Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: September 2008

An Author Archive by Month (40 entries)

Son of Chrysler: The Stealth Bail-Out

Regulation and Subsidies
Bryan Caplan
When's the best time to beg for a bail-out? When everyone's talking about another, bigger bail-out, of course! Via James Hamilton:The US Senate Saturday approved 25 billion dollars in loan guarantees for the financially strapped US auto industry... The bill,... MORE

Paulson as a High-Pressure Telemarketer

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
A few years ago, I was tormented by an aggressive broker who kept calling me at 6 AM to sell me stocks. I always hung up on him; but even when I was slamming down the phone, I could still... MORE

We're still likely to see a bail-out in the near future. So here's a question: If the bail-out happens, how will we know if it prevented disaster? If unemployment stays under 8%, proponents will say that the bail-out prevented a... MORE

Public Opinion and the Bail-Out

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Is the public fur it or agin it? The major surveys conflict:A poll by Rasmussen Reports early in the week found that 44% of Americans opposed the plan and 25% supported it. However, a USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday showed... MORE

Canadian Caplania

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I was on CTV this morning. As usual, the media wanted to talk about a few obscure paragraphs in my book where I suggest that we reconsider franchise restrictions. A year ago, I might have been scared to say this... MORE

I Don't Want to Be a Paul Ehrlich

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
I've figured out a way to operationalize a bail-out bet. Method: In five years, the government itself is supposed to publicly announce whether the bail-out lost money. I propose to use the government's self-assessment in five years to adjudicate the... MORE

Political Put-Down of the Year

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
"Gov. Palin is merely less skilled in passing off inanities and claptrap as profundities." Ouch! I'm glad the poison pen who said it likes me.... MORE

Opposition to the Bail-Out: Strange Bedfellows

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
From ABCNews:The main opposition in Congress has come from GOP conservatives, especially in the House. Democrats also hope that, after the compromises, enough House Republicans will vote for the package to give Democrats political cover.From FOXNews:Lawmakers had to navigate between... MORE

Getting to Bet

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
In the comments, Patri Friedman points out that Barry Ritholtz has already offered a $1M bet that the bail-out loses money. Alas, though I agree with (and even chuckle with) Ritzholtz's conclusion, this is not yet a serious bet. Problems:... MORE

Why Did Financial Markets Like Nixon's Price Controls?

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
It's easy to explain why financial markets like the bail-out - it's a big transfer from tax-payers to investors. But Arnold points out that the market liked Nixon's price controls, too: "In 1971, the market gave a huge thumbs-up to... MORE

Nailing Down a Kessler Bet

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Several readers suggest that I bet Andy Kessler about the U.S. government turning a profit on its bail-out. Here's Kessler's claim:My calculations, which assume 50% impairment on subprime loans, suggest it is possible, all in, for this portfolio to generate... MORE

Will the Paulson Plan Turn a Profit? Let's Bet

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Bush says that the Paulson Plan might turn a profit:The government is the one institution with the patience and resources to buy these assets at their current low prices and hold them until markets return to normal. And when that... MORE

Here's one of Heinlein's modest proposals for improving democracy:A state that required a bare minimum of intelligence and education - e.g., step into the polling booth and find that the computer has generated a new quadratic equation just for you.... MORE

Is the Bail-Out Based on Debt Illusion?

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
My conjecture: If Paulson's bail-out were funded by a permanent tax increase sufficient to raise $700B in present value terms, it wouldn't stand a chance. The minimal public outcry, therefore, hinges on "debt illusion" - the mistaken view that debts,... MORE

Ridiculous Regs the Median Voter Doesn't Want

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
The median voter isn't to blame for everything wrong with the world. Check this out: In Maryland, it's illegal to massage a horse!Mercedes took an eight-month equine massage course and hung up her shingle. She said she so enjoyed massaging... MORE

The Experts Strike Back

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Just when I was starting to feel disillusioned in my profession, the Stiglitz/DeLong/Edlin edited Economists' Voice lashes out against the Paulson bail-out. Just let me add: If we've learned anything from the Iraq War, it's that it's a good idea... MORE

I'm Going to See Singapore for Myself!

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
After many posts about Singapore, I'm finally going to see it first-hand. I'll arrive on 11/16 and leave on 11/24, with a side trip to Kuala Lumpur toward the end. Besides giving talks, I'll also be doing some field work.... MORE

Hunger in Maus

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I recently re-read both volumes of Art Spiegelman's Maus. If you've never heard of it, it's an autobiographical graphic novel where the author gets his father to tell the story of how he survived the Holocaust. The Jews are mice,... MORE

Where Are the Demagogues When You Need Them?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Googling "bail-out rich" basically kicks back a bunch of libertarians. Where are the left-wing demagogues denouncing the bail-outs as "welfare for the rich"? Where are the right-wing demagogues denouncing the bail-outs as "foreign aid for the rich"? Whatever demagogues are... MORE

Why Only Bush Could Bring Socialism to America

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Recent events remind me of Cowen and Sutter's 1998's article on "Why Only Nixon Could Go to China." From the abstract: "Right-wing politicians sometimes can implement policies that left-wing politicians cannot, and vice versa. Contemporary wisdom has it that 'only... MORE

SEC Demagoguery

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
When someone predicts imminent financial doom, economists almost always taunt him, "If you're right, why don't you sell short?" If recent events prove anything, it's that short-selling is easier said than done. If we wanted advance warning of financial troubles,... MORE

Klein, Clark, and the Liberty Maxim

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Dan Klein and Michael Clark have a very thoughtful new working paper. Lead-in:Again, we embrace Rothbard’s definition of liberty. We reject, however, some of Rothbard’s major claims for liberty. He tended to frame the liberty principle as an imperative, as... MORE

Two Interesting Things James Hamilton Told Me

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Noted energy economist James Hamilton just spoke at GMU. The two most interesting things he said: 1. OPEC has almost no effect on world oil prices; most countries produce less than their quota, and when countries want to produce more,... MORE

An Ex Ante Aneurysm

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
From Shenkman, Just How Stupid Are We?:The economist and liberal columnist Paul Krugman is convinced that the dawn of a new liberal era is upon us. If it is, one can be certain that liberals will stop complaining about the... MORE

Who Said It?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
"It would be as unnatural to refer the choice of a proper magistrate to the people as it would to refer the choice of colors to a blind man." (quoted in Rick Shenkman, Just How Stupid Are We?)... MORE

Nudging Marriage

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
If you think that Nudge doesn't matter, take a look at marriage. Only 5-10% of marriages have prenups; everyone else goes with the "default option" - the family law of the state in which they reside. Why do people go... MORE

Twilight of the Idols

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Putin defends Russia's new history textbook with the classic excuse of "The other kids are doing it too":Mr Putin ...described Stalin’s Great Purge of 1937, in which 1.5 million people were imprisoned and 700,000 killed, as terrible “but in other... MORE

A Deleted Scene from MRV

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I'm currently writing replies to eight critiques of my book for a forthcoming issue of Critical Review. In Jon Elster and Helene Landemore's critique, they raise the self-referential objection: Doesn't your book's thesis apply to you? This reminded me that... MORE

When Is It Wrong To Vote?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Philosopher Jason Brennan defends a very Caplanian answer to this question in a forthcoming paper, "Polluting the Polls: When Citizens Should Not Vote":Irresponsible individual voters ought to abstain rather than vote badly. This thesis may seem anti-democratic. Yet it is... MORE

In Praise of Corny Canadian Politicians

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Yesterday, I was on Canada's CBC Radio's "The Current." Today, I'm at #132 on amazon.ca. In part, I gave my standard spiel about irrational voters. But they also gave me a chance to make an original point. In the podcast,... MORE

Putin's backing new textbooks for social studies and modern Russian history, and they sound awful. The Times says that the social studies book:...presents as fact Mr Putin’s view that the Soviet collapse was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th... MORE

Mankiw, Tyler, and Me

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Mankiw has some wise observations on the GSE takeover. Here's a particularly excellent parethetical:(And before anyone emails me that the GSE equity holders are not exactly getting a good deal here, let me point out that the debt holders are.... MORE

How Banking Panics Worked Before the Fed

Monetary Policy
Bryan Caplan
Princeton has re-released Friedman and Schwartz's The Great Contraction. Ben Bernanke's speech in honor of Friedman's 90th birthday is now the book's epilogue. The highlight, for me, is Bernanke explaining how banks dealt with panics before the Fed existed:Before the... MORE

What's the Legal Basis for the Freddie/Fannie Takeover?

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Could someone who knows the law explain the legal basis for the Treasury's takeover announcement? The Wall Street Journal simply describes it as a "seizure." But the last time I checked, the legal procedure for the U.S. government taking stuff... MORE

Give Me Some Fair Questions

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I think that people are a lot more rational (and better-informed) as consumers than they are as voters. Other people disagree. Pointing to existing surveys isn't a very helpful way to resolve this debate: If people get 70% on a... MORE

How Dems and Reps Differ: Against the Conventional Wisdom

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
A little while back, Greg Mankiw praised Peggy Noonan for "summarizing a key difference between the political parties." As Noonan puts it:Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one... MORE

Do I Take Teasing Too Seriously?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
When phone companies, ISPs, cable companies, and the like offer "teaser rates" ("$50 for the first three months"), I assume the worst. If their regular rate were good, they would tell me upfront. So if they won't tell me what... MORE

The Binary Fallacy

Political Economy
Bryan Caplan
When I was at the APSA meetings, the famed Arthur Lupia gave yet another speech in defense of voter competence. He offered a long list of arguments. But his most important mistake, in my view, was his claim that voters... MORE

Public choice scholars often say that democracy underperforms the market because of: 1. Infrequent choice. In the market, consumers can continuously change their minds. In politics, however, voters are stuck with their choice until the next election. 2. Bundled choice.... MORE

Pete Leeson Guest Blogging at Freakonomics

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
My wunderkind colleague (and former student) Pete Leeson kicks off his first day at Freakonomics with reflections on the Bigfoot/UFO correlation:States with more U.F.O. sightings also have more Bigfoot sightings. In fact, six of the top ten U.F.O. and Bigfoot... MORE

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