objections, and my replies: Happiness research cannot make behavioral predictions at all. It consists of taking meaningless surveys, and the most it can do is make predictions about the "findings" of other meaningless... MORE

A Story that Warms My Heart

Public Goods
Bryan Caplan
Think firemen provide a public good? At least in rural areas, think again: MINNEAPOLIS – Carl Berg failed to pay a $25 annual fee for rural fire protection and, as a result, firefighters let his house burn to the ground... MORE

Lighten Up on Happiness, Arnold!

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
My co-blogger continues to be unhappy with happiness research. Since no First World happiness researcher would willingly trade places with Third World tribesmen, and Third World tribesmen would willingly trade places with First World happiness researchers, happiness research is "fundamentally... MORE

Lemons for Valentine's Day

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
Match Point, yet another Woody Allen movie about adultery, reminds me of a question I've often wondered about: Why hasn't the lemons problem killed adultery? To be more specific, why would any women want to steal a man who lies... MORE

Drain Our Brains: It's the Law!

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
If you want to get a U.S. student visa, you're supposed to demonstrate "nonimmigrant intent." As one immigration lawyer puts it: "the student must have 'nonimmigrant intent' – that is, an intention to return to their home county and not... MORE

Credentialism versus Signaling

Human Capital: Returns to entrepreneurs, skills, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Arnold's not too happy about credentialism: I remember hearing a company founder in the Dotcom era saying that he only wanted to hire MBA's from top schools. I thought to myself that this was silly. When you are a start-up,... MORE

Creative Destruction of the Telegram

Growth: Consequences
Bryan Caplan
My grandpa sent me a telegram to congratulate me on my college graduation. Even then, I thought it was weird. Thirteen years later, the market has finally pulled the plug on telegrams: Well, now nothing is worth a telegram. Western... MORE

Name My Book, Part II: Vote on the Finalists

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
If you know anything about my book, you'll wonder why I'd use democratic means to select the title. The main answer, of course, is that Econlog readers are the rational voter exception that proves the irrational voter rule! Here's my... MORE

What Does Education Signal? Answering Arnold's Challenge

Human Capital: Returns to entrepreneurs, skills, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Arnold raises a common objection to the signaling model of education: My problem with the signalling model of education is that it suggests that there is a huge unexploited profit opportunity for employers and employees who can come up with... MORE

Individual Creativity

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
So this is why I always hated working in groups!... MORE

An Implausible Randian Correlation Checks Out

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
One of the countless criticisms of Ayn Rand's novels is that she makes all her heroes good-looking and all her villains ugly. That's not quite true - Floyd Ferris is known as "that good-looking scientist" - but it's close. It... MORE

Mixed Signals: Why Becker, Cowen, and Kling Should Reconsider the Signaling Model of Education

Human Capital: Returns to entrepreneurs, skills, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Gary Becker, Tyler Cowen, and Arnold Kling have all recently criticized the signaling theory of education. If you haven't heard, the signaling theory says that to a significant extent, education does not increase workers' productivity. Instead, the fact that you... MORE

Punk Songs for Classical Liberals

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Russ Roberts gives me the lead-in I've been waiting for: I was talking to my students last night about inspirational education—writing or music that not only informs but inspires. And I wondered out loud with them about why there isn't... MORE

Insurance versus Charity

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
One of the most effective ways to take the sting out of charity - for recipients and involuntary donors alike - is to give it a new name: "insurance." If you buy fire insurance and your house burns down, you... MORE

Happy 101st Birthday, Ayn Rand

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Would Ayn Rand be proud of how I turned out? Probably not, but I love her just the same. Here's why, and here are details on her contributions to literature, philosophy, and social science. If that doesn't satisfy your Rand... MORE

Fool Me Thrice, and I'll Trust You

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Amy Perfors at the Social Science Statistics Blog asks a great question: Why does repeated lying work? It's a common truism, familiar to most people by now thanks to advertising and politics, that repeating things makes them more believable --... MORE

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