Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: September 2009

An Author Archive by Month (35 entries)

Intuitive Econ Challenge

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
In a recent post, I posed a challenge:State any proposition in basic economics in the comments, and I'll make it intuitive in a follow-up post.Now I'm back to keep my promise.  Fortunately for me, many of the 55 comments don't... MORE

Utility Isn't Everything

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Scott Sumner is one of the great monetary thinkers of our age.  But the news isn't all good - he's also a utilitarian.  I am frankly mystified by the enduring popularity of a moral theory subject to so many simple... MORE

Basic Economics Is Intuitive

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
Economists often off-handedly remark that basic economics is "counterintuitive."  In one of the papers he presented at GMU, Scott Sumner has a whole appendix on "Why is economics so counterintuitive?"  Even my hands aren't clean here: In The Myth of... MORE

Sumner on Why Friedman Was Too Klingian

Monetary Policy
Bryan Caplan
Milton Friedman famously argued that "money matters," but he had a caveat: Money matters with long and variable lags.  Over at Cato Unbound, Sumner suggests that even Friedman was far too Klingian:Most economists assume that interest rates or the money... MORE

A Guess and a Test

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
From Will Wilkinson, in a 100+ comment discussion at Overcoming Bias:I would guess that number of children is negatively correlated to number of sexual partners.According to the General Social Survey, Will's guess is... correct!  The correlation between number of children... MORE

Government Spending on Health Care is Industrial Policy

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Strange as it may seem, Scandinavia now has free-market admirers, most notably Will Wilkinson and especially Scott Sumner.  The heart of their case: If you ignore their welfare states, Denmark has one of the freest economies in the world, and... MORE

Good News About Subsistence

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
Robin's sounding strangely like a doom-sayer* lately:But as long as enough people are free to choose their fertility... then in the long run we should expect to see a substantial fraction of population with an heritable inclination to double their... MORE

10,005% Nominal GDP Growth

Monetary Policy
Bryan Caplan
In response to my criticism, Arnold writes:I do not think that central banks control nominal GDP any more tightly during a hyperinflation than at other times. That is, in normal times, if nominal GDP wants to grow at a 5... MORE

Stringham's A Winner... Again

Fiscal Policy
Bryan Caplan
Two years ago, my co-author Ed Stringham and I won a First Prize in the Templeton Enterprise awards, all thanks to Ed's initiative.  Now another lucky co-author has Stringham to thank for a big prize:Trinity College Associate Professor of American... MORE

Robin's Atoms

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
I always defer to Robin's knowledge of the natural sciences.  So what am I do to when he replies thusly to my virtual reality post?There are roughly 1057 atoms in our solar system, and about 1070 atoms in our galaxy,... MORE

Arnold's Bizarre Monetary Econ

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
I'd like to think that I'm misunderstanding Arnold's views on monetary econ.  But in his latest post, he states his position quite clearly.  He begins with the uncontroversial:The Federal Reserve can manipulate some market interest rates by printing money and... MORE

I'm glad that Tyler's criticizing faux-agnostic economists, but I'm enough of a spoilsport to point out that he previously advised his readers to closet their inner economists - at least to their families.... MORE

Virtual Cornucopia

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
In the past Robin has braved the derision of his colleagues by speculating that in the next few decades, (a) we might upload our brains and achieve immortality, and (b) the economy might start doubling in size every few days. ... MORE

Tyler's complex pluralistic take on local regulation perplexes Matt Yglesias:[W]hy on earth isn't the libertarian take on this that we should permit high density construction and let the market decide what happens? The answer to Matt's question is surprisingly simple. ... MORE

Why Aren't Government Employees Worse?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
I first read Murray Rothbard when I was seventeen years old, and suddenly my whole high school made sense. Lazy teachers, guys with college degrees teaching gym, required drama classes, and lies, lies, lies everywhere.  Mr. Libertarian had a compelling... MORE

The Expected Human

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
The day my latest son was born, I quoted Julian Simon:One spring day about 1969 I visited the U.S. AID office on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., to discuss a project intended to lower fertility in less-developed countries. I arrived... MORE

Posner on Personality

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
It almost sounds like Posner's jumping on the personality-and-economics bandwagon:Optimism is also a personality trait, and, as it happens, one essential to human progress. As I have argued elsewhere with reference to our current economic situation, what Keynes called "animal... MORE

Private Death Panels

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Suppose it were legally safe for a private insurer to offer death panels - presumably after talking to marketing to get a better name.  (By "legally safe" I mean not just the absence of contrary regulation, but a strong expectation... MORE

Gordon Reviews Create Your Own Economy

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
David Gordon, possibly the world's greatest fact checker, reviews Tyler's new book here.... MORE

Ohanian and His Critics

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Lee Ohanian's paper on "What - or Who - Started the Great Depression?" didn't get a lot of love in the comments.  I'm not going to reply to all the criticisms, but there are a few I'd like to... MORE

In previous years, I've taught graduate Public Finance I.  In designing the course, I treated "public finance" as a synonym for "public economics" or "economics of government."  So while I spent several weeks discussing bread-and-butter public finance topics like the... MORE

Cochrane's Political Economy

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
From his rebuttal to Krugman: Krugman is trying to say that a cabal of obvious crackpots bedazzled all of macroeconomics with the beauty of their mathematics, to the point of inducing policy paralysis.  Alas, that won't stick. The sad fact... MORE

"All Theories Are False"

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
I can't tell you how many times natural and social scientists have solemnly told me, "All theories are false."  Their "proof" usually amounts to the solitary example of Newtonian physics, proven false by Einsteinian physics.  But if you're patient, they... MORE

Some people sincerely like monogamy; other people sincerely don't.  Under the circumstances, it seems wise for everyone to just reveal their proclivities and pair up with people who share their expectations.  Unfortunately, I don't see this happening.  There is a... MORE

Like almost everyone else, libertarians typically argue that Herbert Hoover's policies exacerbated the Great Depression.  But there's a key difference: Normal people blame Hoover's commitment to laissez-faire, but libertarians blame Hoover's proto-New Deal policies.  Libertarian economists are particularly likely to... MORE

Monogamy and Heterogeneity

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
One thing I've learned from seminars: Preferences are almost unimaginably heterogeneous.  During a presentation, I'll be thinking, "No one will like this paper."  Then lo and behold, this paper has three ardent defenders.  And this is the harmonious, genteel GMU... MORE

Jet Lag, Night Feedings, and Fixed Costs

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Economists usually emphasize marginal analysis.  Should a firm make one more pound of steel?  Should a shopper spend one more minute looking for a lower price?  But economics has just as much to say about all-or-nothing decisions.  If a firm... MORE

I've Got a Little List

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Ryan Avent's not happy with my exploratory list of anti-suburban regulations:This is truly a remarkable list. One thing to note is that Caplan doesn't seem to grasp that criticisms of pro-suburban policies are largely about the forms that are encouraged... MORE

Cities, Suburbs, Country: Who's Subsidizing Whom?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
When I was pointing out some ways that government discourages suburbanization, I started wondering about budgetary cross-subsidies between cities, suburbs, and rural areas in the U.S.  Who's subsidizing whom?  Nothing decent googles for me - though I did come across... MORE

Now that my baby situation is under control, I'm ready to respond to Matt Yglesias.  Last week, he wrote, "Bryan Caplan specifically cites America's large houses and ample parking spaces as the benefits of our free market approach when they... MORE

Another Great Simon

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
Today Tyler shares his erudition on another great Simon, Simon Newcomb.  I primarily know Newcomb from his 1893 piece in the QJE, "The Problem of Economic Education."  It's one of the great dissections of economic misconceptions.  If you've always wanted... MORE

Windbags and Modernity

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
During my many recent hours at the neonatal ward, I've finished Gary Becker's A Treatise on the Family.  The last chapter is the best, particularly his analysis of the decline of respect for the elderly:Older persons are held in esteem... MORE

Ideas Have Consequences: SRHMK Edition

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Simon Nicolas Caplan, my third son, was born this morning.  Mother, baby, and father are all doing well.Besides the usual suspects, I'd like to thank the late great Julian Simon for putting me on my natalist path.  Almost as soon... MORE

Against Human Weakness

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Whenever a politician is exposed as an adulterer, the same meme always resurfaces: "We're all human, we shouldn't have 'unrealistic' expectations, everyone has moments of weakness, so let's forgive and move on..."  Micha Gertner gives an eloquent version over at... MORE

Where Does Monopoly Power Come From?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Textbook accounts of monopoly usually take the existence of a monopoly for granted, then analyze its consequences.  When I was an undergraduate, this usually provoked me to argue with the textbook.  "Where did this 'monopoly power' come from?!" I'd ask. ... MORE

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