Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: April 2010

An Author Archive by Month (44 entries)

Strange Moments in Marginalism

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
From September Dawn, a dramatization of the Mountain Meadows Massacre:Jonathan: Don't do it!  You'll be cursed!Micah: I'm already cursed!... MORE

The Simplest Narrative

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
Arnold ably identifies two main narratives about the 2008 financial crisis.  But he neglects the simplest narrative of all: Once in a century, a once-in-a-century mistake happens.  The end.I know the simplest narrative is unsatisfying.  Nevertheless, it's less unsatisfying than... MORE

Intra-National HDI

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
Even though I think the Human Development Index is fairly bogus, I still found this report on intra-American HDI quite interesting.  Most striking factoid: white Americans stand about half-way between the "most-developed" group (Asians) and the "least-developed" group (Native Americans).HT:... MORE

I'm pleased to see one critic of immigration, Richard Hoste, engaging my Comparative Advantage argument for open borders.  In fact, he admits that my point, then objects:Unfortunately, the low IQ masses vote.  They demand free health care, welfare and schools... MORE

Survival Investing

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
My knee-jerk instinct is to laugh at survivalists.  In fact, I'm forecasting an increasingly peaceful future.  Still, if there's even a 1% chance of a major nuclear war in the next 50 years, doesn't it seem wise to allocate at... MORE

The Credibility of the Roth IRA

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Bryan Caplan
What is your probability that assets in Roth IRAs remain untaxed by the federal government through 2050?  Why?... MORE

The Cartoon Bandwagon

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
Mankiw's just blogged two new economically enlightening cartoons, here and here.  Is Yoram Bauman's Cartoon Introduction to Economics blazing a trail?  If so, I want in!  Maybe I should adapt Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids as a graphic novel. ... MORE

My Policy Trade-Offs Conjecture

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
A conjecture that seems true to me:1. In economic policy, people under-estimate trade-offs.  When contrarians point out the large hidden costs of "feel good" legislation - protectionism, price controls, Medicare, etc. - the public and politicians furrow their brows in... MORE

Focusing Illusion, Climate Change, and Demagoguery

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
While reading Schkade and Kahneman's "Does Living in California Make People Happy?," I was shocked to discover the paper's underlying agenda:The original motivation for this study concerned the accuracy with which people could predict the effect of a specified change... MORE

The Myth of Californian Happiness

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Last week, Jeff Ely remarked:The underlying problem here is that California is simply a beautiful place to live.  It's not just the climate, or the people, or the geography.  It's that something floating around in the air that just makes... MORE

The Inner Life of Julian Simon

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
To my sorrow, I missed my chance to meet Julian Simon.  He lived just minutes away from me, but died during my first year at Mason.  I don't think he would have won the Nobel Prize even if he lived... MORE

Are Americans Really Getting Less Green?

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
Steven Hayward says that American environmentalism is in steep decline:In 1990, according to an ABC News/Gallup survey series, 75 percent of Americans said they considered themselves to be environmentalists, with only 24 percent saying they did not. The numbers have... MORE

I'm too young to remember much about the politics and economics of the Seventies.  From books, though, I get the impression that American political economy was in complete disarray: high inflation, high unemployment, crazy price controls, regulatory explosion, crushing taxes,... MORE

Cloning for Kids

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
A reader sent me this funny and touching snapshot from a children's book about cloning.  I wonder if the complete book really exists?Update: The book doesn't exist; it was part of a Wired piece about children's books of the future.... MORE

Goaded

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
I'm touched to see Tyler publicly defending me and my clone, and think I ought to respond to his only reservation:If I have any criticism of Bryan, it's that he's pro-natalist (fine in my book) but I've never heard him... MORE

When Doesn't the Law Matter?

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
It's clear that many existing laws have little or no effect on behavior.  An even larger class of laws have little or no effect on most people's behavior.  What are the main mechanisms of legal irrelevance?1. People know the law... MORE

To Cut or Not to Cut?

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
When I was finishing up The Myth of the Rational Voter, I weighed whether I should cut the paragraph on restricting the franchise: But what -- if anything -- can be done to improve outcomes, taking the supremacy of democracy... MORE

Will Iceland's Volcano Boost Geoengineering?

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, I don't think I even heard about it.  But this one event depressed global temperatures by about 1 degree Fahrenheit.  Given all the attention the latest volcano's getting, I thought the predicted effect might... MORE

Nominal Wages and Behavioral Postulates

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
Tyler's not satisfied by the traditional nominal rigidities explanation for continuing high unemployment:It's also the case that the rate of new job creation has been especially low.  Yet the nominal wages on those jobs-to-be are not constrained by previous contracts... MORE

I Kowtow to Barefoot Gen

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
The first paragraph of Shane Frederick's essay on Cato Unbound is too good not to twist for my own purposes.  Here goes:Long ago, mankind discovered warfare.  Since then, hundreds of millions of people have died as a result.  A prize... MORE

Preference Falsification: A Case Study

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
If you haven't read Timur Kuran's Private Truths, Public Lies, you should.  It's a classic of "obvious once you think about it" social science.  In the face of social pressure - or brute force - people pretend to believe and... MORE

How Free Are Amish Women?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
By modern American standards, the Amish are extremely poor, and subject to intense social pressure.  It's legal to leave, but few do.  The pressure on Amish women is particularly intense.  Even their Rumspringa is heavily monitored by their parents, and... MORE

Public Choice Symposium on The Myth of the Rational Voter

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The video of the 2008 Public Choice Society symposium on my book is now up on Youtube, courtesy of the noble Zac Gochenour.  On the panel: me, Randy Holcombe, Geoff Brennan, Mike Munger, and Art Carden.  Enjoy.... MORE

Schools, Jobs, and Extracurriculars: MR Edition

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Tyler and his readers are trying to solve last week's puzzle: Why do colleges care so much more about extracurricular activities employers?Tyler's answer is that it's an attempt to raise future donations:Colleges want to expand the heterogeneity of the selection... MORE

The Decline of Coverture

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Most discussions of coverture that I read mentioned that the doctrine was gradually watered down throughout the 19th-century.  Since I couldn't easily find legal details, I decided to take the harder road and offer a qualified libertarian defense of coverture. ... MORE

Postcard from the Gilded Age

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Since there's much misunderstanding of my argument about women's liberty during the Gilded Age (here, here, and here), I thought I'd write a postcard version.  The key premises are just that in the Gilded Age:1. Taxes were much lower and... MORE

Women's Liberty in the Gilded Age: Further Replies

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
SydB asks a fair question: I'm confused. The conclusion that "women had more libertarian freedom in 1880 than they do today" is argued by only looking the law or situation in the 1880s. Huh? That's like saying "man A is... MORE

There's been a lot of pushback against my claim that women were freer during the Gilded Age than they are today.  I'm standing my ground.  Replies to leading criticisms:1. I'm ignoring marital rape.  To be blunt, this issue is almost... MORE

How Free Were American Women in the Gilded Age?

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
I largely agree with David Boaz's recent attack on libertarian nostaglia.  While many Americans were freer in the Gilded Age than they are today, plenty were not.  But precisely who belongs on the list of people who have more libertarian... MORE

Marxism as a Senile Industry

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I've never forgotten Frederick Copleston's blunt take on Marxism's 20th-century success in volume 7 of A History of Philosophy:[Marxism] is accepted, doubtless with varying degrees of conviction, by a great many people today.  At the same time it is arguable... MORE

The Side on Which My Bread is Buttered

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
In the comments, chipotle quotes my adage that "Non-profits are crazy," then fires back: Remind me, Dr. Caplan, precisely who your principal employer is and what their relation is to the profit motive?Surely, you could find a nice position at... MORE

Meta Excess

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Robin's remarks on libertarian paternalism take me back to the great Balan-Hanson "Paternalistic Policy:  Altruism or Arrogance?" debate.  While I agreed with Robin's position, I found his arguments extremely frustrating.  Why?  Because Robin avoided specifics paternalisms (e.g. banning cocaine) in... MORE

Nudged

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I'd like to thank David for pointing out my oversights on Nudge, and apologize to Sunstein and Thaler for failing to give credit where credit is due.  I based my criticisms on shorter versions of their arguments, rather than the... MORE

The SAT Puzzle

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
In the comments, Joel cleverly turns a puzzling fact around on me:Colleges care about applicants' SAT scores. Employers don't. What's going on? I'm tempted to just repeat my adage that, "For-profits are crazy," but even for-profit colleges care somewhat about... MORE

The Mystery of Libertarian Paternalism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
My reaction to Sunstein and Thaler's "libertarian paternalism" has always been: It would be a massive improvement over the pervasive non-libertarian paternalism of the status quo.  Imagine a world where you could opt out of Social Security by mailing in... MORE

Did Bismarck's Anti-Socialist Laws Work?

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Lately I've been reading a lot about the politics of the German Empire (1870-1918).  I was already vaguely familiar with Otto von Bismarck's Anti-Socialist Laws, but I was surprised by the details.  The first of these laws passed in 1878;... MORE

Extracurricular Puzzle

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Colleges care about applicants' extracurricular activities.  Employers don't.  What's going on?  I'm tempted to just repeat my adage that, "Non-profits are crazy," but even non-profit employers don't seem very concerned about how you spend your spare time.  Theories?... MORE

Against Libertarian Nostalgia

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
David Boaz has a very nice attack on libertarian nostalgia in Reason:The Cato Institute's boilerplate description of itself used to include the line, "Since [the American] revolution, civil and economic liberties have been eroded." Until Clarence Thomas, then chairman of... MORE

Is Pictures of the Socialistic Future Satire?

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
Instapundit linked to my recent excerpt from Eugen Richter's Pictures of the Socialistic Future, then posted the following update:UPDATE: A reader emails that the quoted segment is satire. Nothing to that effect at EconLog, though.It's true that the quote comes... MORE

Singaporean Pragmatism

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has joined the club of Singaporean officials who enlist me in the defense of their status quo.  From The Straits Times:IT WAS on his first visit here in 2008 that American economist Bryan Caplan... MORE

Explaining Socialism's Moral Decay

Politics and Economics
Bryan Caplan
I'm now finishing up a new introduction for a reissue of Eugen Richter's Pictures of the Socialistic Future.  In writing it, I identified three distinct answers to the question: "How could a movement founded to liberate workers from capitalist oppression... MORE

Balan-Caplan Debate Resources

Economics of Health Care
Bryan Caplan
The resource page for the Balan-Caplan Debate is now up, including our opening statements, my Powerpoint slides, and complete video.  Enjoy.... MORE

The Common-Sense Case for Pacifism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I used to call myself an isolationist, but I recently realized that pacifist is a much better description of my position.  All of the following definitions aptly describe what I believe:pacifism: The doctrine that disputes (especially between countries) should be... MORE

Sexual Harassment Under Socialism

Labor Market
Bryan Caplan
From Eugen Richter's Pictures of the Socialistic Future: In old days, in the stillness and purity of the maternal home, the young maiden used to carry on her business as a milliner, selling her wares for the most part to... MORE

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