Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: March 2011

An Author Archive by Month (26 entries)

An Urgent Defense of Optimism

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
At the most general level, Tyler's recent posts on what he calls the "Fallacy of Mood Affiliation" are excellent.  Except... I know from lunch that he sees me as a great example of the Fallacy.  When he speaks of...People who... MORE

Heritabilities Are Meaningful and Important

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
The punchline of most twin and adoption studies is an estimate of Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman";} a trait's "heritability." ... MORE

Moral Risk-Aversion and the Deserving Poor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Another passage by Matt Zwolinski on poverty and desert that keeps coming back to me:[A]ny measures we take to diminish the likelihood of false positives - people getting welfare who don't deserve it - will probably increase the likelihood of... MORE

Rojas on Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Fabio Rojas, sociology professor at Indiana University and my best friend from UC Berkeley, reviews my new book at Orgtheory.  His more than fair intro:Though this book is written by an economist, it's not another cute-o-nomics pop text. It's a... MORE

Cowen on Moral Intuitionism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler Cowen writes:I am a moral realist and intuitionist, as is Bryan, but my view on applications is very different.[...]...Bryan wants to "coin" a large number of (non-trivial) moral truths this way, such as his claim that taxation is morally... MORE

Hanson's Pragmatic Pacifism

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I just discovered that I could conceivably co-author Pragmatic Pacifism with Robin Hanson.  Robin:War is bad. Defending against war, that can be justified. But starting a war, well that is presumably very bad. Not that starting a war could never... MORE

In Search of the Deserving Poor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
While vacationing in Italy, I kept thinking about philosopher Matt Zwolinski's thoughts on the deserving and undeserving poor:[T]he mere fact that there is a valid moral distinction to be made does not entail that we want our public policies to... MORE

Absurdist Passages of the Year

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
How many of you don't find the following passage from the NYT utterly bizarre?Admiral Hueber also said that the coalition was communicating with rebel forces. But later, when he was pressed on whether the United States was telling rebels not... MORE

Will I Lose My TARP Bet?

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Back in 2008, I made the following bet:If the Director of the OMB's 2013 report says that a shortfall exists, I win.  Otherwise, I lose.  The stakes: I will make up to five $100 bets at even odds.Now it seems... MORE

The Love Potion of Socialized Medicine

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
During my flight to Italy, I read Barbara Demick's outstanding Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea cover to cover.  Even if you've studied Communism for decades, you'll be appalled: In the 90s, North Korea basically moved from total... MORE

A Quick Case for Charter Cities: Memo to the Gates Foundation

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has an interesting accountability mechanism.  After they make a major funding decision, they solicit pro and con memos on "roads not taken" - other ways they could have spent their money.  Since the Gates... MORE

Three Thoughts on Italy

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
1. After ten more days of observation, I've grown a lot more optimistic about Italian living standards.  Now I'd say that GDP per capita is overstated by 25% rather than 100%.  If I'm right about this, Italy is a powerful... MORE

Callous Reflections

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Like Jason Brennan, I think that truly "callous" libertarians are few and far between.  But I keep thinking about reasons for the misperception.  I already mentioned two.  Libertarians are relatively unafraid to...1. Make a distinction between the deserving and the... MORE

Maybe Liberaltarianism Has a Prayer After All

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Ezra Klein sounds like my clone when arguing with the Secretary of Agriculture.  Highlight:EK: You keep saying that rural Americans are good and decent people, that they work hard and participate in their communities. But no one is questioning that.... MORE

Jason Brennan, my favorite philosopher of democracy, ponders the "case of the missing callous libertarians" at Bleeding Heart Libertarians: If you only read academic philosophy discussing orthodox right libertarianism, you might expect that libertarians are callous and indifferent to poverty...If... MORE

The Evolution of the Horse Face

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
From Melvin Konner's The Evolution of Childhood:In horse evolution, the face lengthened faster than the body size increased because face length is determined by the area of tooth surface needed for chewing, which, since it tracks the amount eaten, depends... MORE

Finally, An Intellectually Serious Case Against Immigration

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
In langur troops, a core of related females and their offspring associate for up to a few years with unrelated immigrant males.  If the newcomers win, they drive the other males away and systematically kill infants less than six months... MORE

Kids and Happiness: The Sweet and Sour Spot

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've heard a wide variety of objections to my forthcoming book on kids.  But the thinkers I most respect usually argue that the empirical happiness research is my Achilles heel.  After all, they point out, the negative effect of kids... MORE

The Depths of FDR's Anti-Semitism

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
A forthright admission from Andre Schiffrin's pro-Roosevelt Dr. Seuss & Co. Go To War:...Roosevelt took it upon himself to negotiate privately with the Vichy governor of Morocco, Auguste Nogues, and then with General Giraud.  FDR, who spoke fluent French, suggested... MORE

The Case Against News

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
By and large, I think news is a waste of time.  If I want to increase my factual knowledge, I read history - or Wikipedia.  News, I like to say, is the lie that something important happens every day.  Most... MORE

How Overvalued is Italy?

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
Whenever economists ask, "Where is the gap between official per capita GDP and actual living standards the greatest?," I don't pause.  My instant answer is always: Italy.  Official stats put its GDP per capita around $30,000.  But virtually every part... MORE

The Decline of Economic Theory

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
When I started my Ph.D. in Princeton, pure economic theory was king.  Economists with stellar math skills were high in status and high in demand, even if their knowledge of the real world was... slight.  In the following eighteen years,... MORE

The Biggest Idea in Development that No One Really Tried

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
Yesterday the noble Michael Clemens spoke at GMU about his impending JEP piece on migration.  To get a feel for what you missed, check out his Youtube tour de force, "The Biggest Idea in Development that No One Really Tried."... MORE

The Future of Egypt: Time to Go On the Record

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
One good way to guard against hidesight bias is to publicly state your odds in advance.  The Iranian Revolution, for example, spurred a wave of cock-eyed optimism around the world.  But before long, theocracy and bloody warfare left Iran in... MORE

From Caplan-Crampton-Grove-Somin's new working paper:Earlier researchers have already identified some systematic biases that undermine retrospective voting.  Voters myopically reward and punish politicians for recent economic performance.  (Bartels 2010; Achen and Bartels 2008, 2004a)  Partisanship heavily distorts voters' attributional judgments. (Marsh... MORE

Systematically Biased Beliefs About Political Influence: The Working Paper

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
My co-authors and I finally have a working paper based on our 2008 survey of the general public and political scientists.  Many thanks to all the EconLog readers who helped along the way.  Here's the basic idea from the intro. ... MORE

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