Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: May 2009

An Author Archive by Month (42 entries)

Economics and Modernity

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Before I came to GMU, I would have completely agreed with David Friedman's economic take-down of modern culture:Suppose you are the two hundred and ninetieth city planner in the history of the world. All the good ideas have been used,... MORE

Hanson on Morality

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In other news, my debating partner Robin Hanson has come up with the least plausible moral principle since "Might makes right": [U]sually it is fine to do what you want, to get what you want. Robin manages to make his... MORE

Mankiw on Morality

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here's a great passage from the noble Mankiw:A moral and political philosophy is not like a smorgasbord, where you get to pick and choose the offerings you like and leave the others behind without explanation. It is more like your... MORE

Quiggin Takes My Euro-Bet

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
I'm pleased to report that noted blogger John Quiggin has accepted a slightly revised version of my proposed bet on European unemployment.  The only revision: I sweetened the point spread to 1.5 percentage-points.  Average European unemployment must be at least... MORE

The Nuances of EU Unemployment

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
When I compare U.S. and European unemployment, critics often object that Europe is heterogeneous.  Fair enough, but you can make the same objection to any generalization.  The U.S. is diverse, too.  How often can you silence critics of the U.S.... MORE

Unlike the authors of the CEPR report, John Quiggin at Crooked Timber is willing to make me a bet about European vs. American unemployment.  However, he wants to adjust for incarceration rates:I'm willing to take Bryan on, with one amendment.... MORE

An Abstract that Whets My Appetite

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
When I see an abstract like this, the article goes straight to the top of my queue:The ability of personality traits to predict important life outcomes has traditionally been questioned because of the putative small effects of personality. In this... MORE

Against the Human Development Index

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
The authors of the "U.S. Unemployment Rate Now as High as Europe" report have turned down my bet.  One of the authors did however counter-offer a bet that Scandinavia's scores on the Human Development Index would beat America's at the... MORE

I'm going to offer the following bet to the authors of the CEPR report:The average European unemployment rate for 2009-2018 (i.e., the next decade) will be at least 1% higher than U.S. unemployment rate.  The bet will be resolved when... MORE

"U.S. Unemployment Rate Now as High as Europe," gloats a new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.  The subtext: Europe's heavy labor market regulation isn't so bad after all.  In fact, since the "case for the... MORE

The Irrepressible Boettke

Austrian Economics
Bryan Caplan
My colleague Pete Boettke has been named Faculty Member of the Year by GMU's Alumni Association.  He deserves it.  And while he's got a lot of neat pieces on his vita, many of his bluntest, most perceptive insights are strictly... MORE

After reading Walter Block's excellent defense of economic freedom indices, I made a wish that he would spend "more time doing creative empirical work, and a lot less defending Austrian economic theory against all challengers."  Thanks to David Henderson, I... MORE

The Other Demographic Suicide

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Arnold's concerned about demographic projections of impending Democratic super-majorities.  But there's a major demographic trend going the other way: Whites in Republican states have a lot more kids than whites in Democratic states.  My source is none other than Steve... MORE

Here's a bizarre set of predictions about the effect of new credit card regs:...Congress is moving to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers, who have become a prime source of billions of dollars in fee revenue for the industry. And... MORE

One-Party Democracy Is Not Coming: I'll Bet on It!

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Arnold's worried that the U.S. is moving to one-party democracy.  I completely agree with Arnold that one-party democracy is possible.  This is a central theme of my forthcoming article on Singaporean political economy, and over the past six months I've... MORE

Must-Read Hanson

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Robin Hanson surveys the empirical literature on what goods are positional and what goods aren't.  Prepare to be edified.... MORE

The Case Against Libertarian Hispanophobia

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
When libertarians (as well as economically literate conservatives) worry about immigration, they usually focus on its undesirable political consequences.  As my co-blogger Arnold puts it:The demographic picture, in which traditional Republican voting groups are shrinking as a proportion of the... MORE

Should Make-Work Count?

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
According to official numbers, unemployment stayed extremely high through the New Deal.  But some of Roosevelt's defenders say the numbers are misleading.  Bob Murphy, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, explains their... MORE

Meritocracy Without Borders

Income Distribution
Bryan Caplan
Once you're familiar with the literature on the intergenerational income correlation, it's easy to be complacent.  But isn't there any unfairness left to get upset about?  Absolutely.  The catch: Government, not "capitalism," is clearly to blame.Yes, income difference inside Western... MORE

It's Not Who You Know, It's Who You Are

Income Distribution
Bryan Caplan
Children resemble their parents.  When the resemblance is physical, we usually think it's funny or cute.  But when the resemblance is financial, it's an Issue.  Non-economists debate the merits of the cynic's maxim that, "It's not what you know, it's... MORE

Good Answer!

Public Goods
Bryan Caplan
Here's a spot-on response from my Ph.D. Micro final.The Question: True, False, and Explain:  In signaling models, selfish agents might voluntarily supply public goods. The Answer:True.  Yes, if donating to charities, giving blood, or sponsoring militia units or adopting part... MORE

Funniest Macro Line of the Month

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
The prize goes to Scott Sumner for:[I]f you are going to use research by a brilliant Nobel-Prize winning new Keynesian economist in order to attack discredited ideas, then makes sure the discredited ideas being attacked are not... your own.Still, if... MORE

Here's a question from my final exam for Ph.D. Micro.  Care to give it a try in the comments? Suppose that greeting other people is a special kind of Coordination game.  We are in the equilibrium where everyone shakes hands;... MORE

In the latest Econ Journal Watch, Stephenson and Wendt point out that virtually all labor econ textbooks ignore occupational licensing despite its empirical importance.  In particular, they show that licensing matters a lot more in the U.S. than the minimum... MORE

Why Do Politicians Break Their Promises? Part 2

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Politicians break their promises because voters don't rationally punish political promise-breaking.  But why do politicians want to break their promises in the first place?  What's the point of promising X, then backing out?The simplest answer is just that circumstances change... MORE

I just read Bernanke's 2004 piece on "The Great Moderation."  It's written by the wise Bernanke I remember, not the embarassment he's become.   In hindsight it's tempting to treat Bernanke's analysis as pure delusion.  But in the end, I bet... MORE

My co-author Scott Beaulier blogs a meaty question for me:...The policy implication often taken from MRV is an elitist one: the world needs constraints from the mob through franchise restrictions, etc.  While Rothbardhad his elitist moments (and there's plenty in the Austrian... MORE

We've finished the chapter-by-chapter of Murray Rothbard's For a New Liberty.  Now I'd like to wrap things up by answering most or all of your questions about the book.  Please limit yourself to questions, not statements, phrase them succinctly, and... MORE

Congenitally Entrepreneurial

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
I just came across a fun paper that asks "Is the Tendency to Engage in Self-employment Genetic?" (Management Science 2008).  As usual, the answer is yes.  Based on a sample of over 3000 British twins, the authors estimate that 48%... MORE

This Changes Nothing

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
"When the facts change, I change my mind."  The crash of 2008 has brought Keynes' famous line back into popular use.  But should it have done so?  Here's my claim:Nothing that happened in the last two years should have significantly... MORE

The Walled Garden That Never Was

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
I'm old enough to remember the days when many people seriously believed that America Online's gated content was the wave of the future.  Over at Cato Unbound, Adam Thierer takes apart Lawrence Lessig, influential past prophet of techno-doom:Had there been... MORE

The Inflation Illusion?

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Once I finish refinancing my 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at a ridiculously low nominal rate, a giant inflationary surprise would probably be in my best interest.  But Scott Sumner says I shouldn't get my hopes up.  The first and foremost of... MORE

Sacerdote's Dog That Didn't Bark

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
I keep thinking about Bruce Sacerdote's Korean adoption study.  I've read every twin and adoption paper I could find about parental influence on kids' educational outcomes.  Sacerdote's is the best of the bunch - the cleanest study, the clearest presentation,... MORE

The Present and the Future

Growth: Consequences
Bryan Caplan
Last night I saw Star Trek with Robin, Alex, and Garett.  The amazing thing to me was how unimpressive Earth looks hundreds of years in the future.  It looks like economic growth in the future has been well under 1%... MORE

Wage Cuts: Do Well While Doing Good

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
At CNN Money, Tyler explains how knowledge of behaviorial labor econ can save your job:Employers looking to cut personnel costs can either lay people off or lower their wages. Though there are exceptions, employers are generally more willing to do... MORE

Why Wage Cuts Are Good For Aggregate Demand

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Krugman's repeating his argument that wage cuts are individually rational, but collectively irrational:[M]any workers are accepting pay cuts in order to save jobs. What's wrong with that?The answer lies in one of those paradoxes that plague our economy right now.... MORE

Patri Friedman Reads Atlas Shrugged

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I've repeatedly braved mockery by naming Atlas Shrugged as my favorite novel.  So I'm overjoyed to see one smart guy move from mockery to admiration as a result of... actually reading Rand's masterpiece.  From Patri son of David son of... MORE

The Dictator's Handbook: Read It

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
Paul Collier's "The Dictator's Handbook," is truly excellent.  The lead-in:The old rulers of the Soviet Union were terrified of facing contested elections. Those of us who studied political systems presumed they must be right: Elections would empower citizens against the... MORE

Whew, we finally made it to chapter 15.  Next week I'll do a final round-up, including a general Q&A.SummaryThis chapter sketches Rothbard's strategy for libertarian victory.  He begins with a call for education:On one point there can scarcely be disagreement:... MORE

Robin's Wishful Thinking

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I usually think of my colleague Robin Hanson as a hard-headed, "just-the-facts-ma'am" kind of guy.  But here's just the latest example I've found of Robin's wishful thinking:In our culture we are supposed to oppose ordinary bloody war, preferring peace when... MORE

Why Do Politicians Break Their Promises? Part 1

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Obama's already breaking his campaign promises.  But you don't really need to read the news to know that, do you?  Virtually all successful politicians break their promises.When you think about it, though, politicians' penchant for promise-breaking is puzzling.  If making... MORE

Reformers Against Democracy

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
A recent piece by Joshua Kurlantzick in Foreign Policy argues that middle-class reformers around the world are turning against democracy:Despite its name, the People's Alliance is explicitly antidemocratic. In its platform, the group seeks election reform measures that are basically... MORE

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