Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: February 2010

An Author Archive by Month (40 entries)

Oddly

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
Tyler:Oddly, even from intellectuals, you rarely hear what is one of the strongest arguments for the bill, namely that personal genome sequencing might mean -- how many years from now? -- that many more people have pre-existing conditions than we... MORE

Expressive Recycling

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Like me, Tyler Cowen often believes that people's beliefs are irrational and their motives are expressive.  But unlike me, he doesn't think that low stakes are an important reason for these tendencies.  In fact, he delights in the counter-intuitive view... MORE

Spermsmanship

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
I heartily recommend David Plotz's The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.  It staddles genres, but you can see it as a work of business history.  Robert Graham, the founder of the "Nobel sperm bank,"... MORE

Nurture and Orientation Reconsidered

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
A couple days ago, I mentioned that gays' adopted siblings are gay at six times the normal rate - and called this finding a "smoking gun" proving that family environment has a modest effect on sexual orientation.  This finding has... MORE

Intrade on the Midterms

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Intrade now hosts fourteen different betting markets on the number of House seats the Republicans gain in the 2010 elections.  "Republicans gain 35 or more seats" is trading at roughly 50/50.  That's not quite enough to instantly win my bet... MORE

Keynesian Questions

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
My questions for DeLong sparked two good non-DeLong questions in the comments:From Steve Roth:Employers *are* more likely (than employees) to put the money under their mattress.Perhaps not literally. But actually/practically.Employers spend a smaller percentage of marginal earnings on immediate consumption... MORE

Questions for DeLong

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
David Henderson replied to this comment by Brad DeLong, but I'm still trying to figure out what Brad's saying.  To requote:So is your argument really that if not for the stimulus package wages would be falling--and falling wages would be... MORE

WHINE

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
This may be Mankiw's career-topping one-liner: Maybe President Obama should instead follow in President Ford's footsteps and start wearing a WHINE button on his lapel, for Whip Healthcare Inflation Now, Egads!  He adds, "Feckless would be one step better than counterproductive." ... MORE

What About the Bloggers?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One objection to my meritocratic view of the market (work backwards from here) that I haven't heard: "What about the bloggers?"  Some bloggers are great, some aren't, yet almost all of them earn the same wage - zero.  You could... MORE

Nature, Nurture, and Orientation

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
My take from Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids:Parents have a small effect on sexual orientation. Psychologists used to label homosexuality a "mental illness" caused by overprotective mothers and distant fathers.[i]  Now we tend to see sexual orientation as a... MORE

Born Gay?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Ryan Sorba, author of The "Born Gay" Hoax, was recently booed at the CPAC convention.  Since I recently read all of the main twin and adoption studies of sexual orientation, I wondered what he had to say.  He focuses on... MORE

Ignoring: There Is Such a Thing As Free Sleep

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
New parents' number one complaint has got to be sleep deprivation.  When you've got a newborn, some disruption is inevitable.  But parents' sleep often suffers for years.  I'm pleased to report, then, that children's sleeping problems (and therefore parents' sleeping... MORE

The Fear Budget Hypothesis

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Last night in my graduate Public Choice class, Peter Twieg suggested that people have a fixed mental budget of fear to allocate.  An implication, I suggested, is that non-terrorist fears would decline right after 9/11.  Today I checked.  At least... MORE

Karacter: From the Cutting-Room Floor

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
I've very fond of this passage from Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, but Alex Tabarrok suggested a much more accessible substitute - Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue." In 1997, the Dutch movie Karacter won the Oscar for Best... MORE

Problems with Age-Testing

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Let me clarify my question for David.  I support both means-testing and age-testing, but they're more similar than they seem.  It's true, of course, that you can change your means, but not your age.  But in both cases, there are... MORE

Question for David

Social Security
Bryan Caplan
Don't higher age cut-offs cause most or all of the problems associated with means-testing?  Why are you for the former, yet ambivalent on the latter?... MORE

More on Merit: Reply to Dalmia

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Shikha Dalmia's reply on merit tacitly concedes most of my objections to her original piece.  She began by defending the strong position that, "Markets don't reward merit; they reward value--two very different things."  I replied that, "On the free market,... MORE

Merit and the Market: A Reply from Shikha Dalmia

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last week, I replied to the Reason Foundation's Shikha Dalmia's pro-market case against market meritocracy.  She has kindly written a detailed reply, and asked me to post it here.  Enjoy. Thanks, Bryan, for your spirited response. A few readers have... MORE

Block's Epicycle

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In the latest Libertarian Papers, my long-time debate partner Walter Block adds a strange new epicycle to libertarian absolutism.  Suppose, he asks, that "all-powerful Martians would blow up the entire earth" if various libertarian policies were adopted.  He refuses to... MORE

How Normative Should Economics Be?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Almost all economists take one of the following three positions on normative economics:1. Economics should never be normative.  Economics is about what is, not what should be.2. Economics should be normative about government policy, but not individual behavior.  Economics is... MORE

Sumner's spent a year or so trying to figure out what Bernanke's thinking.  Pre-crisis, Scott and Ben were in almost perfect agreement.  But when the crisis hit, Bernanke seemed to suddenly come down with amnesia.  What's up with that?Arnold's solution... MORE

Climbing the Meritocratic Pyramid

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Economics rests upon subjective value theory.  Once you take that theory seriously, how can you seriously believe that market outcomes are in any sense meritocratic?  I'll tell you, in three easy steps.1. Let's start with the easiest case: meritocracy within... MORE

Why Is An Economist Writing This Book?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
In the Preface of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, should I explicitly address the question, "Why would an economist write this book?"?Pro: I could talk about how I come out of GMU's wide-ranging, inter-disciplinary, blog-friendly approach to econ.  It's... MORE

The Reality of Meritocracy

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
Philosopher Rod Long recently argued that government intervention has practically ended the meritocracy of the market; I responded that the meritocracy of the market is still going strong, though it could be even stronger.  Now at Forbes.com, Shikha Dalmia eloquently... MORE

Means-Testing Really Is Relatively Awesome

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
David's not convinced by my case for means-testing.  I'd like to reply to his objections, point-by-point:1. The phase-out issue. Bryan recognizes that you wouldn't want to give benefits below income threshold x and then zero benefits to people above that... MORE

When I teach labor economics, I debunk a caricature I call the "Standard History of Labor."  The Standard History goes something like this:1.  In the days before the minimum wage, unions, etc., life was terrible for workers because employers paid... MORE

Becker on Adverse Selection via Regulation

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
The problem of adverse selection: Insurance companies can't perfectly tailor rates to risk.  The standard government "solution": Forbid insurers from tailoring rates to risk.  Yet another example, courtesy of Gary Becker:Since private insurance companies are not allowed to charge higher... MORE

Since there was a lot of interest in explaining supermarket shortages the night before the blizzard, I'm back for round 2.  Here goes:I'll probably go to the supermarket tomorrow.  What will the supermarket look like?a. Still stripped bare.  Due to... MORE

Mood and Macro

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Sumner writes:I'm not convinced mood swings are as obvious as they might seem.  I've argued that the stock market crash of 1929 was a rational response to the sudden awareness that we were rushing headlong into Depression.  I wonder if... MORE

A Puzzle from the Blizzard

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
A blizzard is about to hit DC.  As reports of its magnitude spread yesterday, people unsurprisingly rushed to grocery stores to stock up.  Stores unsurprisingly failed to raise prices to cope with this sudden demand shock.  By the time I... MORE

In Defense of Extreme Meliorism

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When Tyler accused my critique of Eggers and O'Leary (E&O) of being "surprisingly meliorist," I felt a sudden need to check the definition of the word:me·lio·rism Pronunciation: \ˈmēl-yə-ˌri-zəm, ˈmē-lē-ə-\Function: noun Date: 1877 : the belief that the world tends to... MORE

Anti-EMH and Antitrust

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Sumner amusingly analogizes opponents of the Efficient Market Hypothesis to proponents of antitrust laws:You have to be impressed by the resourcefulness of the anti-EMH, crowd.  If LTCM and its merry band of Nobel-Prize winning economists had actually beat the market,... MORE

Spotted at the Johnson Center

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
At GMU's student center, a group of student activists sat behind a table bearing the following sign:We Will Pay You $1 Cash to Watch a 4-minute Video!I was shocked.  I've never seen another activist group offer cash for attention.  My... MORE

EconLog reader Justin Longo asked me to respond to Eggers and O'Leary's "Five Reasons Why Libertarians Shouldn't Hate Government."  Here goes, point-by-point:E&O's Reason #1: Bad government leads to bigger, badder government.[I]n societies where people distrust large institutions--whether government or big... MORE

Rod Long's Non Sequitur

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I just noticed this comment by philosopher Rod Long:As a wise man once said: when the price of irrationality is low, people buy more of it. My suggested corollary is that when the price of irrationality is difficult to determine,... MORE

Sympathy for the Nobelist

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Scott Sumner eloquently stretches the limits of our empathy:[A]s you become better known, you don't seem to have any more influence than before.  I used to wonder why Krugman always seemed to downplay his influence.  He's got the best blogging... MORE

Why Aren't the Italians Libertarians?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
James Buchanan often expresses admiration for Italian political thought - and, by extension, the wisdom of the Italian in the street.  Why?  Because they take it for granted that politics is a corrupt game, and that all the flowery talk... MORE

Fukuyama's Perfectly Horrifying Example

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Ayn Rand's newsletters used to end with a "Horror File" of monstrous but true quotations.  I thought about the Horror File when Ron Bailey's Liberation Biology quoted Frank Fukuyama:Life extension seems to me a perfect example of something that is... MORE

Will Obama Be a Carter or a Clinton?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Two years ago, I was worried by the "Obama as FDR" scenario.  That cloud is lifting.  Now two alternate scenarios for Obama keep coming to mind.Scenario #1: Obama as Carter.  He'll ineffectively stick to his guns, seem weak, become a... MORE

Means-Testing is Awesome

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I'm against forced redistribution, even to help the deserving poor.  Still, unless you buy the whole libertarian package, I understand taxing the rich to help the poor.  What I can't understand is taxing everyone to help everyone.  Means-tested programs like... MORE

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