Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: July 2008

An Author Archive by Month (37 entries)

Against Self-Subversion

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
Here's Tyler's latest Dadaism:A good blog should be subversive and help you see the faults in the author's own positions. Ask whether the blogs you are reading in fact provide that service. Self-subversion ought also, in the long run, to... MORE

The Nation vs. "The Economists"

Regulation and Subsidies
Bryan Caplan
I just got this fund-raising letter from The Nation, alerting me to a dangerous economists' plot to undermine democracy:Dear Nation Friend: I spent 27 years as the Editor in Chief of The Nation, so -- as you might imagine --... MORE

Singaporean Sense

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
It looks like Singapore is once again going to win the prize for Most Economically Literate Bureaucracy. Here's what the Health Minister of Singapore has to say about human kidney markets:Singapore is considering legalising kidney trading to help meet demand... MORE

Letting Students Drop a Question: A Big Mistake

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
On many exams, professors give students e.g. 4 questions, then say "Answer any three." The point, I suppose, is to: 1. Avoid penalizing students for random blind spots. 2. Create safety valve for badly-written questions. In practice, though, it seems... MORE

Goldberger Explains Why My Referee Was Wrong

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
When the typical professor reads a referee's rejection letter, his standard explanation is that "The referee was an idiot." Most of the time this is unfair - at least half the time, it's the author who's the idiot, and the... MORE

The Misanthropic Magisterium

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Here's my favorite paragraph in the first half of the new Global Catastrophic Risks:...I have personally observed what look like harmful modes of thinking specific to existential risks. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed 25-50 million people. World War II... MORE

Maybe the Variance of Gas Prices Actually Has Increased

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
People seem to be searching harder for bargain gas prices. But according to search theory, the reason to search is price variation, not price. On closer examination of pump prices, though, I want to retract my observation that gas price... MORE

Despite vocal opposition from lobbyists for terrestrial radio, it looks like satellite radio providers XM and Sirius will finally get to merge. It only took 17 months, plus some absurd concessions:The deal reportedly will also include a three-year price freeze... MORE

Public Goods and Pedagogy

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
I'm increasingly convinced that the way economists teach undergrads about public goods and externalities is needlessly confusing. Here's my radical solution: Purge discussions of public goods and bads, and replace them with discussions of positive and negative externalities. Is this... MORE

Posner Gets Behavioral

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Here's something you wouldn't expect Richard Posner to write:I wonder, too, whether the recent decline in U.S. gasoline consumption doesn't represent to some degree an irrational panic reaction. To take a huge loss on the sale of your SUV in... MORE

Will I Win My Oil Bet? The Wolfers Factor

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Justin Wolfers says that current price of oil is a better predictor of future oil prices than oil futures markets:And it turns out that they all do worse than one simple forecast: the current oil price. That’s right: the most... MORE

Does Parental Divorce Cause Offspring Divorce?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Children of divorce are more likely to eventually get divorced themselves. But why? Earlier behavioral genetic work concluded that, contrary to popular platitudes, the transmission mechanism is heredity, not environment. As Judith Harris put it:A twin study of 1500 pairs... MORE

Public Choice Outreach Seminar 2008

Public Choice Theory
Bryan Caplan
If you want to learn more about public choice, why not fill out an application for the 2008 Public Choice Outreach Seminar? It's normally in the summer, but this year it's October 9-11. It's a great chance to sample the... MORE

A "Why Not?" Moment

Business Economics
Bryan Caplan
David Friedman's recent post on airplane boarding gave me a "Why Not?" idea: Wouldn't it be simpler if last row on the airplane was called #1? Then even the innumerate could understand that the first row boards first. It's not... MORE

Why Read The Watchmen?

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Probably thanks to the new movie trailer, the classic graphic novel The Watchmen is now #2 on Amazon. It's well-deserved. I can't say enough good things about this book - I've read it at least ten times. But for skeptical... MORE

How Many Americans Could Pass the Citizenship Test?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Should you have to pass a test to be allowed to vote? People tend to freak out when I sympathetically consider this possibility. It not fair! Who would write the test? Wouldn't it be discriminatory?! The funny thing is that... MORE

The Social Costs of Getting Out the Vote

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
John Stossel interviewed me today. (Here's his review of my book). If everything goes as planned, I'll play the foil to some get-out-the-vote activists on a forthcoming 20/20 segment. I'll keep you posted on the airdate. But whatever happens, meeting... MORE

Do HSAs Work? Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
In an otherwise wise addendum to his latest NYT column, Tyler takes a swipe at Health Savings Accounts:By the way, I think that HSAs are ineffective as health care reform and that the so-called "right" is floundering on this issue,... MORE

A Hobbesian Thought Experiment

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Suppose a random person is living on a desert island without hope of rescue. Call him the Initial Inhabitant, or I.I. Another random person unexpectedly washes up on shore, coughing up water. Call him the New Arrival, or N.A. While... MORE

Yesterday at the FEE seminar, I got to hear the excellent Jeff Hummel thoroughly debunk the crazy Rothbardian view that fractional reserve banking is "fraudulent." It was a fun (and funny) lecture, but the target was too easy. So during... MORE

Fools and Their Money

Regulation and Subsidies
Bryan Caplan
Arnold's just written some of the best sentences I've read in years:In the mortgage market, people saw risk-takers outperforming prudent lenders. So they took more risks. There is no simple fix for that. For the foreseeable future, we can count... MORE

Complete Y: The Last Man Now Available

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Y: The Last Man is an amazing series of graphic novels about what happens to the world after a suddenly plague eliminates the male gender (minus the title character and his pet monkey). Volume 10, the final book in the... MORE

Department of Yay: The American Baby Boomlet

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
To counter Tyler's "Department of Yikes" series, I'm officially inaugurating my "Department of Yay." First in my series: The American baby boomlet. Thanks in part to Hispanic immigrants, the U.S. has rebounded to replacement rate fertility. Today's USA Today has... MORE

Sacerdote, Feyrer, Kids, and Gender Conflict

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Sacerdote and Feyrer have an intriguing new paper on fertility. Background: Some rich countries - including Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Greece - have extremely low fertility, while others - including the U.S., Sweden, and France - are only moderately... MORE

Disastrous Voting

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Andrew Healy, my favorite new empirical political economist, has written a bold new paper. You might have thought that disasters were "acts of God," but Healy argues that the American voter is a co-conspirator. From the abstract:Using comprehensive data on... MORE

Two Heuristics to Live By When You Don't Know What You're Doing

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When we see people making bad decisions - whether as consumers or voters - we often blame the "complexity" of the issues they face. If Ph.D. economists can't figure out the best mortgage to use, how can we expect the... MORE

Humility Reconsidered

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Am I misinterpeting the case for humility? Maybe the point of humility isn't better communication, but better understanding. It's hard to learn if you think you already know everything. This sounds good. But if your goal is better understanding, your... MORE

The Case for Libertarian Friendliness

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
My week at the IHS seminar in Chicago returned a long-lived libertarian meme to my field of vision. The meme: Humility. If libertarians want to communicate with a broader audience, we've got to stop being so full of ourselves. So... MORE

Fairness Norms Breaking Down at the Airport - and Good Riddance!

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Strange as it sounds, firms often give stuff away. Sometimes the reason is that the good is so cheap that it's not worth charging charging for it. See: water at restaurants. Other times, though, firms give stuff away to appease... MORE

When Has Independence Been Worth the Price?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I think that the American Revolutionary War was a tragic mistake. After years of bloodshed, it's hard to see how independence led to better policy. So when has independence improved policy? My favorite modern example is the break-up of the... MORE

Arnold is mistaken to think that my notes on signaling indicate that I've joined the Pigou Club. If you read the quote carefully, I only say that a tax on education could increase efficiency. I don't advocate such a tax.... MORE

My IHS Lectures

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
I'll be in Chicago next week giving lectures for the Institute for Humane Studies' The Tradition of Liberty: Advanced Studies seminar. My lectures: 1. Public choice and public goods. The basics of public goods theory, plus a long discussion about... MORE

Bad News for Me?

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
New York Mercantile Exchange futures prices actually go out 8 years, and show little decline during that period. As my colleague John Nye suggested this morning, though, a flat nominal price for 8 years with 3% inflation implies a 20%... MORE

Cowen and Simon

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
I've rarely gained any leverage with Tyler by pointing out his inconsistencies. But I can't resist. Take a look at his first book, In Praise of Commercial Culture. Despite his recent post, this book happily used Julian Simon's refutation of... MORE

Population Projection Tool

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
If you want to play around with the U.N.'s four main population projection methods, you can do so here. If you use the Constant-Fertility Variant - which seems the most reasonable of the four for developed countries - the numbers... MORE

A Splendidly Undignified Hatchet Job

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If you appreciate a good hatchet job, don't miss Steven Pinker's dissection of bioethicist Leon Kass:Kass... came to prominence in the 1970s with his moralistic condemnation of in vitro fertilization, then popularly known as "test-tube babies." As soon as the... MORE

Was Julian Simon a Technical Analyst?

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Tyler has an especially edifying post on resource scarcity. Most interesting point raised:It's amazing how much, on this issue, some people resort to what can only be called technical analysis -- inferring future price movements from past trends -- when... MORE

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