EconLog small logo

Bryan Caplan: July 2009

An Author Archive by Month (37 entries)

The Late Great George Walsh

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
This has been a week of nostalgia.  As I moved from 8 Carow Hall to 11 Carow Hall, I learned two things:1. Progress has turned the bulk of my possessions (especially hard copies of articles) into trash. 2. Time has... MORE

Sorel on Totalitarian Political Entrepreneurs

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Years ago, I thought about writing a piece called "Totalitarian Political Entrepreneurship."  The premise: While guys like Lenin, Hitler, and Mao were hopelessly deluded about many things, their beliefs about how to win and hold power were probably correct.  After... MORE

Mass Sterilization, Reconsidered

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Last week Tyler entertained this hypothetical: "A freak solar event 'sterilizes' the half of the planet (people, animals, etc) facing the sun. What happens?"  His answer:I would predict the collapse of many fiat currencies and the immediate insolvency of most... MORE

Government Health Insurance and Pseudocertainty

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
One of the most appealing arguments for government health insurance is the perception that it's "a sure thing."  No matter how powerful reputational incentives are, a private health insurance might go out of business, or fall into the hands of... MORE

Not long ago, Krugman chided economists like Mankiw for overlooking moral hazard and adverse selection, the supposedly insuperable textbook barriers to free-market health insurance.  I objected:As long as rates are legally allowed to reflect risk, there is a lot of... MORE

Why Liberals Needn't Fear Republican-Run Welfare States

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Mankiw riddles Krugman this:Over the past eight years, Paul has tried to convince his readers that Republicans are stupid and venal. History suggests that Republicans will run the government about half the time. Does he really want to turn control... MORE

Health Insurance and Reputation

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Here's an argument even I've found seductively appealing:The problem with free-market health insurance is that if a customer develops a truly serious health problem, his insurance company will try very hard to weasel out of the contract.  At best they'll... MORE

Creative Destruction: What's Next?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Everywhere I look, firms are going out of business.  The recession is obviously the proximate cause.  On closer look, however, the recession is just stepping up the bankruptcy time table for firms that were already on their way out.  In... MORE

Four Year From Now Plans

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
In the thirties, governments had Four Year Plans.  Today, they have Four Year from Now Plans - big policies that basically don't kick in until the next election.  Waxman-Markey lets emissions grow normally until 2012.  When I criticized the House's... MORE

Cruel Caring in Breaking Bad

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Breaking Bad is a show about a terminally ill high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth to build up a bequest for his family.  You see a lot about the economics of drug prohibition in the show, but you're... MORE

Whenever someone appeals to my charity, four questions pop into my head:1. Aren't you at least partly to blame for your problems?2. Can't someone closer to you help?3. Isn't there someone else in the world more deserving of my help?4.... MORE

What I Told the Liberaltarians

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I went to my first Liberaltarian Roundtable dinner last night to see Robin Hanson debate Ezra Klein on health care.  My favorite observation came from Brink Lindsey.  He approximately said:There are two health policies that liberals and libertarians would both... MORE

Are Libertarians Especially Predictable?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm grateful for the Wall St. Journal's coverage of EconLog, even if they can't spell my name correctly.  I was struck, though, by its "quibble": The blog's libertarian viewpoint means that you can almost always guess the punch line.Counter-quibbles:1.  The... MORE

Balan-Caplan Debate: Suggested Topics?

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Not only do I look down on thinkers who won't bet; I also look down on thinkers who won't debate.  The flip side is that I particularly admire thinkers who propose bets and debates.  I'm pleased to report, then, that... MORE

Adverse Hazard, Moral Selection, Whatever

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
As far as I can tell, economists are even more sympathetic to socialized medicine than laymen.  The question that sticks in my mind is: Why?  Economists are normally calm and analytical.  When it comes to government provision of health care,... MORE

Sumner's One-Sentence Class Autobiography

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Three years ago I asked economists to share their class autobiographies.  Yesterday Scott Sumner boiled his down to one sentence:At various times in my life I have been in all 5 quintiles of family income distribution, and yet I have... MORE

Mainstream Marketing vs. the Central Six

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
After faulting economists for ignoring marketing, Geoffrey Miller harshly attacks mainstream marketing for ignoring what he calls the "Central Six" - IQ plus the Big Five personality traits.  At first, you might think he's merely telling marketers, "Here's something useful... MORE

One of the best passages in Geoffrey Miller's Spent shows economists at our worst:My crisis point came at a 1999 conference that I organized in London on the origin of people's economic preferences.  We psychologists thought that economists would enjoy... MORE

I recently pointed out that back in the good old days, Krugman would have graciously granted that a payroll tax hike is an especially bad idea when unemployment is high.  In response, Kevin Drum notes that the tax hike doesn't... MORE

Day Break as Social Experiment

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I highly recommend the one-season wonder Day Break to fans of social science.  It starts as a standard crime conspiracy: A cop framed for murder tries to clear his name.  Then we get the twist: He's in a time loop. ... MORE

The Lens of Hypergamy: An Application

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Last year, Tyler named "hypergamy" his word of the day.  He called the source "evil," but the Evil One's explanation is admirably elegant:It is sometimes said that men are polygamous and women monogamous...It would be more accurate to say that... MORE

The Krugman we've got is sold on the House health bill.  But the Krugman we had, the thoughtful economist who wrote The Accidental Theorist, would have responded differently.  Krugman Past, unlike Krugman Present, would have pointed out that when the... MORE

How I'd Sell Civilization to Cavemen

Growth: Consequences
Bryan Caplan
Geoffrey Miller's Spent begins with an imaginary dialog between a modern man (You), and a couple of cavemen (Gerard and Giselle).  You're trying to sell them on modern civilization, but you're thwarted at every turn.First, you fail to sell Gerard:Gerard:... MORE

Return to Panic

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Scott Sumner just replied to a piece I wrote back in April on the crash of 2008.  Having lived through the crash - and lost a ton of money - it seems like a big part of the explanation has... MORE

What the Veterinary Medicine Piece Really Said

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Both Tyler and Megan are excited by a recent piece by Andrew Biggs that supposedly "seriously undercuts one of the major conservative arguments about health care:  that the main problem is consumers who don't bear their own costs."  Biggs' shows... MORE

Sumner's FAQ

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Every economist alive should read Scott Sumner's FAQ on macroeconomics.  You give him ten minutes; he'll give you a fresh, incisive perspective on the world.  Highlights:6.  Isn't the real problem . . . ?No, the real problem right now is... MORE

America vs. Japan: Where Is It Better for Kids?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In the U.S., 40% of babies are now born out of wedlock.  In Japan, only 2% are.  Clearly, then, it's better to be a baby in Japan than America, right?  For all my skepticism about nurture effects, I'm tempted to... MORE

What's Wrong With Realism? What's Right With It? Part 2

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
(Go here for the intro to this series on the realist theory of international relations). The behavior of individual voters is far from selfish.  The main reason, I've often argued, is that voting against your objective self-interest is practically free,... MORE

Why Are the Neurotic Anti-Market?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
The man in Roomette 3, Car No. 11, was a sniveling little neurotic who wrote cheap little plays into which, as a social message, he inserted cowardly little obscenities to the effect that all businessmen were scoundrels.               -Ayn Rand,... MORE

Why Are the Agreeable Anti-Market?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Once you grant that personality has an important effect on ideology, it's only natural to wonder why.  Gerber et al propose what they describe as "two tentative and equally plausible possibilities here, one focused on other regarding judgments and the... MORE

Personality and Ideology: Compared to What?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Arnold makes a fair point about the size of the effect of personality on ideology.  Why then am I so impressed?  Because compared to most conventional predictors of ideology, the personality variables do well.  I've spent many hours looking at... MORE

Hope His Top Advisor Sort of Believes In

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Is it just me, or does Larry Summers damn his boss with faint praise?"When I've heard him talk about economic issues--with the exception of NAFTA, where I just hope he doesn't believe what he says--he seems intelligent and serious. I... MORE

How Much Does Personality Affect Ideology?

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Arnold raises an important challenge to my last post:In measuring the importance of personality traits in predicting political ideology, I would ask how much of political ideology can be explained by personality. The answer, if you look at the R2... MORE

Left-right ideology is the single most powerful determinant of party identification and issue positions, but ideology itself is almost impossible to predict.  It does have a few mild correlates - for example, the well-educated are a little more liberal, the... MORE

Idolatry in a Free Society

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I've spent several days reflecting on my chairman's reaction to public grief over Michael Jackson's death:I, for one, am no more touched by Mr. Jackson's death than I am by the death of any of the thousands of other Americans... MORE

Great Questions, Matt

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Over at U.S. News and World Report, Matt Bandyk has a follow-up question for my last post on mandatory insurance and adverse selection:Here's my question to Dr. Caplan: But far from being populist anti-intellectualism, isn't the objection that "poor people... MORE

A Closer Look at Adverse Selection and Mandatory Insurance

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
If an economist wants to ward off the spirit of laissez-faire insurance policy, all he has to do is repeatedly chant "moral hazard and adverse selection."  The funny thing about this two-part mantra, though, is that the "moral hazard" part... MORE

Return to top