Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: December 2007

An Author Archive by Month (39 entries)

My Vacation Reading

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Besides Laika, here are three graphic novels I've thoroughly enjoyed on vacation:American-Born Chinese. Blends Chinese mythology with the themes of stereotype accuracy (?) and self-acceptance, without falling into cliche. The tale of the Monkey King works whether you're five or... MORE

The Szaszian Gestalt Shift: An Illustration

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The LA Times recently ran a front-page story on Tiffany Sitton, a 23-year-old schizophrenic girl. Its official position, of course, is that Sitton is a victim of a disease. But the details of the story paint a different - and... MORE

Arnold's got a "non-pacifist syllogism" to counter my "pacifist syllogism". I think all of Arnold's premises are wrong or misleading. Point-by-point:Premise 1: There will always be individuals and groups whose comparative advantage is plunder and extortion. Call them pirates.For any... MORE

Laika: Best Dog Story Ever Told?

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Laika, a semi-historical graphic novel about the famed canine cosmonaut, may be the best dog story ever told. I was on the verge of tears by the end. As he tells the tale of the first Earthling in space, writer-artist... MORE

The Old-Fashioned Personality

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
The holidays are the perfect time to step back and ponder the generation gap. How can people born forty years before you (or forty years after you) seem like they come from another world? If you're looking for answers, I... MORE

A Russian Defends Rent-Seeking

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
This passage from Anna Karenina reminds me of Tyler Cowen's "Rent-Seeking Can Promote the Provision of Public Goods" (1994. Economics and Politics 6(2), co-authored with Ami Glazer and Henry McMillan):...Oblonsky began telling them of a delightful shooting party at Malthus's... MORE

From Singapore's Success by Henri Ghesquiere:Malaya and the British saw in the union [between Malaysia and Singapore] a way to help Lee, and themselves, prevent Singapore, then a hotbed of communist agitation, from becoming an Asian Cuba.Talk about a near... MORE

Douglas Hibbs is famous for his Bread-and-Peace election forecasting model; Andrew Gelman produces some nifty graphs to boil down Hibbs' results. Growth is clearly a very strong predictor of incumbent party vote share - though I suspect that Achen and... MORE

What Could President Paul Actually Do?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
What would happen if Ron Paul actually became president? First, I'd have to write a $200 check to Walter Block. But what would happen next? There are some major changes that Paul could make unilaterally. He really could recall U.S.... MORE

The Myth of the Rational Voter: You've Read the Book, Now Wear the Shirt!

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I still remember Ben Bernnake telling me: "Having a good paper isn't enough. You've also got to think about moichendizing." I took his lesson to heart - and then some. The more I thought about my book's eye-candy cover, the... MORE

Paternomics: Levitt's Parenting vs. Mine

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I can't believe how much I disagree with Steve Levitt's goals as a father. Here's a line-by-line contrast:[Steve] I care most about raising kids who are happy and successful as adults, even if that happens to mean that they aren’t... MORE

Why Not Make Politics a Real Popularity Contest?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Politicians in a democracy face truly crummy incentives: No matter how good or bad their performance, they receive the same salary. What would we expect from a CEO who faced the same reward structure? As soon as you start talking... MORE

Erikson, Althaus, and Why I'm Grateful to be in Econ

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Scott Althaus is the leading scholar of "enlightened preferences." In his book, he provides a massive body of evidence showing that people who know more about politics have systematically different policy preferences - even controlling for a long list of... MORE

Why Do Serial Killers Vastly Outnumber Vigilantes?

Economics of Crime
Bryan Caplan
Serial killers are, contrary to movies and television, incredibly rare. Still, Wikipedia lists well over a hundred convicted serial killers. In contrast, vigilantes (a la the fictional Dexter) are almost non-existent. How many can you name, besides Bernard Goetz, who... MORE

Dexter and Dostoyevsky

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
After watching the finale of its second season, I'm ready to stick my neck out and say that Dexter is the best show in the history of television. As an aficionado of plot, I am in awe; but it excels... MORE

Stephen Smith makes an argument that seems popular across a wide swath of the political spectrum:Yeah, and how many billion dollars per year does the United States need to spend even on just the military to make this oil available?... MORE

A topic at lunch: How much tax revenue could the U.S. raise by imposing efficient Pigovian taxes on things with negative externalities? For starters, how much could be raised by taxing pollution, congestion, and violent and property crime to the... MORE

Robin was very impressed by Malcolm Gladwell's piece on IQ and the Flynn effect in The New Yorker. I wasn't; Gladwell leaves out a lot. (He also falsely attributes a bizarre view to Murray and Herrnstein, which the magazine has... MORE

How Much AA at TJ?

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
U.S. News and World Report says that Northern Virginia's Thomas Jefferson (TJ) is the best public high school in the country. Here's a neat paper by Lloyd Cohen of the GMU Law School estimating the extent of AA (or as... MORE

Taste for Variety

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Am I the only Saw fan in the world who thinks that Enchanted is the best movie of 2007? P.S. The movie is far better than the trailer.... MORE

Men of Respect

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Seen through the lens of men's rights, this quote (from Do I Want to Be a Mom?) is unintentionally outrageous:My youngest son just turned eighteen. This is when you want them to develop opinions and morals and hopefully somewhere in... MORE

A Pacifist Syllogism

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
Premise #1: Wealth makes men cowards. Premise #2: When all men are cowards, there will be no war. Conclusion: When all men are wealthy, there will be no war. Reasons to Believe Premise #1: Richer countries are much less violent... MORE

My Defense of Experts Against the Leading Expert

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Forget "the Best of 2007"; Philip Tetlock's Expert Political Judgment may well be the best book ever written on political psychology. (See here for an earlier discussion). I say this even though I'm a big defender of experts, and Tetlock's... MORE

Why My Sales Spiked

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
The Financial Times has named The Myth of the Rational Voter one of the best books of 2007. And I'm in some good company, though one could argue that the most convincing endorsements come from people who don't share my... MORE

Popular Dictators: Who Could Pass the Democratic Test?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Some call Putin a dictator, yet few deny that he would win a fair election. If you look around the world, how many bona fide dictators could say the same? Let's start with: Castro Kim Jong Il Mugabe Mubarak The... MORE

Popular Putin's Persecutions: What's the Point?

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
Western media and the Russians I know agree: Putin is popular. An op-ed in the Washington Post says "He Delivers. That's Why They Like Him."Russians support their president because he did something rare for a politician: He delivered. Russia today... MORE

Tolstoy on Disagreement

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Sometimes I think I could spend the rest of my life reading War and Peace, then Anna Karenina, then starting over with War and Peace. Here's another thought-provoking passage from AK:'What do they want to argue for? No one ever... MORE

The Posnerian View of Human Nature

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Here's a great Posnerian sentence:I would be inclined to search as hard as possible for nonmoral costs before concluding that morality is a major motivator of behavior, especially with regard to crimes, like tax evasion, that do not have an... MORE

Is Tax Evasion a Good Investment?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Gary Becker strongly suggests that it is:If taxpayers responded only to the expected cost of evading taxes, evasion would be far more widespread. The reason is that only about 7 percent of all tax returns are audited (over a 7... MORE

My Ideal Foil?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler calls Better Never to Have Been the "ideal foil" to my natalism. Book summary:Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence... David Benatar argues that coming into existence is... MORE

Questions for Arnold

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
1. Arnold writes:I have no strong priors about the distribution of possible global temperatures going forward.How about strong posteriors conditional upon the existence of a scientific consensus? If consensus doesn't impress you, then you should be willing to bet at... MORE

Like other global warming skeptics, Arnold objects to reliance on scientific consensus:To me, scientific evidence is not "a whole bunch of scientists think X." To me, scientific evidence is "Here is an experiment or a naturally-occurring event where the results... MORE

Roberts' Rule of Ridicule

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Here's a gem of ridicule from my colleague Russ Roberts. The National Academy of Sciences reports that divorce is bad for environment, because singles use more resources than couples. Russ exposes this "finding" as a bizarre combination of the obvious... MORE

Eliezer on the Ur-Mistake

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Eliezer at Overcoming Bias has a thoughtful post that manages to work in my very favorite passage from the Bible. P.S. The Legos say it better than I ever could.... MORE

Tolstoy on the Economics of Education

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Here's a fascinating dialogue on the economics of education from Anna Karenina. Two country gentlemen - Levin and Sviiazhsky - are arguing about how to raise farm productivity. Sviiazhsky's answer: `To educate the people three things are needed: schools, and... MORE

Attack Me at the Public Choice Meetings

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I'm setting up a panel on my book for the 2008 Public Choice meetings. If you're going and want to publicly criticize The Myth of the Rational Voter, please let me know. In fact, I'd consider it a personal favor.... MORE

Robin's "Rant"

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
On Saturday, Robin Hanson told me that he was going to blog a "rant" about Guatemalan baby-selling. As expected, Robin's ranting is superior to most people's carefully chosen words:It is in general a good thing if willing women are induced... MORE

Most people would like to be described as "straight shooters." (I think). And many straight shooters are very successful. However, it seems like they also face a glass ceiling. Whether we're talking politics, business, or non-profits, we rarely see straight... MORE

Libertarians, Take Your Pick: U.S. or Singapore?

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
I just had a fascinating chat with two extremely economically literate Singaporean civil servants. It suggested a challenge for libertarians: If you had to choose the system of government and policies as a package, which would you pick: the U.S.... MORE

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