Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: November 2009

An Author Archive by Month (39 entries)

Bernanke Mea Culpa Redux

Monetary Policy
Bryan Caplan
Don Boudreaux's open letter to Ben Bernanke reminds me how badly I overestimated my former teacher's practical wisdom:Dear Mr Bernanke:I had to down an extra mug of coffee this morning to be certain that I read your op-ed in today's... MORE

The Malevolent Invisible Hand

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Lately my colleague Dan Klein has presented new evidence that the "invisible hand" was more central to Adam Smith's thought that most scholars now believe.  Perhaps that's why this passage from Will and Ariel Durant jumped out at me.  It's... MORE

A Philosophical Bet

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Robin responds to my cryonic doubts as I expected: By changing the subject to hard science, where I grant that his knowledge vastly exceeds my own.  Alas, as in past arguments, he doesn't answer my fundamental complaint: There's nothing in... MORE

What's Really Wrong With Cryonics

Growth: Consequences
Bryan Caplan
"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."                                                          --Woody AllenOne of the most... MORE

When Is Uncertainty an Argument for Inaction?

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
From a naive point of view, uncertainty clearly tips the scales against costly action.  If you're only 50% sure that your transmission if broken, for example, you have less reason to replace it than if you are 100% sure that it's... MORE

How the Economy of Anarchist Spain Really Worked

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Last week, I received a Polish translation of a long essay I wrote over a decade ago on Spanish anarchism.  During the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), an avowedly anarcho-socialist movement called the CNT won control over large parts of Spain. ... MORE

Snap Judgments vs. Apathy

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
I say it's silly for parents to worry much about other parents' opinions of them.  They're probably too tired and distracted to pay any attention to you, anyway.  Robin demurs:Bryan presumes we care less about the judgments others make when... MORE

Robin Gets Functionalist, As Predicted

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
After asking, "Why do parents forget what it's like to be a kid?," I remarked:Many parents really do forget what's it's like to be a kid...I honestly don't know why.  I bet Robin Hanson would have a clever functionalist story. ... MORE

Lately my twins and I have been enjoying the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Mr and Mrs. Heffley, the mom and dad in these stories, seem totally clueless.  My kids... MORE

Congressional Millionaires

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Factoids of the day: 1.  44% of Congressmen are millionaires.  2. Consistent with the "limousine liberals" stereotype, eight out of the ten richest are Democrats.I wonder how much of this can be explained by the vast overrepresentation of lawyers in... MORE

Be a Koch Fellow

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation is still taking applications for spring Internships in D.C.  The deadline: December 4th.  If you're a student who'd like to get paid to talk about the kinds of things you read on econ blogs,... MORE

Why Don't More Therapists Use Exposure Therapy?

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
At least according to the Handbook of Exposure Therapies, exposure is the most effective treatment for anxiety, OCD, post-traumatic stress, and similar problems.  But most therapists don't use it.  If you're a health economist, it's only natural to wonder why. ... MORE

Hummel Responds

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Jeff Hummel sent me a gentlemanly response to my critique of his WWII revisionism lecture: While I usually appreciate attention, I wasn't expecting it in this case.  I posted those two talks on an obviously nascent webpage to make them available... MORE

Underestimating Climategate

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Neither Tyler nor Robin think that Climategate tells us much about climate science.  Robin says that "it's news about academia, not climate":[T]this behavior has long been typical when academics form competing groups, whether the public hears about such groups or... MORE

Hummel's Three Laws and WWII Revisionism: Part 1

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
I recently listened to an old lecture (c.1979) that economist and historian Jeff Hummel put on his webpage.  It's a one-hour intro to World War II revisionism.  While I'm sympathetic to the conclusion that U.S. participation in WWII actually made... MORE

From Intuitionism to Contrarianism: A Case Study

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
As an undergraduate, I spent hundreds of hours pondering the foundations of morality, also known as "meta-ethics."  In the end, the young Michael Huemer converted me to ethical intuitionism, a view I've held ever since.  (BTW, a decade or so... MORE

Haunted By the Hitler Hypothetical

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When you play with fire, you get burned.  And when you philosophize with hypotheticals involving Nazis, you get misrepresented.  In the Caplan-Hanson debate, I began:Let me begin with a disclaimer: Despite his moral views, Robin is an incredibly nice, decent... MORE

Sumner Gives Away the Store

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
When a person with crummy but popular arguments says that "truth is relative," I understand their motives.  They're denying that anyone else's arguments are any better, and hoping that there's safety in numbers.  But when a person with clever but... MORE

Since You Asked, Scott

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
How can any economist - even Krugman - advocate job subsidies and work sharing?  Krugman's answer is that it's a "third-best" solution.  His top three:1. Sumnerian monetary policy.  Seriously, but without the hat tip.2. More fiscal stimulus.3. Job subsidies and... MORE

Ask and You May Learn

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
An economist I know just emailed me:I anticipate participating in a survey project of a sample of AEA members. Such a survey is an opportunity for throwing in extraneous questions of interest. Can you think of question or two you... MORE

My New Public Choice Class

Public Choice Theory
Bryan Caplan
The webpage for my spring, 2010 Graduate Public Choice II course is now up, including the syllabus, complete lecture notes, and homeworks.  About half of the material is from my Graduate Public Finance I course; the rest is new.  Highlights... MORE

Hasty readers of happiness research often conclude that kids are a disaster for happiness.  If you actually look at the size as well as the sign of standard estimates, however, the right conclusion is that kids ever-so-slightly reduce happiness.  I... MORE

What If India Had Been an Asian Tiger?

Growth: Consequences
Bryan Caplan
For decades after World War II, India was a Soviet-wannabe state.  While their ruling parties lacked the brutality to fully nationalize their economy, post-war India was an early version of "socialism with a human face."  Well, except for massive ethnic... MORE

Why Academic Economists Aren't Bayesians

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
I don't think I'll find a better answer than Robin's:[T]he main social function of academia is to let students, patrons, readers, etc. affiliate with credentialed-as-impressive minds.  If so, academic beliefs are secondary - the important thing is to clearly show... MORE

What Is Money Velocity?

Money
Bryan Caplan
A key feature of the financial crisis was a massive fall in the velocity of money.  But what exactly is "money velocity"?  By definition, V=PY/M.  In English: Velocity=Nominal Income divided by the Money Supply.  When asked for some intuition, economists... MORE

Why Aren't Academic Economists Bayesians?

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Almost all economic models assume that human beings are Bayesians: They start with some prior beliefs about how the world works, and update those beliefs using Bayes' Theorem as new information arrives.  Behavioral economists often question whether people are in... MORE

The Faces of Janus

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
While preparing my promotion packet, I came across my old review of A. James Gregor's outstanding The Faces of Janus: Marxism and Fascism in the Twentieth Century.  Highlights: Gregor provides an elegant and thoughtful history of what one might uncharitably... MORE

Bequest Question

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
According to "mistake" theories of inheritance, people leave bequests because they don't have enough information to spend all their assets before they die.Question: In a world with annuities and negative mortgages, how can anyone continue to believe this story?... MORE

The Signaling Model of Education Standing on One Foot

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Look at what people learn in the classroom.  Look at what people do on the job.  How much of a connection do you see?... MORE

Exposure Therapy: When Probabilities Fail

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
In chapter 4 of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, I show that - objectively speaking - kids today are safer than ever.  And I'm far from the first social scientist to point out the public's systematically biased beliefs about... MORE

How Singapore's #1

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
A new international Gallup survey on migration preferences finds that the U.S. is the most popular dream destination.  Singapore, however, is #1 on the Potential Net Migration Index, which adjusts for population:The Potential Net Migration Index is the estimated number... MORE

The Writing on the Wall

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
I've been thinking all day about what to write for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Here goes.The conventional interpretation of the Wall: Socialism, a movement that began with wide-eyed idealism, was gradually corrupted.  The first... MORE

Getting Your Storks in a Row

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Last week I read all the major research on the response of fertility to economic incentives.  There are actually two distinct literatures.  The first focuses on the effect of intentional "birth subsidies" on child-bearing.  The second focuses on the unintentional... MORE

Hitting a Nerve in Singapore

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
After Singapore's Law Minister used my article in Ethos to rebut international criticism, Singapore's Online Citizen asked permission to run a longer version of "Two Paradoxes of Singaporean Political Economy."  Reactions were... mixed.  Several readers backed me up:I would say... MORE

Libertarians' Favorite Commie Quote

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In The Road to Serfdom, Hayek quoted Trotsky thusly: "Where the sole employer is the State, opposition means deaths by slow starvation."  Libertarians have repeated this line ever since, often without realizing that the source is Trotsky, not Hayek.  It... MORE

Dear New Yorker: I Want My Catch Phrase Back

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I'm a firm believer that (a) all publicity is good publicity, (b) the more attention my memes get, the better - even if if I get no credit.  And in the past, The New Yorker has done me nothing but... MORE

Singapore is widely regarded as a dictatorship.  Even the contrarian Gordon Tullock joins in the chorus; in Autocracy, he remarks that, "The dominant form of autocracy has been the non-totalitarian type presented by Franco, Lee of Singapore, or Mobutu of... MORE

Economists Are Irrational; Is Anyone Else?

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
George Stigler is notorious for his dogmatic belief that any stable feature of the social world is efficient.  Since people are rational, they quickly spot and bargain around inefficiencies.  I was a little surprised, then, to read these words in... MORE

Studies Show

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Warden: The part of the brain that remembers dance steps is also the anger center. So, juveniles who know how to fox trot are 10% less likely to commit a double homicide.Prisoner: Who conducted this study?Warden: The Institute of Shut... MORE

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