Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: June 2008

An Author Archive by Month (52 entries)

Insomnia and Multiple Equilibria

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I was in a bad equilibrium last night. I felt a little agitated when I went to bed, which made it a little hard to fall asleep, which made me more agitated, and which made it even harder to sleep...... MORE

Eric Turkheimer's CV

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Reading Eric Turkheimer's CV gives me the uncomfortable feeling that I've fallen behind the research frontier in behavioral genetics. Just in the last few years, he's published dozens of careful papers (almost all available ungated from his webpage) that challenge... MORE

Amazing Elasticity

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Here's another margin of gasoline price-elasticity to add to Greg Mankiw's list: Netflix now advertises "Save Gas. Let us deliver your movies." P.S. The fact that these margins are hard to foresee is another reason why we probably tend to... MORE

Tyler already blogged the best sentences from this excellent piece on population decline. So I've decided to supply a complement: A brief critique of U.N. population projections. Ben Wattenberg explains that the U.N.'s World Population Prospects gives four basic projections:... MORE

Aren't Voters Disgusting?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Drew Westen's The Political Brain is largely a how-to manual for inspiring political emotions. But to be honest, the main emotion is inspired in me was disgust. Here's the passage to which I had the strongest reaction:[T]he Kerry campaign simply... MORE

A Deeply Misguided Sentence

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
"Nothing is more irrational than spending our lives trying to fend off mortality when no one has ever escaped that fate." (Westen, The Political Brain) You could just as easily say, "Nothing is more irrational than going to the movies... MORE

Heads, Hearts, Left, Right

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
How often have you heard the old saying, "If you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart; if you're still a liberal at 30, you have no brain"? Right or wrong, Drew Westen's The Political Brain gives me... MORE

Crampton Reviews Ariely

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Here's former Econlog guest blogger Eric Crampton's review of Ariely's Predictably Irrational. Highlight:Taken as a set of lessons for self-improvement, the book is very good... But these sorts of private solutions don’t seem to be Ariely’s main interest. He wants... MORE

Arbitrage Challenge

Efficient Markets Hypothesis
Bryan Caplan
Suppose the following: 1. You know now that the price of oil will be flat for five years, then fall by 10% per year every year thereafter. Everyone else thinks the price will be flat forever. 2. The longest oil-futures... MORE

Long-Run Commodity Prices: Essential Readings

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
In chapter 1 of The Selfish Reason to Have More Kids, I'm going to spend a little time discussing the largely imaginary problem of increasing resource scarcity. I knew the general pattern from folks like Julian Simon, but I wanted... MORE

Spotted on the Gas Pump at the Local Texaco

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
1. A big sign saying that due to the increase in "drive-offs," customers using cash now have to pay in advance. 2. A big sign telling customers that the station will soon adopt a discount for cash (and the Texaco... MORE

30-Year-Old Gasoline Mystery Solved

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
During the last energy crisis in the 70s, adults talked a lot about fuel efficiency. Kids often asked, "If gas costs more, why don't you just drive faster?" Adults usually responded, "You actually burn more gas that way." And then... MORE

Gintis Reviews Ariely

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Here's another great book review by Herbert Gintis. The book: Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational. Its biggest flaw:Ariely is a creative experimenter with zero capacity to deal with economic theory. By accepting the behavioral paradigm ("people are not logical, they are... MORE

Immigrant Directors

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
One of the best paths to success in Hollywood these days is to direct an obscure foreign film. Angelina Jolie's latest movie is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, whose Night Watch was seen by everyone in Russia, plus me and Tyler... MORE

EW's "New Classics" of Entertainment Technology

Growth: Consequences
Bryan Caplan
The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (I'm as big a fan as Tyler Cowen and Seth Roberts) has a great story on the last 25 years' best 25 innovations in entertainment technology. You need to subscribe for the full story,... MORE

What's the Matter with Westen?

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Drew Westen's The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation came out about a month after my Myth of the Rational Voter. Our sales have been neck-and-neck on Amazon for a long time. But... MORE

Best Movie About Communist Romania Ever

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
All the hype about the Romanian movie 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is true. It's an amazing period piece about the last years of its Communist dictatorship. It's a vivid illustration of the effects of prohibition on quality. And... MORE

Despite some skeptical colleagues (not mentioning any names, Alex!), I've never doubted the wisdom of "starving the beast" - opportunistically cutting taxes whenever possible in order to reduce spending eventually. Now Mankiw presents some new evidence in favor of the... MORE

What the "Women Hate Child Care" Study Actually Said

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Remember the famous study showing that women hate taking care of their kids? The standard soundbyte is that childcare is barely more enjoyable than housework. Here's Will Wilkinson* favorably quoting Arthur Brooks, who cites the original study in Science by... MORE

Selection Bias and Parental Regret

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
In 1975, Ann Landers asked her readers a hypothetical question: If you had you had your life to live over again, would you still have children? Over 10,000 replied. 70% said no. I've seen several random "child-free" activists cite Landers'... MORE

Do Grad Students Really Swagger?

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Maybe in Arnold and Megan's experience, but not in mine. At both Princeton and George Mason, I found one of students' main problems to be low morale. This ends up being a self-fulfilling prophesy: Students with low morale don't try... MORE

Am I Wrong to Blame the Fed?

Monetary Policy
Bryan Caplan
Arnold agrees with my causal analysis of the dollar and gas prices, but doesn't think I should blame the Fed. Well, let me put it this way: If Bernanke were to publicly say, "Federal Reserve policies are the main cause... MORE

Holocausts of Communism Test Now in Spanish

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
A hard-working volunteer has translated my long-standing Holocausts of Communism Test into Spanish. While the Spanish-speaking world was not the worst victim of Communism, it was a victim: Not just Cuba, but also Spain (during its Civil War), Nicaragua, El... MORE

The Dollar and the Gas Pump

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Oil is sold on world markets, and the dollar is now very weak. What would the dollar price of gas be today, if the dollar were as strong as it was back in 2002? Here's a back-of-the-envelope calculation (gas price... MORE

How Family Environment Works

IQ in Economics
Bryan Caplan
I finally got around to reading Plomin et al's classic 1997 parent-offspring adoption study. Background: Way back in 1975, Plomin and co-authors launched the Colorado Adoption Project (CAP). They put together a sample of 245 adoptees, their biological mothers, their... MORE

The Most Meaningful Compliments You Ever Received

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
What are the most meaningful compliments you ever received? Here's my short list: 1. When Robin Hanson told me that I'm his "favorite person to talk to." 2. When Thomas Szasz wrote me that this paper "gave me more pleasure... MORE

The Trojan Horse Example

Austrian Economics
Bryan Caplan
Austrian economists often attack the mainstream for ignoring something they call "radical uncertainty," "sheer ignorance," or sometimes "Knightian uncertainty." A common Austrian slogan is that "Neoclassical economists study only cases where people know that they don't know; we study cases... MORE

Parenthood as the Trump of All Past Regret

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
I don't regret anything in my life prior to the conception of my sons. This may sound like sentimental nonsense, but I tell you it's true. Here's my argument: 1. Basic biology: A man produces hundreds of millions of sperm... MORE

If your willingness to pay for my book is greater than $13.99 and less than $19.77, you'll be pleased to learn that you can now pre-order the paperback edition for $14.00. This edition has a new intro where I briefly... MORE

The Persistence of Rebellion

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
What was your biggest act of rebellion against your parents? Did your rebellion last? I'll start: For me, it was becoming an atheist, and refusing to attend church (starting at age 16). The rebellion lasts to this day. How about... MORE

Price Controls on Gas: Is the Public Getting What It Wants?

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
According to a new Gallup survey, 53% of Americans want price controls on gas. So it looks like the democratic process is failing to deliver the policies the public wants. But wait: 79% of the public opposes gas rationing. Since... MORE

Public Opinion About Fetal Testing

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
If you're having a high-risk pregnancy, it's pretty obvious that you'll be more likely to have your fetus tested for birth defects and other problems. But is risk the only factor that predicts demand for fetal testing? Nope. Here's an... MORE

Jolie on Pregnancy: Do You Believe Her?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Angelina Jolie has more than enough money to make most of the downside of kids disappear. But now that she's pregnant with twins, all her money won't save her. Her reaction:"It makes me feel that all the things about my... MORE

Economists, Foreign Competition, and Self-Interest: Rodrik's Doubly Wrong

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
Here's how Dani Rodrik closes his defense of popular anxiety about globalization:And by the way, Harvard cannot fire me because I have tenure (as does Tyler). Which makes any pontification on our part about job anxiety a very poor guide... MORE

Rodrik Turns Cowen Into Caplan

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've had a hundred arguments with Tyler Cowen where claims that seemingly idiotic popular positions are actually subtle, deep, and correct, and I respond that popular positions are every bit as idiotic as they appear. It's a pleasure, then, to... MORE

How to Tell the Truth With Statistics

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
From Robert Gordon's "Everyday Life As An Intelligence Test":Even defense attorney Alan Dershowitz was guilty of faulty probability reasoning when he correctly pointed out that fewer than 1 in 1000 wives who are abused by their spouses, as Mrs. Simpson... MORE

Perfect Post

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Alex Tabarrok has just written the perfect blog post. Don't miss it. P.S. Here's my only post that's arguably in the same league.... MORE

Lucas Meets Gogol

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
One of Robert Lucas' most notable insights is that human capital (unlike, say, oil) moves from where it is scarce to where it is plentiful. (I thought Lucas had a very quotable line to this effect, but it doesn't seem... MORE

Kotlikoff Inspects the Mechanism

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
You might think this passage would be from Econ Journal Watch's "Inspecting the Mechanism" column, but you'd be wrong:A recent experience says it all. I was asked to discuss three papers presented at a session of the American Economic Association... MORE

Chess and the Flynn Effect

Growth: Consequences
Bryan Caplan
I'm not a chess geek - I prefer games where people laugh. But I suspect that my many chess geek friends will be interested in this paper that uses chess data to argue for the real-world importance of the Flynn... MORE

Senate Oil Manipulation Hearings: Placebo or Incitement?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
It's pretty hard to find an economist who doesn't scoff at the Senate's latest hearings on oil price manipulation. But these hearings raise an awkward question for me: Since I've praised the gas tax cut (in print and on t.v.)... MORE

Milton Friedman Opposed a Pareto Improvement

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One of Milton Friedman's most famous lines: "You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state." He said it in a 1999 ISIL interview, and I've heard it quoted dozens of times. It even inspired me to write a... MORE

What's the Cheapest Way to Reduce Global Temparture By 3°C?

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
This is a question I asked Robin at today's lunch. Soon afterwards, I learned that AEI just had the first of a series of conferences on this topic, known as "geoengineering":For more than twenty years, policymakers have struggled to find... MORE

Libertarians are widely seen as welfare-state abolitionists - people who want to eliminate government's "safety-net" role, not make it more efficient. Will Wilkinson rightly points out that many well-known intellectuals in the libertarian camp - including Friedman, Hayek, and Buchanan... MORE

Well-Denominated

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
Here's my last gasp of Europhilia: The Euro has much better denominations than the dollar. Instead of $1 bills, they've got 1€ and 2€ coins, worth about $1.50 and $3.00 respectively. Tipping's a lot easier; so are vending machines. The... MORE

The Golden Rules of Interpretation

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Robin Hanson has written the one piece that everyone on earth should read before they post comments on a blog:Writing is hard in part because words have many associations that vary among readers. Even when we use carefully choose our... MORE

Jeff Miron has a whole op-ed on the wonders of the undergraduate econ major. But I think I can put the case for the econ major more succinctly. Here goes: Econ is the highest-paid of all the easy majors. My... MORE

What Life Experience Taught Me About Religion

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
It's very unpleasant to be an irreligious kid in a religious family. Every week - if not more often - you have to remain silent in the presence of dogmatic nonsense. You can't even get things off your chest during... MORE

Are Extremists Really Happier?: The Case of Katrina vanden Heuvel

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Arthur Brooks says that political extremists are happier than moderates. While he tells an interesting story, this seems like a case where overall life evaluations might yield a very different answer than time diaries or beeper studies. Consider this striking... MORE

Pick Your Road: The U.S. vs. Europe

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
In the U.S., we have low gas taxes, low car taxes, few tolls, strict zoning that leads developers to provide lots of free parking, low speed limits, lots of traffic enforcement, and lots of congestion. In Europe (France and Germany... MORE

When I was a strongly Austrian-influence undergraduate, I scoffed at people who downplayed inflation by saying, "Well, if you ignore food and fuel..." It seemed like a sleazy effort to cover up a government-created problem by refusing to count a... MORE

In Germany, most highways have no speed limits at all. In France, all highways have speed limits, but there appears to be virtually zero enforcement. I was on the roads of France for almost a week, and I never saw... MORE

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