Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: June 2009

An Author Archive by Month (38 entries)
I've repeatedly encountered the following social conservative meme, most recently in an argument over the Mark Sanford affair:We've got to stop acting like hypocrites are the worst thing in the world.  At least hypocrites have moral standards; they're just not... MORE

Genetics and the Future of Religion

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Religiosity is partly genetic, and the religious are out-breeding the secular.  It follows, then, that societies will get more religious over time.  But over at Gene Expression, Razib argues that while the premises are true, the conclusion is false.  He... MORE

Nobody Speaking

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
In a recent post on health care, Krugman writes:[E]conomists have known for 45 years -- ever since Kenneth Arrow's seminal paper -- that the standard competitive market model just doesn't work for health care: adverse selection and moral hazard are... MORE

What's Wrong With Realism? What's Right With It? Part 1

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
A word to the wise: If you have a theory and want it to spread far and wide, call it "realism."  Who could be against realism?  Case in point: The so-called "realist" theory of international relations.  According to this view,... MORE

The Political Economy of Geoengineering

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The complete videocast of the AEI mini-conference on geoengineering is now up, including Scott Barrett's target speech, Thomas Schelling's comments, and my comments.  Like Bart Simpson, I'm my own toughest critic, but I was pleased as punch with my extension... MORE

Why Bernanke Should Be Canned

Monetary Policy
Bryan Caplan
Contrary to my expectations, Bernanke's been a disaster.  At the same time, though, I can't honestly say that his successor will be any better.  Why then do I strongly favor firing my former teacher?  Accountability.  When someone fails as badly... MORE

Against Growth Agnosticism

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
Tim Kane is as sickened by growth agnosticism as I am:So why is that so many popular discussion of growth emphasize how totally mysterious it is? William Easterly's book, "The Elusive Quest for Growth" is a case in point, but... MORE

Sumner, Wilson, Harding, Keynes

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
In his latest one-two punch, Scott Sumner...1. ...explains why Woodrow Wilson was the worst president in U.S. history:...Wilson's economic policies were perhaps the worst in American history.  He presided over the creation of the Fed and the income tax, which... MORE

On health economics:Florence Rath died only eight days later, complaining not so much of a broken thigh and a fractured pelvis as of the refusal of the doctors to obey her."They know they can't cure me, so why don't they... MORE

Retrospective Voting: Worse Than Chance

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Voters literally know less than zero about economic policy - we would have better policies if they just voted randomly.  But people who believe in "retrospective voting models" often retort that voters' policy incompetence doesn't matter.  They don't have to... MORE

The Bill Gates Mystery

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
Not long after I started at GMU, Tyler approximately remarked that, "Bill Gates is just crazy - he works like a dog despite his billions."  I don't remember how I responded at the time.  But when I'm trying to understand... MORE

The Shield: Social Intelligence Gets Ugly

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I just finished the final episode of The Shield, FX's drama about a squad of corrupt LA cops.  I loved every episode.  At risk of alienating people who will share my evaluation, The Shield is like The Wire, except it's... MORE

Insurance as a Prisoners' Dilemma

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
I've got a little toenail fungus.  Now that you're done cringing in disgust, let's get to the economics.  My HMO doesn't cover treatment, because the problem is "merely cosmetic."  Until recently, though, I didn't care, because they're weren't any good... MORE

The Not-So Fundamental Attribution Error

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Remember the so-called "fundamental attribution error"?  According to some psychologists and the economists who love them, we have a strong tendency to overestimate the importance of individual differences and underestimate  the importance of circumstances.  I've questioned its fundamentality and erroneousness... MORE

My Favorite Convert

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When Robin Hanson arrived at GMU ten years ago, he was a hard-line rational choice political economist.  (See his job market paper).  For every political phenomenon, he insisted on "a story without fools."  Not anymore.  After a couple years of... MORE

How I Raised My Social Intelligence

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
My social intelligence is a lot higher than it used to be.  I still wouldn't say that I'm "good with people."  But in my youth, I was truly inept.  In junior high, I had one real friend, and many overt... MORE

Sumner: An Embarassment of Riches

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
I could devote a dozen posts to Scott Sumner's latest essay-length entry.  But I'll limit myself to the highlights:Stop worrying about inflation....Laffer is too good an economist to say anything blatantly false, but the entire tone of his WSJ piece... MORE

In Defense of Low Correlations

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
An interesting side discussion from "The Power of Personality" defends the practical importance even small correlations:Walter Mischel (1968) argued that personality traits had limited utility in predicting behavior because their correlational upper limit appeared to be about .30. Subsequently, this... MORE

Myth of the Rational Voter, California Initiative Edition

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
From Time, of all places, comes this column by Joel Stein:It turns out that letting me vote on stuff is a bad idea, for much the same reason that giving me a credit card was a bad idea: I love... MORE

Does Personality Matter? Compared to What?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I finally found the time to read "The Power of Personality: The Comparative Validity of Personality Traits, Socioeconomic Status, and Cognitive Ability for Predicting Important Life Outcomes."  [new working link!] It's a meta-analysis, so you've really got to trust the... MORE

Tyler Should Bet Against Obama-Care

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Robin's happy that "in the NYT, Tyler Cowen dares Obama to put up or shut up."  Tyler himself says:The most likely possibility is that the government will spend more on health care today, promise to realize savings tomorrow and never... MORE

The Myth of the Rational Voter, Minimum Wage Edition

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Quoth David Neumark:The accumulated evidence undermines the case for minimum wages even in the best of times. I recognize that there is continuing debate about some of the effects of minimum wages, and that strong public support for higher minimums... MORE

Russ's Challenge

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
From my colleague Russ Roberts:I continue to ask the question: name an empirical study that uses sophisticated statistical techniques that was so well done, it ended a controversy and created a consensus--a consensus where former opponents of one viewpoint had... MORE

I've studied economics for over twenty years.  The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that I don't know what "economics" means anymore.  Textbooks may say that economics is about "incentives" or "trade-offs."  But you can publish... MORE

HMOs Died Because They Worked

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Robin's got a great graph on the HMO revolution.  HMOs held health care spending as a fraction of GDP constant during most of the 90s.  Nothing before or since has managed to do the same.  The graph makes me wonder... MORE

Sandra Scarr's "Why Child Care Has Little Impact on Children's Development" (Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1997) is an impressive literature survey.  Postcard version: Within a broad range of safe environments, quality variations in child care have only small and... MORE

Reading Brad DeLong's "non-Socratic dialogue on social welfare functions" has inspired me to return to one of my favorite literacy forms.  In DeLong's original dialogue, Prof. Agathon helps Prof. Glaukon reach a shocking conclusion:Agathon: "That means that the market system,... MORE

Behaviorial Geneticists versus Policy Implications

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
In most disciplines, experts oversell their ability to give useful policy advice.  In behavioral genetics, however, experts strangely undersell their ability to give useful policy advice.  Here's a striking passage from Plomin, DeFries, McClearn, and McGuffin's leading behavioral genetics textbook:The... MORE

Isn't That Just an Asian Effect?

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
Over at Freakonomics, Justin Wolfers shares a graph showing how different nations are faring during this recession. His take: "the greater your involvement in producing high-value goods, the harder the fall."  My take on the same graph: Asian economies are... MORE

Pays Cuts: Are They For Real?

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
Several economists I know say that labor markets have gotten more flexible in recent years.  But are nominal pay cuts really happening to any significant degree?  The only evidence that's come across my desk is from this piece, which claims... MORE

An Unanswered Question on the Economics of Suicide

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
What don't more people with painful, terminal diseases commit suicide?  Religion dissuades some of them - that's the point of Hamlet's famous soliloquy.  But most people quickly ignore religious teachings when they seriously cramp their style.Some people might worry about... MORE

Did Obama Restore Confidence?

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
One non-Obama-loving economist I know nevertheless gave him credit for "restoring confidence."  I agree that confidence is coming back.  But does Obama deserve the credit?  The obvious alternative is that panic, like grief, normally fades away a few months after... MORE

Backwards Induction in The Lookout

Game Theory
Bryan Caplan
The Lookout is not just one of the best modern crime flicks you've never heard of.  It's also the most compelling dramatic depiction of backwards induction I can remember.  The lead character has trouble sequencing his actions (wake up, shower,... MORE

Pessimistic Bias Strikes Again?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I've been arguing for years that non-economists suffer from pessimistic bias.  They underestimate the recent past, present, and future performance of the economy.  A new piece in the Journal of Economic Psychology is consistent with my thesis: When you ask... MORE

The Parental Wish List: What's Missing?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
What is the point of raising kids?  On my view, the point is basically consumption.  Creating life and watching it grow is a fascinating and rewarding journey.  For many parents, though, the main point is actually investment: Taking little savages... MORE

Good Question

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
From my chairman, Don Boudreaux:This afternoon you interviewed a pundit who claims to be "inspired" by the way that Bill and Hillary Clinton, having been so critical of Barack Obama during the presidential primary campaign, now work so agreeably with... MORE

Portfolios of the Poor: Highlights

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
How markets free individuals from degrading family ties.Approaching several people for loans before getting one is not merely an inconvenient outcome of the financial shallowness of the informal sector, but a source of stress and shame.For migrants who have left... MORE

Thumbs Up for Portfolios of the Poor

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I really liked Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 A Day.  Westerners tend to think of the world's bottom billion as charity cases. The harsh and amazing reality, though, is that they largely stand on... MORE

Return to top