Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: October 2009

An Author Archive by Month (41 entries)

Why Doesn't Parenting Affect Fertility?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Twin and kinship studies find that parenting has little influence on fertility.*  While there is some family resemblance - big and small families run in families - heredity accounts for all or almost all of it.  This is a little... MORE

Tullock on The Unpredictability of Dictatorial Succession

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
From Tullock's chapter on "Becoming a Dictator" in Autocracy:Economists know the so-called random walk hypothesis regarding the stock market, which holds that all available information is already incorporated in the market price, with the result that the price or its... MORE

Chabon's Unkindest Cut

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I strongly oppose circumcision.  In fact, I can't think of a good reason why we shouldn't punish it as child abuse.  Whether or not you agree with my conclusion, I think it's hard to deny the following claim: Unless you... MORE

Caplan-Hanson Debate Redux?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Remember the Caplan-Hanson Liberty v. Efficiency debate?  Robin stood firm for maximizing efficiency in all conceivable circumstances.  I argued, in contrast, that ethical reasoning should begin with simple cases and tentatively generalize:Sensible moral reasoning begins with concrete, specific cases.  For... MORE

Additive Shocks

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
A common complaint about Sumner is that he ignores important real shocks, such as the "Recalculation Problems" that Arnold keeps pushing.  I'm still not convinced that recalculation is a big deal, though this graph that Arnold's promoting is the kind... MORE

The Decline of the Rabbit Strategy

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
From chapter 5 of the first draft of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: When I was a kid, people often accused others of "breeding like rabbits."  If you know much about rabbits, it's not a pretty picture: Rabbits get... MORE

The Incomparable Tullock

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
I am all-in for Gordon Tullock, my Nobel-worthy colleague who retired last year.  He is notorious as a homo economicus reductionist.  If you actually read his works, however, you will see that his view of human nature is far subtler... MORE

Randian India?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A piece in Foreign Policy says that Ayn Rand's now big in India:Not only do Indians perform more Google searches for Rand than citizens of any country in the world except the United States, but Penguin Books India has sold... MORE

"National defense" is a textbook example of a public good.  Unlike Austrians, I have no problem with the concept of public goods.  I just deny that national defense is a valid example.  In fact, I will be so bold as... MORE

Number of google hits for "childfree": 1,350,000.Number of google hits for "grandchildfree": 2,380.... MORE

Remembering the Collapse of Communism

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe is - and will probably remain - the most glorious political event of my life.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I missed the 20th anniversaries of the end of Communist rule... MORE

Family, Transfers, Pride, and Shame

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Contrary to popular belief, the elderly financially support their kids, rather than the other way around.  This was true in hunter-gatherer and peasant societies.  A neat piece in the JEP shows that it was also true in the U.S. in... MORE

I Just Pre-Ordered The Cartoon Introduction to Economics

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Today I got a free sample chapter from the Stand-Up Economist's The Cartoon Introduction to Economics.  It was so good that I immediately pre-ordered the complete book.  Keep up the good work, Yoram - you could become the Larry Gonick... MORE

Where the Pigovians Are

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Scott Sumner's not officially in the Pigou Club - and for the record I'm officially not in the club.  Still, in a just world, Scott's words of wisdom would provoke Pigovians to beg him to become their King:If we set... MORE

I try to write the kind of books I'd like to read, and I try to read the kind of books I'd like to write. This isn't as narcissistic as it sounds.  I'd like to write like Tolstoy or Alan... MORE

Pessimistic Bias: Crime Edition

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
In chapter 4 of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, I try to help parents overcome their pessimistic bias.  Kids over the age of 1 have long been the safest people in our society, we're all much safer than we... MORE

Bye Bye Borders?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
When I read this Amazon review, I got a Christopher Walken-like premonition that Borders will soon die:The bright red cover caught my eye. The title made me smile ("how clever!") and the first sentence I read inside made me laugh... MORE

Economic Naivete

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
If I had to sum up the mind-set of my Princeton econ education in one cliche, it would be, "There are those who would strain out a gnat, but at the same time swallow a camel."  Sometimes, the profs could... MORE

Wolfers, Ehrenreich, Misery, and Feminism

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
As a loss-leader for her new book against positive thinking, Barbara Ehrenreich is lashing out at Stevenson and Wolfers' work on declining female happiness.  Wolfers responds here.  Some remarkable features of the Ehrenreich-Wolfers exchange:1. Ehrenreich should be happy to learn... MORE

Living With Your Parents

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
A striking passage from "Intergenerational Transfers and Inheritance":[A] large and growing difference exists between Germany and Italy in rates of coresidence of young adults with their parents.  In Italy, 50% of young women and 70% of young men still live... MORE

Update on Suicide Bombers and Life Insurance

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
Quick reply to two interesting comments: John Jenkins writes: Does the average suicide bomber make the decision to commit suicide more than 1-2 years in advance? If not (and I would guess that "no" is the right answer), then doesn't... MORE

Was Having Kids Ever a Paying Venture?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
One popular story about the decline in family size over the last two centuries goes like this: Back in the old days, having kids paid.  Children started working when they were quite young, and provided for their parents in their... MORE

The High Points of Superfreakonomics

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I just read my advance copy of Superfreakonomics.  Overall, it's better than the original.  It's still cutesy, but stronger in the "who cares?" factor.The highlight: "What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have in Common?," a surprisingly skeptical look at... MORE

Confucius and Cato

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The latest issue of Cato Unbound, with lead essay by editor Will Wilkinson, reminds me of my favorite Confucius quote:If a state is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are subjects of shame; if a state is... MORE

Merit-Based Pay Cuts: Why Not?

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
Many universities now have pay freezes or even nominal pay cuts.  Under the circumstances, several professors have told me that there's little point in doing faculty evaluations.  If there's zero - or negative - money for raises, why bother saying... MORE

Unbelievably Good News

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
I wish Julian Simon were around to read this passage from "The Low-Fertility Trap Hypothesis: Forces that May Lead to Further Postponement and Fewer Births in Europe":In the past decades, population projections were based on the expectation that after the... MORE

Russ Roberts points out that only a small fraction of the $787B fiscal stimulus has been spent.  I've long scoffed at government inefficiency, but it never occurred to me that a full pork barrel could be so slow to empty. ... MORE

Obesity and Dominance Reconsidered

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Robin chastises:Yet it is completely crazy to imagine that fat folks have not yet heard that fat might be unhealthy or unattractive.  Believe me, they've heard!  If they are choosing to be fat, they are doing so reasonably informed of... MORE

Balan's Challenge

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
Here's the noble David Balan's reaction to my review of Gonick's histories:This probably goes without saying, but it's perfectly possible to believe Bryan's basic point (modern economic growth has led us to have it better than anyone ever had it... MORE

Gonick the Great - and How He Could Have Been Greater

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Larry Gonick has finally completed his magisterial five-volume cartoon history of the universe.  It all started with The Cartoon History of the Universe 1 (1990), followed by The Cartoon History of the Universe 2 (1994), and The Cartoon History of... MORE

The Best of Buchanan

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
James Buchanan, GMU's first Nobel, turned 90 this week.  But it was only a few months ago that I discovered what has become my favorite Buchanan essay - "Before Public Choice," originally published in 1972 in Explorations in the Theory... MORE

This Time Really Is Different

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Many people compare today's recession to the last big one in 1980-82.  But Scott Sumner keeps insisting that this one is different.  At risk of re-inventing the wheel, I decided to take a look at the nominal GDP (NGDP) data... MORE

Curiosity and Humility

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
I had a conversation with a colleague today where he discussed research showing that successful people have (a) the confidence to aim for the top, and (b) the humility to harshly critique their own work.  He went on to argue... MORE

Naming Names

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
When Gandhi told us, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world," I can only assume he was talking about reputational incentives in the health insurance industry.  So I thought I should finish my "Punk'd by... MORE

A Footnote to the Economics of Crime

Economics of Crime
Bryan Caplan
From Wikipedia:The word "rob" came via French from Late Latin words (e.g. deraubare) of Germanic origin, from Common Germanic raub- = "clothes", as in old times (before modern cheap mechanized mass production of clothes) one main target of robbers was... MORE

Boettke-Caplan Debate on Youtube

Austrian Economics
Bryan Caplan
Back in 2002, I debated my colleague Pete Boettke on Austrian economics before GMU's undergraduate econ club.  When I was throwing out my obsolete possessions (it's amazing what a decade of economic growth will do to your stuff), I came... MORE

Are Conservatives Less Utilitarian Than Liberals?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Some utilitarians argue that virtually everyone is a utilitarian; the only difference between people who call themselves utilitarians and those who don't is that the latter won't come out of the closet.  Other utilitarians lament the fact that virtually no... MORE

Clarification on my Punk'd Episode

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
I finished my Punk'd post with this:Question for Krugman: If our insurer wasn't extremely concerned about its reputation, why would they let a low-level functionary fix a $5k error in the company's favor after a single phone call?In the comments,... MORE

Back in August, Paul Krugman accused me of living in "an alternative universe in which insurance companies would never, never treat their clients badly, because that would hurt their reputations."  Of course, what I really said is that even when... MORE

Democracy, Dictatorship, and the Variance of Growth

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
Last night I was writing my lecture notes on dictatorship, and realized that I didn't have a source for a factoid I often tell my students.  Namely: Democracies and dictatorships have the same average growth rate, but dictatorships have higher... MORE

How Growth Happens: CostCo Edition

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
Normally I ignore self-congratulatory corporate publications, but for CostCo, I'll make an exception.  There's a fascinating story about their Kirkland Signature brand in the latest CostCo Connection.  See economic growth at work: How their product designers identify high-quality competitors, and... MORE

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