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Bryan Caplan: August 2007

An Author Archive by Month (47 entries)

I Will Live to Be 87

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
...according to Northwestern Mutual's statistical applet. But I suspect they don't realize that we should all expect to outlive our so-called "life expectancy." P.S. Notice how the applet does not include income as a predictor of life expectancy - contrary... MORE

The Sociology of RPGs: A Case Study in Cultural Growth

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
On recommendation of fellow gamer (and noted sociologist) Fabio Rojas, I've just read Gary Fine's Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds. The book's 25 years old, but still remarkably fresh. You've got to love this passage:Because of their complexity,... MORE

"Inessential Weirdness": Nothing Is More Essential

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Democrats who study public opinion usually conclude that if their party wants to win elections, it should focus on populist economic policies, and ditch the culture wars. Over at Class Matters, an activist independently reaches the same conclusion: Left-wing activists... MORE

Please, Doctor, Treat Me Like a Statistic!

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I second Arnold's recommendation of Charles Lambdin's dissection of medical diagonosis. Here is wisdom:Where one sides in the debate is largely determined by what one makes of a single phrase: “Group statistics don’t apply to individuals.” This claim, widely believed,... MORE

Fun History Fact of the Day

Public Choice Theory
Bryan Caplan
From my former student Jeremy Horpedahl:Lists of elections decided by one vote are often circulated in the popular press and by government election officials (interestingly, often directed at children). Most of the commonly cited examples are either completely wrong or... MORE

Gov is not Great: How Democratic Fundamentalism Poisons Everything

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
That's an alternate title for my book suggested by Imaginary Politics. I think I would have stuck with The Myth of the Rational Voter, but it's still too bad this wasn't an option in the title contest!... MORE

Walter Block Reviews The Myth of the Rational Voter

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
If neither the typical economist nor Milton Friedman himself qualify as market fundamentalists, who does? The only plausible candidates are the followers of Ludwig von Mises and especially his student Murray Rothbard. The latter does seem to categorically reject the... MORE

Overcoming Squemishness

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
James Miller calmly defends torture at Overcoming Bias, without even mentioning terrorism:Some would argue that it’s excessively cruel to torture criminals. But both prison and torture impose costs on criminals. Why is one type of cost crueler than the other?... MORE

Feminism and Just Price Theory

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Economists have spent the last couple centuries scoffing at "just price" theory. Almost everyone now admits that prices have to fluctuate in response to supply and demand; it's silly to insist, for example, that the "just price" of a loan... MORE

"The Jobs Americans Won't Do": The Fallacy and the Reformulation

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
Chris Hayes inveighs against the economically silly argument that immigrants do jobs Americans don't want:I don’t want to buy a slice of pizza for $45. It doesn’t mean I don’t like pizza! I’m not particularly interested in writing a book... MORE

What's Worth Overcoming?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
What's so special about "overcoming bias"? Tyler's questioned Robin's obsession twice (here and here), mingling sensible observations with bizarre Dadaisms like:If I were allowed to retitle Robin's blog (and I am not), I would call it "Reaping the Fruits of... MORE

Remember the political power survey that Ilya Somin and I pre-tested last year? Since then, we've added a third co-author - Wayne Grove of Lemoyne College - done extensive revisions, and been given access to 25 questions worth of space... MORE

Why Don't Hispanics Beg in America?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
How often has an Hispanic asked you for spare change? I've lived around LA, San Francisco, NYC, and DC, all of which have lots of Hispanics and lots of beggars. But as far as I can remember, I've never encountered... MORE

Rosen and Responsibility

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I was on the Mike Rosen show on Monday. Overall, he was a sympathetic host, until we got to the subject of... you guessed it... immigration. Unlike most opponents of immigration, though, he was quite explicit about his core principle:... MORE

Viscusi Speaks

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Kip Viscusi was kind enough to email me his estimates of the risks of terrorism, and gave me permission to share them. To be more precise, Viscusi told me that, in his judgment, the median number of deaths from domestic... MORE

What's New at GMU Econ

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
Since the new academic year is about to start, I thought I'd fill you in on what's new at GMU Econ. First, the bad news: Some of our experimentalists are leaving, including Nobel prize-winner Vernon Smith. Second, the good news:... MORE

When the Facts Don't Change, I Change My Mind

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Perhaps Keynes' best quip: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" Fair question. But what do you think about people who change their minds when the facts haven't changed? Wait, don't answer... see this... MORE

Kip Viscusi is probably academia's most famous risk analysis. His decades of research document democracy's pervasive tendency to adopt regulations with absurdly high cost-benefit ratios - to spend billions fighting problems that barely exist. But in a recent interview with... MORE

A Sociologist Gamer on the Sociology of Gaming

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
GenCon ended yesterday, but I've already been scooped by the competition - noted sociologist and legendary Pandaemonium Game Master Fabio Rojas. Don't miss his amusing comparison between GenCon and the American Sociological Association. Highlights: * ASA: People study socially marginal... MORE

Misunderstood

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
This morning on Wisconsin public radio, I had the odd experience of being lectured by a caller about the virtues of markets. By extolling the wisdom of the economics profession, I led a Ron Paul supporter to conclude that I... MORE

Taking "Looking on the Bright Side" Too Far

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
I'm all for looking on the bright side of things, but I'm stunned that someone could be upbeat about post-colonial Africa. But someone is: Charles Kenny asks "Is Africa a Failure?," and almost says No:[C]omparative performance in economic growth is... MORE

The Malthusian Zombie

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
No matter how many times a Julian Simon, Michael Kremer, or Steve Landsburg kills the Malthusian view that population growth reduces per-capita well-being, it comes back from the dead. The latest sighting of the Malthusian Zombie is in Greg Clark's... MORE

Would a Truth-Seeker Ask?

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Robin lays down a challenge:Consider the people you most admire that you know personally, such as your parents, spouse, or work mentor. Now imagine the worse [sic] sort of things someone might plausibly accuse those people of. Are you confident... MORE

Why GenCon Should Be Tax Deductible

Game Theory
Bryan Caplan
Tomorrow I'm flying to the world's greatest experimental game theory conference: GenCon. 25,000 people will play games of every description. If you believe in the project of experimental game theory, it's a data feast. I'd probably get audited by the... MORE

Today Alex makes a point that I drill into my graduate students: The assumptions underlying the standard market efficiency theorems are sufficient conditions for market efficiency, not necessary ones. Dani Rodrik and the many econ textbooks that claim that market... MORE

The Bayes Who Wasn't There

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
From an early age, I've furrowed my brow at the claim that "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Huh? Absence of evidence is not absolute proof of absence, but surely if you don't notice your friend in a... MORE

If That Was Their Answer, What Was the Question?

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
When Democratic candidates were asked, "What would you do to reduce gas prices?," their answers made very little sense. Which brings me to a Jeopardy-inspired puzzle: If those were their answers, what question were they really answering? To what policy... MORE

Democratic Candidates on the Price of Gas: I'm Not Making This Up!

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Democratic candidates were asked "What would you do to reduce gas prices?" Their answers, with one exception, should make any economist wince. Here's Dodd, who leads with a long-winded complaint about foreign energy dependence and global warming, and ends with:I've... MORE

Hypotheticals in Presidential Debates: A Pathetic Aversion

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
"What would you do if Santa Claus turned out to be a Martian?" It's a hypothetical question. It's also a stupid question to ask in a presidential debate. What makes it stupid? First, it's very unlikely to happen. Second, knowing... MORE

Foreign Policy vs. Domestic Policy in the Debates: Dumb and Dumber

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
If I had to evaluate the quality of argument in the presidential debates with one word, it's "simplistic." But the level of simple-mindedness varies by topic. For foreign policy, at least, candidates often propose a policy, consider how other nations... MORE

One insight I've gleaned from reading a lot of presidential debate transcripts (see here, here, and here): Democrats and Republicans have radically different demonologies. Both sides see evil forces behind the world's troubles, but their lists have only one overlap.... MORE

If you're reading this blog (or any blog!), you probably have some controversial factual beliefs. Suppose you managed to convince everyone that you were right on each and every controversy. How would the world change? Initially, you might assume that... MORE

"Win-Win," as Filtered Through Make-Work Bias

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Another debate gem: Hillary on energy policy.CLINTON: ...But this issue of energy and global warming has the promise of creating millions of new jobs in America... So it can be a win-win, if we do it right.It's hard to interpret... MORE

Dying in Vain

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I've been reading presidential debate transcripts to get some op-ed ideas. Here's my nomination for the most bizarre discussion. It starts off with Mike Gravel saying the obvious:QUESTION: ... My question is for Mike Gravel. In one of the previous... MORE

You Call This Atomism?

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I'm puzzled where Arnold gets the idea that I'm an "atomist." Was it Tyler who wrote this?Perhaps the greatest truth about human nature that you do not find in the typical economics textbook is that people are sheep. Most human... MORE

Current Event Hooks

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I'm looking for current events that work well as "hooks" to promote my book. Question: Where in recent headlines do you most clearly see the stamp of voter irrationality? Don't hold back!... MORE

A Specter of Common Sense

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
I can't remember the last time I favorably quoted a politician, but these paragraphs from Arlen Specter are good enough to justify a break with tradition:The main objective in legalizing the 12 million was to eliminate their fugitive status, allowing... MORE

There's No Such Thing as a Free Vegan Lunch

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? At least in downtown D.C., they're not hard to find. Just go to a reception at a think tank and chow down. But this is not without its hazards, as... MORE

Does It Matter If We're "Reality-Based"?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Lots of bloggers identify with the "reality-based community." At first glance, it's a rather cultish self-description; after all, even the "faith-based community" thinks it's "reality-based." (Ever seen the bumper sticker where the Jesus fish marked "Truth" swallows the Darwinian land-fish?)... MORE

Climate Preferences: Seek Life, Seek Heat

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
In the past, I've asked people if they would prefer their climate to be warmer, cooler, or about the same, and reported that a straw poll of my undergrads leans in a pro-warmer direction. Now a new NBER paper strikingly... MORE

Behavioral economists often emphasize nominal rigidities - such as the tendency of list prices to stay the same in the face of shifts in supply and demand. Neoclassical economists often emphasize the Law of One Price - the tendency of... MORE

Dubner Dodged a Bullet

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Here's another story about a guy who wisely ignored the bad advice of a wise man: Hugo Lindgren (the guy who wrote Tyler's profile in New York Magazine) told Steve Dubner not to co-author Freakonomics!It should be noted, however, that... MORE

Cowenian Advice: The Best and the Worst

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Yesterday I said that Tyler Cowen is "the giver of the best and worst career advice I've ever gotten." In the comments, Jason follows up:Please share the best and worst career tips Tyler offered you.Some of the best advice:If you... MORE

Discover Tyler Cowen

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Today's the release date for Tyler Cowen's Discover Your Inner Economist. You've lost your chances to read the secret blog and get a personal podcast, but at least you can still buy the book! As I've said before, if you... MORE

Leveraging Agreement

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Don't miss David Henderson's amiable podcast on disagreement in economics. His tale of disillusion with Krugman alone is worth the price of admission. This podcast reminds me of an idea I've had for a while: Creating a meta-petition of policies... MORE

The High-Tech Solution to Voter Irrationality

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
This didn't make it into the book, but one of my favorite remedies for voter irrationality has long been to simply clone John Stossel. His column today just reinforces my support for the clone-Stossel solution: More practically, [Caplan] thinks that... MORE

Name Russ's Book!

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Russ Roberts is asking readers of his blog to help him name his next book. Is this getting to be a GMU tradition? If so, I think Russ needs to use higher-powered incentives... like... an interview on EconTalk! Trust me,... MORE

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