Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Bryan Caplan: August 2012

An Author Archive by Month (28 entries)

Why Do Slaves Cost Money?

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
I'm currently revising my notes for labor economics.  Main change: I'm cutting the week on slavery to add a full week on immigration.  It's a tough choice because I'm so fond of my slavery lectures.  But on reflection, the topic... MORE

Indian Fertility: A Bet With John Nye

Energy, Environment, Resources
Bryan Caplan
I think that bad economic policy, not "overpopulation," is India's main economic problem.  But whatever you think about the social effects of population growth, it's clear that Indian fertility is sharply declining.  I expect this rapid decline to continue, but... MORE

Reply to Bill Dickens on Poverty: Part 1

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Since Bill Dickens' last reply to me is essay-length, my plan is to write a series of relatively short replies, and spread them out over the next month.  Here's Part 1.  By default, Bill's in blockquotes, I'm not.You subscribe to... MORE

Optimizing Your Family Size in Real Time

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Someone recently asked me, "How should you decide how many kids to have?"  Since he'd already read Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, I thought he deserved a detailed step-by-step answer.  Here's roughly what I told him:Having kids is very... MORE

Discrimination, Liberty, and the Sorites Paradox

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Sorites Paradox works in two directions.Top-down: 1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap of sand; a heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap; therefore one or grain of sand (or zero!) is a heap of sand.Bottom-up:... MORE

Bill Dickens Responds on Poverty

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
A few weeks ago Bill Dickens and I argued about poverty: see here and here for previous rounds.  Now Bill's written a lengthy response to my last post.  Italics indicate that Bill's quoting me.  Enjoy! Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style... MORE

Eubulides, Wilkinson, and Discrimination

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Eubulides of Miletus is best-known for the Sorites paradox:The paradox goes as follows: consider a heap of sand from which grains are individually removed. One might construct the argument, using premises, as follows: 1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap... MORE

The book club starts today, with future segments every two weeks.  Breakdown:Part #1: Malcolm's Childhood and Entry-Level Jobs (Chapters 1-5)Part #2: Malcolm's Life of Crime (Chapters 6-10)Part #3: Malcolm and the Nation of Islam (Chapters 11-15)Part #4: Malcolm's Purge, Second... MORE

How Yglesias Channels Bastiat

Economic Education
Bryan Caplan
I want to persuade Matt Yglesias to give Frederic Bastiat the respect he deserves.  On some level, though, Matt already reveals remarkable respect for my favorite 19th-century French economist.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - and Matt has... MORE

I plan to do my first Autobiography of Malcolm X Book Club post on Friday, August 24.  Hope you're reading along!... MORE

Teachers like to think that no matter how useless their lessons appear, they are "teaching their students how to think."  Under the heading of "Transfer of Learning," educational psychologists have spent over a century looking for evidence that this sort... MORE

The Subtle Value-Added of Frederic Bastiat

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I'm delighted to get Matt Yglesias talking about Bastiat, but I'm afraid he's missing my point.  For Matt, Bastiat's writings are "non-responsive to modern issues."  Matt's example:The candlemakers' petition is a devastating satire of pharmaceutical companies' endless lust for patent... MORE

AA at TJ Redux

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
Remember how GMU law professor Lloyd Cohen used the Freedom of Information Act to test for the extent of affirmative action at Thomas Jefferson High School?  Nine years after Cohen filed an official complaint, the Department of Education's Office for... MORE

Who To Blame: Generalizing Brennan

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The outstanding Jason Brennan on the Princeton University Press blog:Now, I freely admit that most bad voters do not recognize they are bad voters. If so, one might object, how can they have a duty not to vote? They do... MORE

How Not to Be a Pacifist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I often feel the need to save pacifism from the pacifists.  Though the argument for pacifism is surprisingly solid, flesh-and-blood pacifists often make me cringe with their naive and even intellectually dishonest claims.  Some even shamefully glide from pacifism to... MORE

Making Populism Serious: The Case of Social Security

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Almost everyone thinks that Social Security is a great program.  Why?  Because they've been convinced by the kind of arguments Bastiat would mock.  Arguments like:"Old people can't work anymore; government should give them money so they won't be poor.""If Social... MORE

Who Loves Bastiat and Who Loves Him Not

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Thanks to everyone who responded to my query about Bastiat's "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen."  For me, his essay is the pinnacle of economic profundity.  You can call it obvious.  But when I first started learning economics... MORE

Brink, Me, and Human Capitalism

Income Distribution
Bryan Caplan
Brink Lindsey replies to my comments on an earlier draft of his new book, Human Capitalism.  Highlights and brief rejoinders follow.  Brink's in blockquotes, I'm not:Thanks to Bryan I dove into that literature and found that it does indeed offer... MORE

Bastiat's "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen": Who Says "Meh"?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Free-market economists almost always love Frederic Bastiat's classic essay, "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen."  But the central theme of the essay - opportunity cost - is hardly ideological.  It seems like all economists, regardless of ideology, would... MORE

Are Monolingual Americans Missing Out?

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Many found my statement here outrageous:To understand why Americans don't learn foreign languages, simply reverse this reasoning.  We don't learn foreign languages because foreign languages rarely helps us get good jobs, meet interesting people, or enjoy culture.To me, it's just... MORE

The Degree and Origin of Foreign Language Competence

Economics of Education
Bryan Caplan
If you're curious about the underlying numbers for my last post, here they are.  The table shows every logically possible combination of (a) how well people speak a foreign language and (b) where they learned the foreign language.  Percentages should... MORE

The average high school graduate spends two years studying a foreign language. (Digest of Education Statistics, Table 157)  What effect do these years of study have on Americans' actual ability to speak foreign languages?I started by looking at the Census,... MORE

Human Capitalism: Comments on Brink Lindsey's Draft

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Brink Lindsey sent me a draft of his just-released Human Capitalism (now available for purchase) back in February.  Here's what I told him then, reprinted with his permission.  From what I understand, Brink took some of my suggestions to heart,... MORE

Status Quo Bias and Conformity Signaling

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
All societies reward conformity.  Yes, there's often a sweet niche for eccentric geniuses.  But everyone else faces a stark trade-off: the more you want to succeed, the more you have to submit to social norms.  On an emotional level, this... MORE

Classifying a Helicopter Drop

Macroeconomics
Bryan Caplan
A question for economists of all factions:What would you call a "helicopter drop" of cash: "monetary policy" or "fiscal policy"?Please explain your answer.... MORE

The Interaction Between Status Quo Bias and Signaling

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Human beings suffer from status quo bias: When they face different default options, they make different choices.  Offering "a burger and fries for $10, with $3 off without the fries" is economically equivalent to "a burger for $7, and fries... MORE

What It Takes to Pop a Higher Education Bubble

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
There is no "bubble" in American higher education.  I'll bet on it - or to be precise, I have bet on it.  Nevertheless, while reading the Digest of Education Statistics (Table 208), I discovered a surprising fact: During my lifetime, a... MORE

Autobiography of Malcolm X Book Club?

Book Club
Bryan Caplan
I first read The Autobiography of Malcolm X in high school, and just re-read it for the fourth time.  It may sound like an eccentric choice, but I'm thinking of starting a new EconLog book club on this work.  AMX... MORE

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