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Bryan Caplan: August 2014

An Author Archive by Month (20 entries)

Meteorological Impossibilities

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
The Weather Channel's daily and hourly forecasts often seem logically incompatible.  Consider Oakton, VA's forecast for today.  The current daily prediction says "60% chance of rain."  But several evening hours individually have the same probability of 60%.  Unless I'm missing... MORE

Why Do Government Enterprises Work So Well?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
When I was in high school, Murray Rothbard's analysis of government ownership was a revelation.  Why was my high school a den of waste, incompetence, and stagnation?  Because it was a government enterprise!On the free market, in short, the consumer... MORE

Look-Alikes Don't Look Like Identical Twins

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Read this neat NYT write-up of new research by Nancy Segal and co-authors.  Segal, famous for her work on twins, got an idea when she encountered the oeuvre of Francois Brunelle, "a photographer in Montreal who takes pictures of pairs... MORE

Mencken's Appeasement

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I just learned that the great H.L. Mencken's Prejudices contains an eloquent plea for appeasement.  From Mencken's "Martyrs": Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 [I]t seems to me sheer vanity for any man to hold his religious views too firmly, or to submit... MORE

The Sweet Spot of Freedom

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
No one needs a political philosophy to tell them how to treat people they personally know.  Once human beings forge personal bonds, they understand what to expect from each other.  The main point of political philosophy is to tell people... MORE

The Veil of Implausibility

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The veil of ignorance is arguably 20th-century political philosophy's most successful new meme.  On one level, it's easy to see the appeal.  Political philosophy seems morally deadlocked.  The veil of ignorance provides a meta-norm to break this deadlock: We should... MORE

Education Bet Update

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
In 2011, my co-blogger David and I bet on the future of higher education.  The terms:I propose that we use the official numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics' Table 212.  2009 is the latest available year of data. ... MORE

What's the Use of Crying Over Spilled Blood?

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, you may recall, was dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Eleven years and over 100,000 civilian deaths later, the name is dark comedy.  The replacement Shiite-dominated government is a close ally of the Iranian theocracy,... MORE

Practical Guidance for Prudent Students

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
The Case Against Education's chapter on the selfish return to education runs over sixty pages.  Since I suspect that even eager readers may skim all the tables, I end with practical advice in plain English.  Note: Nothing in this section... MORE

Tolerance Before Empathy

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose you have a ne'er-do-well cousin.  A long-term alcoholic and drug addict, he's been arrested about thirty times - though never convicted of a felony.  One day he comes to your door, and tells you a largely accurate history of... MORE

Our Poverty and Theirs

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I regularly praise Nicholas Kristof's courageous essay on Third World poverty.  While First World immigration policies and Third World economic policies cause enormous harm, the global poor exacerbate their woes with grotesquely irresponsible behavior.  Kristof:[I]f the poorest families spent as... MORE

The Ethics of Individualism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last question before GenCon: In Haidtian terms, what is an "individualist"?  Insiders' knee-jerk reaction is probably to say "low in Care," or maybe even "low in Fairness."  But per Sebastian Nickel, isn't "low in Loyalty" the better answer?... MORE

Haidt and the Moral Foundations of the Welfare State

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Great questions from Sebastian Nickel:I recently asked whether accusations of excessive "selfishness" are to be understood as accusations of insufficient "altruism", or rather as accusations of insufficient "groupishness". A related question: When Jon Haidt asks questionnaire respondents questions meant to... MORE

Machismo vs. Appeasement

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I suspect that the ultimate objection to pacifism and appeasement is that they are unmanly.  A "real man," brimming over with machismo, stands up for himself no matter what the consequences: Never retreat, never surrender.  The emotional appeal is undeniable. ... MORE

The Fiscal Prognosis

Fiscal Policy
Bryan Caplan
Here's how bad the CBO's now expects the long-run fiscal crisis to be:The unsustainable nature of the federal tax and spending policies specified in current law presents lawmakers and the public with difficult choices. Unless substantial changes are made to... MORE

The Quantum Leap of Logic

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Quantum mechanics is often used as a club against common sense.  I've heard dozens of variations on Scott's:After all, quantum mechanics doesn't sound plausible either---but it's true.Seriously, though, how does this argument amount to anything more than:Common sense is an... MORE

Common Sense: As True As It Seems

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Scott once again scoffs in the face of common sense economics:Common sense is almost useless in the field of economics. Never dismiss an economic theory because the assumptions about human behavior don't sound plausible.Notice, though, how Scott tries to persuade... MORE

My Life of Appeasement

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Morally speaking, I think taxation is theft.  The government has a lot of bad excuses for taking my money without my consent, but no really good reasons.  Still, every year, I pay my taxes.  Why don't I stand up for... MORE

Mike Huemer, my favorite philosopher, has a new working paper on the ethics of legal advocacy.  Lawyering may never be the same, for Mike challenges the central dogma of the adversarial system: Lawyers should use all legal means to help... MORE

Immigrants Are Good for Cosmopolitan Tolerance

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When I debated Mark Krikorian, he bemoaned immigrants' effect on Americans' patriotic solidarity.  I think he's making a mountain out of a molehill, but Mark's concerns were much on my mind during my recent visit to New York City.  I... MORE

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