EconLog small logo

Bryan Caplan: January 2014

An Author Archive by Month (27 entries)

Gochenour-Nowrasteh on the Political Externalities of Immigration

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Does immigration expand the welfare state by increasing the share of voters that benefit from government programs?  Or does immigration contract the welfare state by undermining voters' sense of national identity?  Critics of the welfare state tend to think the... MORE

I'm Too Busy Fighting Tyranny to Feed My Family

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Suppose your Facebook friend, John, is a political junkie.  Every day, he floods your Newsfeed with the latest political news and op-eds.  He provides play-by-play coverage of protests and rallies around the globe.  He travels hundreds of miles every week... MORE

Self-Harm is a Luxury

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
From Cutler and Lleras-Muney, "Understanding Differences in Health Behaviors by Education" (Journal of Health Economics 2010):Differences in prices or in response to prices are a second potential reason for education-related differences in health behaviors. This shows up most clearly in... MORE

In Praise of Passivity

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
"In Praise of Passivity" is another gem from Mike Huemer, my favorite philosopher.  Thesis:Voters, activists, and political leaders of the present day are in the position of medieval doctors. They hold simple, prescientific theories about the workings of society and... MORE

Pritchett on Private vs. Government Schools

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
From The Rebirth of Education:Whereas formerly only the elite may have gone to private schools, there has been a massive proliferation of private schools, especially in Asia and Africa.  These budget-level private schools are producing better learning outcomes, often substantially... MORE

Liability, Disclaimers, and Adverse Selection

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
Suppose the law says that parking garages are liable for whatever damages occur on the premises.  However, there's a big loophole: Garages can disclaim liability by posting a big "ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK" sign.  What happens?Non-economists usually conclude that... MORE

Schooling Ain't Learning, But It Is Money

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Lant Pritchett is enjoying justified praise for his new The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain't Learning.  His central thesis: schooling has exploded in the Third World, but literacy and numeracy remain wretched.  The average Haitian and Bangladeshi today have more... MORE

Predicting the Popularity of Obvious Methods

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Imagine a Question in social science.  The Question can be analyzed using an Obvious Method - a simple, standard approach that social scientists have used for decades.  The Question has a Welcome Answer  - an answer that the typical social... MORE

Mandela and Communist Villainy

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Bill Keller in the NYT:But Mandela's Communist affiliation is not just a bit of history's flotsam. It doesn't justify the gleeful red baiting, and it certainly does not diminish a heroic legacy, but it is significant in a few respects.I'm... MORE

Correction on Mandela

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Yesterday, I wrote:While I'm convinced that Mandela was never a Communist, his priorities were thoroughly Leninist: "The point of the uprising is the seizure of power; afterwards we will see what we can do with it."Today, however, I've learned that... MORE

Mandela: Reckless But Lucky

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I've heard ugly rumors about Nelson Mandela for years.  Was he a Communist - or a terrorist?  His recent death inspired me to learn more.  Alex Tabarrok nudged me to start with Mandela's autobiography, which presumably puts his career in... MORE

Some historians argue that colonialism was an outgrowth of nationalism.  Once the people in the leading industrial powers started to strongly identify as British, French, German, American, or Japanese, they fell in love with the idea of planting their national... MORE

Why So High? Economics and the Value of Life

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Economists are widely-seen as heartless.  Their use of the phrase "value of life" is often seen as damning confirmation of this heartlessness.  Nice people say, "You can't put a value on a human life" and change the subject!What's striking, though,... MORE

Drowning Redheads is Wrong Even Though Water is Wet

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Suppose we lived in a society split between the following intellectual package deals:Package #1: Water is wet, so we should drown redheads.Package #2: Water isn't wet, so we shouldn't drown redheads.What would happen if a lone voice of common sense... MORE

The Prudence of the Poor

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Ari Fleisher in the WSJ:Given how deep the problem of poverty is, taking even more money from one citizen and handing it to another will only diminish one while doing very little to help the other. A better and more... MORE

The Discipline of Dismissal

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Tyler has some dismissive observations about the practice of dismissal: One of the most common fallacies in the economics blogosphere -- and elsewhere -- is what I call "devalue and dismiss."  That is, a writer will come up with some... MORE

Sitting on an Ocean of Hypotheticals

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
David senses a weakness in my "Sitting on an Ocean of Talent": But I don't think people's opposition to more immigration is that different from how they would react to those who would prevent them from getting at precious resources.... MORE

How Rival Is Your Marriage?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Two childless singles, each earning $50,000 a year, marry.  Both keep working, living by the old-school principle of "share and share alike."  What happens to their material standard of living?  If all depends on how rivalrous their consumption bundle is.If... MORE

What's Wrong With IVs? [wonkish]

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Labor economists love using instrumental variables - like your distance to the nearest college - to estimate the education premium.  Heckman, Lochner, and Todd point out a recurring problem with this approach:[M]ost of the candidates for instrumental variables in the... MORE

Sitting on an Ocean of Talent

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Imagine scientists discover a new substance that reverses aging.  They name it Leonium, after Ponce de Leon.  The catch: Leonium is vanishingly rare.  Some years later, though, the scientists discover a trillion dollars worth of Leonium directly under the Empire... MORE

Self-Help: The Obvious Remedy for Academic Malemployment

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Megan McArdle surveys the harsh realities of academic malemployment, then despairs:A substantial fraction -- maybe the majority -- of PhD programs really shouldn't exist.But of course, this is saying that universities, and tenured professors, should do something that is radically... MORE

Is Average Over?: Two Equivocal Graphs

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Here are the unredacted graphs from "Tell Me What 'Average Is Over' Looks Like."Graph #1 is from 1978:Graph #2 is from 2008:What's equivocal?  Although the 2008 graph definitely has more inequality, the 2008 labor market consistently offers more continuous rewards... MORE

Tell Me How It Feels to Be a Bad Student

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Being a bad student must be a miserable experience.  Teachers, parents, and other kids point out your failings day after day.  Even if they sugarcoat their negative feedback ("Billy needs to improve in... everything"), that's gotta hurt.Why then do we... MORE

The Orange Moon

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When I was around 4 years old, my family took a trip to Nevada.  While there, I saw my first orange moon.  I couldn't believe my eyes.When I returned home, I told my best friend, Adam, what I'd seen.Me: In... MORE

Will on Somin on Judicial Review

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
George Will shines a spotlight on Ilya Somin's Democracy and Political Ignorance.  Highlight:Political ignorance, Somin argues, strengthens the case for judicial review by weakening the supposed "countermajoritarian difficulty" with it. If much of the electorate is unaware of the substance... MORE

People with more education don't just make more money if they have jobs; they're more likely to have jobs in the first place.  As a result, the earnings premium now greatly exceeds the wage premium.  Consider the following caricature approximation... MORE

Tell Me What "Average Is Over" Looks Like

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Here are two graphs of lifetime male income distribution broken down by educational attainment.  One is for 1978, the other from 2008.  I deliberately redact the years and dollar values to preserve the mystery.Graph #1:Graph #2:Now you tell me: Without... MORE

Return to top