Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: March 2012

An Author Archive by Month (32 entries)

Planning for the Unpleasant Future: Private vs. Public

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Thinking about being old and sick is no fun.  It's tempting to simply refuse to ponder the unpleasant future.  But notice: Whether people give into this temptation depends heavily on whether they're thinking personally or politically.Personally, almost everyone at least... MORE

Tyler's Telling Question About My Education Book

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
On Monday, Tyler asked me a telling question about my education book: Why do I keep re-interpreting other people's research to show that it's consistent with or supportive of signaling, instead of simply doing a new study of my own? ... MORE

David Autor Signals Wit and Insight

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
I don't normally associate MIT with "funny," but David Autor's notes on signaling definitely qualify:Testing signaling versus human capital models of educationDoes it seem plausible that education serves (in whole or part) as a signal of ability rather than simply... MORE

The Banality of Leninism vs. the Wisdom of Acton

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I finally finished Crime and Punishment, and was rewarded with two more great Leninist diatribes that predate the dictator's birth.  The first is a confrontation between murderous intellectual Raskolnikov and his sister:"Aren't you half expiating your crime by facing the... MORE

Why They Haven't Been Fired

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
"Why haven't they been fired?"  Lots of great, non-dogmatic answers in the comments.  Everyone sees a lot of deadwood, though I'm puzzled by the repeated suggestion that "The next person might be worse."  If that's the concern, why not just... MORE

If the Mind Is a Muscle

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
People often compare education to exercise.  If exercise builds physical muscles, then education builds "mental muscles."  If you take the analogy seriously, however, then you'd expect education to share both the virtues and the limitations of exercise.  Most obviously: The... MORE

Why Haven't They Been Fired?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Three questions:1. What fraction of your co-workers are paid 125% or more of their true marginal product?2. What fraction of these overpaid/incompetent co-workers can you personally identify?3. Has the boss failed to fire these overpaid/incompetent workers because he doesn't know... MORE

The Unsung

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
GDP is an agnostic statistic.  If someone spends money on something, it counts as GDP.  This agnosticism helps statisticians avoid controversy.  But it's hard to see any other epistemic benefit.  If we really want to measure output, we have to... MORE

We Are So Different

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
One of my rules of thumb is: "Human heterogeneity is bigger than you think."  At Less Wrong, Yvain explains it better than I ever have.  Lead-in:There was a debate, in the late 1800s, about whether "imagination" was simply a turn... MORE

The Awful Mill

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've never been a fan of John Stuart Mill.  Yes, he had a massive IQ and a dreadful Tiger Dad.  But his thinking is shockingly muddled.  One especially cringeworthy example: In the span of two pages in On Liberty, Mill... MORE

Table of Contents for The Case Against Education

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Once you figure out the perfect structure for your book, it writes itself.  Unfortunately, figuring out that perfect structure is extremely difficult.  Here's the tentative structure for my book in progress, The Case Against Education. Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style... MORE

Licensing and the Return to Education

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Private sector unions have almost disappeared, but occupational licensing is all the rage.  Almost 30% of all workers need a license to do their jobs - and licensed workers earn roughly a 15% wage premium.Occupational credentials are one common licensing... MORE

If Coming Apart is right, what should we do?  Charles Murray already proposed one frankly bizarre set of solutions in the NYT.  Now he offers a rather different set of solutions in the WSJ.  Or to be precise, one solution. ... MORE

My Comments for Haidt

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Jonathan Haidt kindly let me read an earlier version of The Righteous Mind last June.  Here are the comments I sent him.  I haven't seen the final version, so perhaps he revised the book in response.Hey Jonathan, I finally finished... MORE

Rand on Totalitarian Motives

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Ayn Rand's verdict on totalitarian motives* is remarkably similar to mine.  From Galt's Speech:[I]f the ravages wrought by their acts have not made them question their doctrines, if they profess to be moved by love, yet are not deterred by... MORE

The Banality of Leninism

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Historians often act like Lenin's tyranny was a bolt from the blue: Who would have expected a bunch of socialists to be so bloodthirsty?  Admirers of Lenin, in contrast, often paint him as a great innovator - at least as... MORE

Open Borders: The Website

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Vipul Naik has just opened the virtual doors of his Open Borders website.  The idea is to bring together the best philosophical and economic arguments for free migration, including a few by yours truly.  (I'm honored to be quoted on... MORE

A Non-Keynesian Turing Test

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Can a non-Keynesian economist pass for a Keynesian?  Blogger Michael Hartwell tries to pass an ideological Turing Test here:As promised, I have assembled a team of informed Keynesians and left-wing econ fans to answer some general questions about modern economists.... MORE

Quietism and the Bubble

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
If I prefer to live in a Bubble, why do I spend so much my time publicly promoting my own ideas?  A true Bubble Boy, you'd think, would give up on the world; to say, with The Misanthrope's Philinte: Normal... MORE

Conversational Evidence

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
I've long argued that economists should take more stock in introspection.  Now Karl Smith argues that economists should take more stock in conversation:[F]or example if you asked someone - why didn't you move to San Francisco or conversely, why did... MORE

A Libertarian Defense of Blacklisting at The Nation

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Ilyse Hogue has a shockingly libertarian piece on the Limbaugh boycott at The Nation.  Not "civil libertarian," but hard-line my-money-my-choice libertarian.  Background:Bill Maher spent a significant portion of last Friday's Real Time defending Rush Limbaugh. Well, not defending the man,... MORE

Reciprocity and Irony: A View from My Bubble

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Steve Sailer has a revealing comment on my Bubble post:Of course, if there were a big war, it would be nice to be defended by all those dreary Americans you despise. And, the irony is, they'd do it, too, just... MORE

Compromise and Priorities

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm steering clear of the Cato-Koch dispute.  But these remarks by Will Wilkinson are intriguing at the meta level: [I]n actual large-stakes political fights in Washington, Cato is generally on the Republican side. It would not be strange to spot... MORE

Losing Ground, The Bell Curve, and Coming Apart: A Reconciliation

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
During Arnold's video conference on Coming Apart, Brink Lindsey pointed out the curious fact that Charles Murray wrote three different books about poverty, each with a different explanation.*  Losing Ground says that the welfare state gives the poor perverse incentives. ... MORE

My Beautiful Bubble

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Unlike many readers of Coming Apart, you don't have to convince me that I live in a Bubble.  I've known it for decades.  In fact, I think my 3-out-of-20 score on the "How Thick Is Your Bubble?" quiz greatly overstates... MORE

The Solutions Murray Should Have Proposed

Income Distribution
Bryan Caplan
I'm fan of Coming Apart.  But I'm baffled by the policy "solutions" Charles Murray proposes in today's NYT.  Impose a minimum wage on internships?  Ban the SAT in favor of achievement tests?  Switch to socioeconomic affirmative action?  Forbid the use... MORE

Downton Abbey

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Downton Abbey (season 1 streaming on Netflix) doesn't just live up to the hype.  It also beautifully illustrates the power of firing aversion during the heydey of employment at will.  Highly recommended.... MORE

Under the Jim Crow laws, discrimination was not merely legal.  It was mandatory.  It was illegal for blacks to live, work, and shop in certain places.  Virtually everyone today regards this as an enormous injustice.  So do I.  But I... MORE

The Age of Contestability

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
When economists want to measure the competitiveness of an industry, they usually start by counting the number of competing firms.  If they see a lot of firms, they infer a lot of competition.  Few firms?  Little competition.  One firm?  No... MORE

Fund-Raising and the Independent Scholar

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Arnold writes:Think tanks, like universities, may be ripe for disintermediation. Although I think my writing for Cato helped my personal brand, I would rather be viewed as an independent scholar. I view scholars as personal brands, and I do not... MORE

Goldin-Katz and the Education Plateau

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} .shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);} 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";} Education has not plateaued.  Does this... MORE

The Myth of the Education Plateau

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Why has the return to education increased so much in recent decades?  The simplest explanation is that the supply of well-educated workers just isn't keeping up with the demand.  Indeed, many claim that American educational attainment has been stagnant for... MORE

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