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Bryan Caplan: November 2012

An Author Archive by Month (36 entries)

The Respect Motive

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Consider a simple model of voter behavior:People vote for whoever respects them more.My immediate reaction: This Respect Motive is a roughly accurate description of over half the electorate.  Furthermore, it's hard to name any socially recognized group whose members do... MORE

In case you missed any segment in The Autobiography of Malcolm X Book Club, here's the full package:Lead-inPart #1: Malcolm's Childhood and Entry-Level Jobs (Chapters 1-5)Part #2: Malcolm's Life of Crime (Chapters 6-10)Part #3: Malcolm and the Nation of Islam... MORE

Terror Profiling

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Two quick replies to Garett:1. If terrorists were as flexible as he suggests, airport security would be useless.  Terrorists would simply switch to one of the countless undefended targets: trains, sporting events, malls, etc.  Profiling doesn't have to be perfect... MORE

Malcom's Purge, Second Thoughts, and Murder (Chapters 16-19, plus Haley's Epilogue)SummaryBy the early 60s, Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad's health is failing, and internal resentment against Malcolm's success is starting to build.  He refuses publicity to calm the jealousy -... MORE

Carnegie on the School Ethic

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Education teaches people to show up on time, sit down, shut up, stay awake, and follow orders.  So it's tempting to say, "School inculcates the work ethic."  But that's not quite right.  School inculcates the school ethic - and while... MORE

British Democracy and the Death Penalty

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
William Feerick emailed me some interesting thoughts on an old EconLog post, reprinted below with his permission.Hello Bryan, I recently came across an article you wrote some time ago on your EconLog blog, where you mentioned Tim Besley's counter-examples to your... MORE

The False Advertising of the CFTC

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is suing one of my favorite websites and my primary source of news: Intrade.  The CFTC accuses Intrade of:[O]ffering commodity option contracts to U.S. customers for trading, as well as soliciting, accepting, and... MORE

Single Parenthood: The Reason Matters

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Susan Mayer's What Money Can't Buy concludes by tossing out a fun fact I've often heard repeated.  (I even repeated it myself once in an exchange with Charles Murray).Both low income and single parenthood may in fact be correlated with... MORE

Hedengren's Dog

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Two decades ago, economists started taking intelligence seriously.  Now economists are starting to take conscientiousness seriously.  Unfortunately, most existing data sets don't contain personality tests.  Even when they do, personality tests are only self-reports. Wouldn't it be great if we... MORE

How I See Singapore

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
Scott Sumner returns from Singapore with many fascinating observations, including:My guide told me that when western academics come to Singapore, the leftists tend to love the place and the libertarians often go home in disgust.I'm as libertarian as they come,... MORE

Modelling the Marriage of High Virtue and Low Cunning

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
David Brooks praises Lincoln for showing that the "challenge of politics lies precisely in the marriage of high vision and low cunning."  He elaborates: The movie is about pushing the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives. The political operatives... MORE

Joseph Schmidt and the Tragedy of Discrimination

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for Joseph Schmidt (1904-1942), my favorite new-to-me opera singer.  His music is wonderfully sweet (start here and here), and his life story a lesson to us all.  Despite his voice, Schmidt had a problem that seemingly... MORE

Immigration Charity Bleg

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Suppose you wanted to spend your charitable dollars to increase the total number of people who migrate from the Third World to the First World.  What approach would give you the biggest bang for your buck?  Are any specific countries,... MORE

When to Trust Your Superiors

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
A while back, James Donald left a somewhat strident comment on EconLog.  The key passage:When the superior rule the inferior, it is not only better for the superior, it is also better for the inferior.Many readers will reject Donald's claim... MORE

Free Market Airport Security

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I think Garett's basically wrong about airport security on the free market.  Yes, both markets and politics respond to risk misperceptions.  But the political response is much more likely to ignore cost and convenience, to impose whatever sounds good.  The... MORE

Some Unpleasant Immigration Arithmetic

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Let C=total number of immigrants - legal and illegal - who annually enter the U.S. under existing laws.Let F=the total number of immigrants who would annually enter the U.S. under open borders.Under perfectly open borders, C=F.  Under perfectly closed borders,... MORE

Towards the end of my debate with Steve Pearlstein, he posed an intriguing question.  My paraphrase: Suppose half of higher education really is pure waste.  What's the efficient government response?  Should government should cut its subsidy by 50%?  Or what?Steve's... MORE

What Makes People Think Like Economists About Inflation?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Tyler blogs this 2001 Bryan and Venkatu piece on systematically biased beliefs about inflation:In the roughly 20,000 responses we have received from our telephone survey since August 1998, the average rate at which respondents thought prices had risen over the... MORE

Correction: Total Government Spending on Higher Education

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Last night I realized that I repeatedly used an incorrect figure for government higher education spending in my debate with Steve Pearlstein.  I said "Taxpayers heavily subsidize higher education - about $500 billion dollars per year."  But ~$500B is in... MORE

Outsourcing My Critique of Left-Libertarianism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Despite many areas of agreement, I think that left-libertarianism is basically wrong.  One day I'll post an in-depth critique.  Until then, I'm outsourcing the job to Daniel Shapiro and Steve Horwitz.Shapiro highlights:Being one's own boss is quite a risky proposition,... MORE

Brennan's Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
As expected, Jason Brennan's latest book, Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2012) is excellent.  The format works well for the blog age: thoughtful libertarian answers to a hundred and five frequently asked questions.  My admittedly somewhat... MORE

Learning and Retention in Medical School

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Peter Wei, a medical student at Duke, has some interesting thoughts on my post about learning and retention.  Here's Wei, reprinted with his permission:You're right, there's a substantial literature on learning loss, yet this doesn't seem much lamented and educators... MORE

Higher Education: Time to Cut the Cord

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Should government withdraw from an active role in promoting and subsidizing higher education?  I recently debated Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Pearlstein on this very question.  Here's the debate resource page, including full audio.  I've also published a correction: total government... MORE

Social Intelligence: The Wisdom of Muawiya

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
My favorite quotation in the entirety of Larry Gonick's magisterial Cartoon History of the Universe series is from the Caliph Muawiya.  Behold social intelligence:I never apply the sword when the lash suffices, nor the lash when my tongue is enough. ... MORE

Intermediate Hypothetical Bleg

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I asked Steve Sailer:Steve, would you please name a few examples of citizenist policies that you think go slightly beyond the limits of our moral obligations to outsiders?  A few examples of such policies that you think are just barely... MORE

Sailer on Fundamental Moral Obligations

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm pleased to see Steve Sailer engaging my 3 AM Dorm Room hypotheticals (here and here):"Biased in favor of" is hardly the same as "recognizes no moral obligations to non-citizens" and does not imply Poisoning Children. I also do not,... MORE

Immigration, Trespassing, and Socialism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
To trespass is to enter a piece of land without the owner's consent.  What should we infer, then, when people argue that illegal immigrants are guilty of trespassing?At first glance, the trespassing shoe doesn't fit.  The typical illegal immigrant:1. Occupies... MORE

We're Going Too Far

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Question for you: When was the last time you openly worried about "your side" treating "their side" unjustly?  This could mean:1. "Your side" intellectually misrepresenting "their side."2. "Your side" politically oppressing "their side."3. "Your side" embracing positions that, taken seriously,... MORE

A Question for Steve Sailer's B-School Professor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
An interesting vignette from Steve Sailer:By "citizenism," I mean that I believe Americans should be biased in favor of the welfare of our current fellow citizens over that of the six billion foreigners. Let me describe citizenism using a business... MORE

Reality Check

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The lessons people want to draw from Romney's defeat:1. He would have have won if he were more/less socially conservative.2. He would have won if he were more/less economically conservative.The lessons people should draw from Romney's defeat:1. He would have... MORE

A Bet I Forgot to Make

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Just one election cycle ago, Tyler embraced a conclusion I found implausible on the basis of a model I found absurd:When it comes to marijuana legalization, I believe that the "anti-" forces will muster as many parental votes as they... MORE

Open Borders and Global IQ Bleg

IQ in Economics
Bryan Caplan
Another bleg from the tireless Vipul Naik of Open Borders.  Vipul's words:What impact would open borders have on global IQ within a generation or two? Even hardcore IQ hereditarians concede some sort of Flynn effect and the role of malnutrition... MORE

Self-Correction in Markets and Politics

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
We can't stop our minds from jumping to conclusions.  If we smell smoke, we jump to the conclusion, "Fire."  If metal glitters, we jump to the conclusion, "Gold."  If a person smiles at us, we jump to the conclusion, "Friend." ... MORE

The Present Value of Learning, Adjusted for Forgetting

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Suppose learning marginal fact F increases your productivity by V.  What is the present value of learning F?  Economists will be tempted to mechanically apply the standard present value formula.  Using discrete time to keep things simple: PDV(F)=V + V/(1+r)... MORE

Optimal Open-Mindedness

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Lately a few people have accused me of being "closed-minded."  As they'd predict, I reject the accusation.  I say my degree of openness is close to optimal.  Consistent with Bayesian reasoning, I am as reluctant to claim vindication by events... MORE

You Should Repeatedly Read Cochrane's "After the ACA"

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
Soon after I finished my Ph.D. at Princeton, I started going to academic conferences.  When I met senior professors at these gathering, they were often surprised to discover my pedigree.  Regardless of the subject at hand, I habitually revealed exactly... MORE

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