Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: January 2009

An Author Archive by Month (52 entries)

Blame Others, Hurt Yourself

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I while back, I discussed some evidence that blaming people for your problems makes you feel worse about them:If and who you blame for bad events matters too. In one study, "[V]ictims of severe accidents who blamed themselves for the... MORE

What Does a Szaszian Therapist Do?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I've occasionally said that if unicorns don't exist, we can't have a real argument about what unicorns are like.  But if that's right, how is Szaszian therapy possible?  How can you practice psychotherapy if you don't believe in the existence... MORE

The Power of Love

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
[warning: spoiler] Big Love, HBOs transcendentally excellent polygamy drama, is back for its third season.  I've praised it often enough (here and here for starters), but the last show was too good not to blog.  In this episode, Don Embry,... MORE

Throw Your Vote Away - Vote for a Second Party

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The standard argument against voting for third parties is that "You're throwing your vote away."  There's no point voting for someone who can't win.Now consider how this applies to Singapore, where even second parties have no real prospect of winning. ... MORE

Singapore Fact of the Day

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
The opposition parties which competed in the 1997 and 2001 general elections are all to the political "left" of the PAP [the ruling People's Action Party], while the PAP occupies the center-right.  There is no right-wing opposition. (Mauzy and Milne,... MORE

SummaryIn this chapter ("Property and Exchange"), Rothbard introduces the "non-aggression axiom," also often known as the "non-initiation of force axiom."  The intuition is simple enough: No one has the right to start using physical violence or the threat thereof against... MORE

The Charge of Creepiness

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
CK, an EconLog reader, writes:I find your obsession with the topic of people's personal choices to be deeply creepy. Also, the fact that your starting point is that they are in error is a textbook example of bad logic, e.g.,... MORE

In my experience, virtually the only reason why people don't want more kids is that they don't feel like spending any more time on childcare.  The strictly financial cost of another child almost never comes up.  Granted, I greatly oversample... MORE

The For a New Liberty Book Club continues on Monday, when I'll post my thoughts on chapter 2.  I plan on doing a chapter every Monday until the book's done.  Anything less would be, as Rothbard loved to say, "Monstrous!"... MORE

Me in the Chronicle: Free Version

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
If you had trouble reading my piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, here's an ungated version.... MORE

Once kidney selling is legal in Singapore, will it enjoy a stampede of kidney-based tourism?  I say yes: Illegal Third World kidney transactions are scary to people from the First World.  So are legal kidney transactions in Iran.  Singapore will... MORE

Pinker's Genome

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Steven Pinker answered the call to "know thyself" by having his genome sequenced.  Some results:The two biggest pieces of news I got about my disease risks were a 12.6 percent chance of getting prostate cancer before I turn 80 compared... MORE

Kidney Selling Coming Soon to Singapore!

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
The sweet voice of reason works swiftly in Singapore.  Less than six months after I blogged about its Health Minister's interest in legalizing kidney sales, it's "almost certain to pass into law after another reading in Singapore's government-dominated parliament."  The... MORE

More than one economist has told me that nominal wage rigidity is getting weaker during this recession.  Now some journalists are saying the same thing (HT: Jacob Oost):More squeezed employers, though, are seeking an alternative to layoffs. They're turning to... MORE

Historical Body Counts

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
In the process of replying to Jeff Hummel in the comments, I came across this useful summary of the death toll of the wars of the 18th century.  And there's a lot more where that came from.  Read them and... MORE

Block Owes Me a Buck

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
In July, 2007, I bet Walter Block at 200:1 odds that Ron Paul wouldn't be the next U.S. president.  I would rather have lost, Walter.  But alas, you owe me $1.... MORE

Here's my plan: I'll lead off each discussion of Murray Rothbard's For a New Liberty with (a) a brief summary of the chapter of the week, and (b) some critical comments.  But this is your book club, so in the... MORE

Robin's Dangerous Question

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Robin celebrates Inauguration Day with an idealistic yet cynical challenge:[W]hat does Obama have to do for you to consider him a "good" president, or even better than Bush?  It is enough for you that he is (part) black and a... MORE

Me in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
My editorial on parenting has finally appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  In it, I summarize some big results from time diary studies (Parental effort has risen sharply in the last few decades) and behavioral genetics (The long-run effect... MORE

The Origin of Singaporean Crime Policy

Economics of Crime
Bryan Caplan
When I was filling out my customs form for Singapore, I was chilled to see the all-capital letters, "DEATH FOR DRUGS IN SINGAPORE."  Philosophically, I have nothing against the death penalty, but of course I have everything against drug prohibition.* ... MORE

Coasean Fortune Cookie of the Day

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Coase Theorem is a tautology, but as tautologies go, it's an inspiration.  Once upon a time, it inspired me to say, "Coasean reasoning only holds perfectly with zero transactions costs. But the Coasean insight that creative bargaining is a... MORE

Becker on Over-Hasty Conversion

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
"When the facts change, I change my mind," say Keynes.  But how do you explain people who change their minds when faced by facts they should have known all along?  Gary Becker wants to know:As Posner and others have indicated,... MORE

Posner's Primer on Wage Rigidity

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
Very well-put:Unfortunately, not all prices are flexible; wages especially are not. This is not primarily because of union or other employment contracts. Few private-sector employers in the United States are unionized and as a result few workers (other than federal... MORE

What If Fama Was a Protectionist?

International Trade
Bryan Caplan
Here's a Fama-flavored argument for protectionism.GDP = Consumption + Investment + Government Spending + Net ExportsNet Exports = Exports - ImportsThe larger Imports are, the smaller Net Exports are, and the smaller GDP gets.Therefore, Imports reduce GDP, and keeping out... MORE

Fama and Fiscal Policy

Fiscal Policy
Bryan Caplan
I disagree with both Fama and Arnold's critique of Fama.  Fama's strangely trying to use an accounting identity to make inferences about causation.  No can do.  But Arnold seems to say that fiscal policy matters as long as there are... MORE

Grist for Arnold's Mill

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
From Kahneman et al's "Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer?":Strack and colleagues reported an experiment in which students were asked: (i) "How happy are you with your life in general?" and (ii) "How many dates did you have... MORE

What Counts as Evidence that the Bailout Worked?

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Back in September, I asked, "How would we know if the bail-out worked?"  "Wait and see" doesn't cut it, because:If the bail-out happens, how will we know if it prevented disaster? If unemployment stays under 8%, proponents will say that... MORE

Tyler's been having fun with his MR Book Club on Keynes' General Theory:I will go through the book, chapter by chapter, with an eye toward a deeper understanding of what Keynes wrote and why it is, as Greg says, so... MORE

From Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party:Lee Kuan Yew believes in eugenics.  Among others, he has been influenced by Professor H.J. Eysenck, an expert on measuring intelligence who visited Singapore in 1987.  Lee states that his views are a... MORE

The Psychology of Gran Torino

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Eastwood's Gran Torino is a love letter to what psychologist John Ray calls "the old-fashioned personality."  (Here's my quick intro to the paper).  Who else but Eastwood could so compellingly dramatize Ray's conclusion that "when pejorative assumptions are discarded, the... MORE

Peacenik Sound Byte of the Day

Fiscal Policy
Bryan Caplan
From War Resisters.com: U.S. military spending - Dept. of Defense plus nuclear weapons (in $billions) - is equal to the military spending of the next 15 countries combined... [O]f the top 15 countries shown, at least 12 are considered allies... MORE

Critical Review Symposium on My Book

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
The latest Critical Review is a full-issue symposium on The Myth of the Rational Voter.  Stephen Bennett and CR editor Jeff Friedman lead off with a novella-length frontal assault on the book.  Then there's seven more critiques from David Colander,... MORE

If you go to an old-fashioned Keynesian macro text, it will explain that raising taxes and spending by equal amounts increases total spending.  How is this possible?  Well, if the Marginal Propensity to Consume=a, then the gross positive effect on... MORE

The Smart Way to Do Nothing

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Here's a fair challenge from Surowiecki and The Economist's mystery blogger:And as The Economist's mystery blogger noted yesterday, anyone's who's paying attention to the stock market knows what would happen if Obama announced today that he was abandoning his plans... MORE

Two Quick Points on Kling v. Surowiecki

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
1. Financial markets' support for the Paulson plan is hardly evidence that the plan was good for the overall economy.  After all, its essence was a massive transfer from taxpayers to financial markets.  This is just a bigger-scale version of... MORE

The Good News Will Cost You

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
A standard rule of Internet content is that unless it's pornographic, you don't have to pay for it.  But I just stumbled on a weird counter-example.  If you want to read even the main stories on the Good News Network,... MORE

Lindbeck, Weibull, and God

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Modern American Catholics reject many Catholic teachings:According to a recent Gallup Poll, 78 percent of American Catholics support allowing Catholics to use birth control, 63 percent think priests should be able to marry, and 55 percent think women should be... MORE

I'm surprised to learn that a payroll tax cut actually has some political traction.  A few insiders are even highlighting its unique benefits:"Cutting the payroll tax is a great idea. It not only puts money back in people's pockets --... MORE

Contractor Cutoffs

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Getting a contractor - plumber, painter, cable guy, whatever - to come to your house tends to be frustrating.  You wait around for hours, he finally shows up, and then... he don't do a very good job.  Or, he finally... MORE

More Laughs in Economics

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
Here's a long list of links on humorous econ pieces, including Leijonhufvud's classic "Life Among the Econ."P.S. Correction: I misremembered my conversation with my colleague John Nye.  "Japan's Phillips Curve Looks Like Japan" was the annual favorite of a panel... MORE

How Singapore Sells Co-Payment

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
In Singapore, the government almost never hands out goodies free of charge.  There's almost always a co-payment, even for health care and education.  Western economists justify these charges as a partial remedy for "moral hazard."  But perhaps Singapore has been... MORE

Educational Obsession in Pop Culture

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
A former student emails me:I'm currently looking for any filmed clip of someone perpetuating the myth that college is a MUST for everyone.  I've found several Obama clips (surprise, surprise) but I'm looking for clips outside the political world; i.e.,... MORE

Smart Stimulus, II: The Healy Grant

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Here's another clever stimulus idea.  The source is Andrew Healy, who explained it to me over pizza right the day before Christmas.  I'm not sure if he actually advocates it, but here it is:The federal government temporarily picks up the... MORE

It's Funny Because It's True

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
My colleague John Nye says "Japan's Phillips Curve Looks Like Japan" is the funniest paper ever published in economics.  I think I prefer Alan Blinder's "The Economics of Brushing Teeth." But I'm enough of an egomaniac to present for your... MORE

Smart Stimulus

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
With flexible prices, many tax cuts are equivalent to each other.  If wages instantly adjust, for example, it doesn't matter whether you cut the employers' share of the payroll tax, the employees' share, or the whole thing.  The recipient of... MORE

Female Protectionism Redux

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Here's the latest paper on the puzzle of female protectionism - "Why are Women More Protectionist than Men?" by Eugene Beaulieu and Michael Napier.  (For earlier work, see here and here).  And here's Beaulieu and Napier's extremely frustrating closing paragraph:Although... MORE

Except Seasteading

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
Out of all the Structural Libertarians named in my last post, there is one counter-example to my claim that "It's policy all the way down": Patri Friedman's "seasteading" proposal.  The whole point of seasteading is to get outside of existing... MORE

Policy All the Way Down

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
Are policy reformers naive?  Both libertarians and public choice economists (and especially libertarian public choice economists) often say so:  "The policies we have are a rational response of political actors to the institutional incentives they face.  The only way to... MORE

What's Wrong With the Cartoon Guide to American History

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Despite my admiration for Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe series (which includes his Cartoon History of the Modern World), I can't recommend his Cartoon Guide to American History.  It's good on the Indians and slavery, but the rest... MORE

Who Are These People?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
During this holiday season, you may have enjoyed reconnecting with your extended family.  But many people have a different reaction.  After yet another unpleasant holiday meal, they shake their heads, and silently ask themselves, "Who are these people?"  Where else... MORE

Wages of the Dead

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
Here's a typically inane FDR quote:No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.Taken literally, Roosevelt's norm is superfluous: If you don't pay your workers enough... MORE

The Crisis Prophet Speaks

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Robert Higgs, my favorite crisis prophet, has wisdom for the self-styled free-market economists who freaked out during the past few months:Back in my days as a professor, I always endeavored early in the course to teach my students the fundamental... MORE

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