Bryan Caplan and David Henderson

Economic Philosophy

A Category Archive (845 entries)

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels: Refining the Case

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels is the best book I've read all year, and makes a great holiday gift.  But there's still room for improvement.1. Epstein centers his moral case around "human life as the standard of value."  This... MORE

Krugman's Cursory Case Against Open Borders

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Paul Krugman exemplifies the standard progressive position on immigration.  He strongly supports amnesty for existing illegal immigrants, but strongly opposes open borders.  His case for amnesty is not novel:[T]oday's immigrants are the same, in aspiration and behavior, as my grandparents... MORE

Rape Culture or Nationalist Culture?

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
[Warning: Mild Fury spoilers]The idea that the modern U.S. is a "rape culture" has always struck me as ridiculous.  I've never met a person who claimed to have raped anyone.  I don't know anyone who intellectually defends rape.  I don't... MORE

A Strange Critique of Libertarianism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Contrary to libertarian and Tea Party rhetoric, evolution has made us a powerfully social species, so much so that the essential precondition of human survival is and always has been the individual plus his or her relationships with others. This... MORE

Saturday Afternoon Video: Dan Klein on Liberalism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I didn't think that a 20-minute video on the origins and use of the words "liberal" and "liberalism" could hold my attention and draw me in. I am notoriously impatient and I have a strong preference for videos that are... MORE

The Lawful Neutral Case for Deferred Action

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If life were classic Dungeons & Dragons, many opponents of immigration would be Lawful Neutral.  The law is the law; good or bad, everyone has to obey the rules.  In his defense of Obama's deferred action policy, Ilya Somin points... MORE

On the Complexity of the World

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Confession: I have been enamored of extreme policies for as long as I can remember.  When I was around ten years old, for example, I decided that all smokers should be summarily executed.  Adults' attempts to rebut my visionary proposals... MORE

A Nice Quote for Obama's Immigration Address

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
"I want to ask a question. What is a loophole? If the law does not punish a definite action or does not tax a definite thing, this is not a loophole. It is simply the law. Great Britain does not... MORE

The Bottom Line on DACA

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy was announced in 2012, I repeatedly heard that two million would benefit.  The bottom line has been far smaller: as of March 2014, 673,000 requests were filed, and just 553,000 approved.  I... MORE

The Margins of Moral Weaseling

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Chris Hallquist's recent post begins with a critique of my "Against Human Weakness."  Chris:The problem is that once you've committed to "do the right thing all day, every day," you've given yourself a powerful incentive to rationalize whatever you do... MORE

A Judgmental Typology

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here's a generalization of my last post.  Let X be any behavior in conflict with common-sense morality: lying, stealing, adultery, drunkenness, murder, etc.  Then two pressing questions about X are: "Is X prevalent in our society?" and "Is X morally... MORE

The Presumptive Puritan

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler on GruberGate:It's hardly news that intellectuals who hold political power, even as advisors, very often do not speak the truth.  If anything, I feel sorry for Gruber that he has subsequently felt the need to so overcompensate by actively... MORE

Spencer matters

Economic Philosophy
Alberto Mingardi
LibertyMatters is hosting a discussion over a fascinating article by George H. Smith, on Herbert Spencer's sociology of the state. David Levy, Roderick Long and yours truly will comment on Smith in the next few days. I am sure it... MORE

The Identity of Shame

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Every large, unselective group includes some villains.  Say whatever you like about the average moral caliber of Christians, atheists, Democrats, Republicans, plumbers, comic book fans, or Albanians.  The fact remains that each of these groups contains some awful people.  While... MORE

Emigration and Citizenism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I still remember watching this interview with Mikhail Gorbachev in my high school journalism class.  When Tom Brokaw asked Gorbachev about Soviet emigration restrictions, the Soviet dictator self-righteously replied:  What they're [the West] organizing is a brain drain.  And of... MORE

Read Scott Alexander

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I find fascinating new things to read every day.  But it's been a long time since I found a fascinating new thinker to read - someone who makes me say, "Tell me everything."  Then about two weeks ago, I discovered... MORE

Teaching the Children by Example

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Here's a letter I had published in today's Monterey Herald. What's important is not so much the measure being debated and voted on, but the way the local school district used our money. It was the lead letter in the... MORE

Fixed Costs and Open Borders

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Given existing border controls, mild measures to prevent serious contagious disease seem morally acceptable.  Yet the best choice, in my view, remains fully open borders - tear down the walls and make travel between countries as free as travel within... MORE

The Grand Budapest Hotel's Sublime Apology

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
[mild spoilers]Here's a great scene from Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Gustave, manager of the Grand Budapest Hotel, has just escaped from prison after being framed for murder.  Zero, an immigrant who works as the hotel's lobby boy, helped... MORE

Ebola and Open Borders

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Opponents of immigration almost instantly latched onto Ebola (see here, here and here for starters).  Isn't this horrific disease the "killer argument" showing that open borders is a naively deadly proposal?  The Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian swiftly coined... MORE

A Stigler Story

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
And now for something completely different. I ended my Wall Street Journal piece on Jean Tirole with the following paragraph: If George Stigler were alive today, he would probably recognize, in Jean Tirole, a kindred spirit. In 1950 Stigler advocated... MORE

The Bribes of Columbus

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Christopher Columbus, a slaver and a murderer, exemplifies Western civilization at its worst.  Out of all the efforts to excuse his crimes, the most bizarre I've heard goes something like this:As a resident of the modern United States, you have... MORE

Conservative Relativism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I spent a lot of time conversing with conservative intellectuals this week.  What surprised me most was their moral relativism.  Sure, they spent a lot of time griping about left-wing relativism: The awful liberals refuse to admit the West is... MORE

Lemieux: Let's Lose the "We"

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
One can barely read a newspaper or listen to a politician's speech without hearing the standard "we as a society" or its derivatives. "You know, we're going to have to make some choices as a society," said President Barack Obama... MORE

Can a Principled Person "Rise Above Principle?"

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In a recent critique of Richard Epstein's call for another U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, I wrote the following at the end of my piece: One issue I did not address was the issue of whether President Obama... MORE

The Ultimate Incivility

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've long believed that human beings are overly touchy.  Many actively look for excuses to take offense.  This excess negativity isn't just unpleasant.  Due to the scarcity of attention and patience, unreasonable offense frequently crowds out reasonable offense.  It's no... MORE

Why is the Right Soft on Education?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When the American left complains about domestic poverty, you might think the American right's standard response would be either:1. "What poverty?  By any sensible standard, the 'American poor' are rich."2. "America doesn't have a poverty problem; it's the American poor... MORE

The Welfare State as Extended Warranty

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
"Extended warranty?  How can I lose?"             -- Homer SimpsonValue is subjective, and taste for risk varies widely.  But every economist I've asked - and virtually every savvy consumer - concludes that extended warranties are a lousy deal.  The short... MORE

Social Desirability Bias and Abortion

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Economists have long argued that we should pay a lot more attention to what people do and a lot less attention to what people say.  But they make little effort to justify their pro-action/anti-talk position.  The strongest support for economists'... MORE

The Universal Citizenist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In the past, I've argued that Steve Sailer's citizenism is a moral travesty.  Advancing the interests of your in-group should always play second fiddle to respecting the rights of out-groups.  But recently, he presented what sounds like a universal argument... MORE

Open Borders: My Vox Interview

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
The noble Dylan Matthews interviewed me on open borders for Vox.  Here's his write-up.  Here's the full interview.  We shall overcome.... MORE

Silent Citizenism

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Topher Hallquist effectively preaches cosmopolitanism to the Effective Altruism community:Can you imagine a politician advocating free trade on the grounds that, while it might hurt the politician's own country a little, it would have enormous benefits for people living in... MORE

Where I Dissent from Nathan Smith

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
My former student Nathan Smith has published a gracious critique of yours truly.  Since he begins his critique with generous praise, let me do the same: Nathan Smith is probably the most brilliant Ph.D. student I've ever had the pleasure... MORE

Arrow: Why Shouldn't I Go to the Highest Bidder?

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Harold Hotelling, an economist, taught some of the statistics courses and "gave a course in mathematical economics" that Arrow said he took "out of curiosity." But because it began to hook him on economics, when his cash ran down Arrow... MORE

Against Winning

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
When I was a child, adults taught us to look down on bad winners.  The maxim: "It's not whether you win or lose; it's how you play the game."  The implicit model was something like: Yes, winning is better than... MORE

The Wisdom of Chairman Dwight

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I had lunch yesterday with Richard McKenzie, one of the co-authors of the Econlib Feature Article that will appear Monday. He gave me a copy of a special little paperback he produced of what he calls "Dwightisms." They're actual sayings... MORE

Anthony de Jasay on "rights"

Economic Philosophy
Alberto Mingardi
One of the many treats of Econlib are the articles of Anthony de Jasay. Mostly renowned for his remarkable book The State, De Jasay is among the most brilliant libertarian political thinkers. This month he has a profound article on... MORE

Mencken's Appeasement

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I just learned that the great H.L. Mencken's Prejudices contains an eloquent plea for appeasement.  From Mencken's "Martyrs": Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 [I]t seems to me sheer vanity for any man to hold his religious views too firmly, or to submit... MORE

The Veil of Implausibility

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The veil of ignorance is arguably 20th-century political philosophy's most successful new meme.  On one level, it's easy to see the appeal.  Political philosophy seems morally deadlocked.  The veil of ignorance provides a meta-norm to break this deadlock: We should... MORE

Tolerance Before Empathy

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose you have a ne'er-do-well cousin.  A long-term alcoholic and drug addict, he's been arrested about thirty times - though never convicted of a felony.  One day he comes to your door, and tells you a largely accurate history of... MORE

The Ethics of Individualism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last question before GenCon: In Haidtian terms, what is an "individualist"?  Insiders' knee-jerk reaction is probably to say "low in Care," or maybe even "low in Fairness."  But per Sebastian Nickel, isn't "low in Loyalty" the better answer?... MORE

Haidt and the Moral Foundations of the Welfare State

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Great questions from Sebastian Nickel:I recently asked whether accusations of excessive "selfishness" are to be understood as accusations of insufficient "altruism", or rather as accusations of insufficient "groupishness". A related question: When Jon Haidt asks questionnaire respondents questions meant to... MORE

Choose Your Battles

Cost-benefit Analysis
David Henderson
It's rare that I disagree with much of what co-blogger Bryan Caplan posts. But among those rare posts are his two recent ones (here and here) on appeasement. I don't want to go at them line by line. Other commenters... MORE

Krugman and I Agree on the DMV

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
The DMV is not nearly as good an example of government incompetence as other examples that are out there. Some of those other examples are of government horror. Let's use those examples. Every once in a while I agree with... MORE

When the straightforward interpretation seems crazy

Economic Philosophy
Scott Sumner
I've recently been working my way through a long set of 2008 blog posts by Eliezer Yudkowsky. It starts with an attempt to make quantum mechanics seem "normal," and then branches out into some interesting essays on philosophy and science.... MORE

Machismo vs. Appeasement

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I suspect that the ultimate objection to pacifism and appeasement is that they are unmanly.  A "real man," brimming over with machismo, stands up for himself no matter what the consequences: Never retreat, never surrender.  The emotional appeal is undeniable. ... MORE

Mike Huemer, my favorite philosopher, has a new working paper on the ethics of legal advocacy.  Lawyering may never be the same, for Mike challenges the central dogma of the adversarial system: Lawyers should use all legal means to help... MORE

You Know You're an Economist When . . .

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
It was an obvious evolutionary step. As pasteurization, refrigeration, and an efficient network of rail lines developed, so did national brewing companies. This is from Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, which I blogged about last... MORE

Huemer's Moderation

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Mike Huemer, to repeat, is my favorite philosopher.  Here are some highlights from his recent working paper, "Is Wealth Redistribution a Rights Violation?" [footnotes omitted]There are at least three broad views one might take concerning the foundation ofproperty rights:a. The... MORE

Evolution and Moral Intuition

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When backed into a corner, most hard-line utilitarians concede that the standard counter-examples seem extremely persuasive.  They know they're supposed to think that pushing one fat man in front of a trolley to save five skinny kids is morally obligatory. ... MORE

Some Empirics of Moral Philosophy

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
From the noble Jason Brennan:This reminds me further of a talk I saw at a recent free market conference. The presenter was talking about how most philosophers are nihilists who believe that morality is bogus nonsense. I said, "You'll be... MORE

Scott's Utilitarian Leniency

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Scott's recent posts on utilitarianism sent me digging for his doubts about open borders.  But if you read him literally, Scott never falters.My views on this are kind of hard to explain.  I am convinced by Bryan Caplan's arguments on... MORE

The Argument from Conscience

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Argument from Hypocrisy (a close cousin of the "demandingness objection") is one of the strongest objections to utilitarianism.  (Strangely omitted from Scott's inventory).  The argument has two steps.Step 1. Note that utilitarianism implies extreme moral demands.  For example, maximizing... MORE

Intolerant Socialism

Economic Philosophy
Art Carden
Like Bryan, I really enjoyed Jason Brennan's discussion of "Why Utopia is Capitalist." Bryan is correct to note that one of the main problems with G.A. Cohen's camping trip example is that it assumes (albeit implicitly, if I remember correctly)... MORE

Voluntary-but Bossy-Socialism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Voluntary-and-laid-back socialism sounds good to most people; that's why Cohen's camping trip thought experiment works.  Involuntary socialism, in contrast, sounds terrible to almost everyone; that's why Cohen's thought experiment fails to advance what most avowed socialists have in mind.  The... MORE

Co-blogger Bryan Caplan opened the month with a post on "Liberal Authoritarianism." he left "the writing of the companion post on "Conservative Authoritarianism" as an exercise for the reader." I accepted his challenge, so here we go. In Bryan's way... MORE

Ownership for Cartoonishly Nice People

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The noble and prolific Jason Brennan has just released Why Not Capitalism?, a short book replying to Gerald Cohen's Why Not Socialism?  Outstanding work, as usual.  For me, the highlight is Brennan's explanation for why even cartoonishly nice people would... MORE

Free Intentions

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I quite enjoyed Alfred Mele's Free: Why Science Hasn't Disproven Free Will (available for pre-order now).  It's a great exercise in the debunking of debunking.  My favorite case: Many psychologists (and laymen) argue that consciousness is epiphenomenal.  In layman's terms,... MORE

The Weak-Willed Do-Gooder

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Imagine Smith sees a problem in the world.  He knows how to fix the problem.  He's got the resources to implement this remedy.  He sincerely wants to do good.  If he decides to fix the problem, is there any reason... MORE

Kant just went up a full notch in my eyes.  From The Critique of Pure Reason, via David Gordon, via Wlodek Rabinowicz.The usual touchstone, whether that which someone asserts is merely his persuasion -- or at least his subjective conviction,... MORE

Liberal Authoritarianism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Critics often view liberals as deeply authoritarian.  Most liberals naturally object to this unflattering claim.  Critics notwithstanding, liberals don't relish using the power of government.  They don't have a raw preference for forcing everyone live their way.  Instead, liberals maintain,... MORE

Does Bad Science Always Lead to Bad Policy?

Regulation
David Henderson
Mac McCann, on Reason.com, writes: Texas has a lot of things to be proud of. The Republican Party of Texas, however, is not one of them. Turns out everything really is bigger down in Texas, including our embarrassments. He then... MORE

A few years ago, Princeton University Press published G.A. Cohen's Why Not Socialism?. I reviewed it for The Freeman and found it unconvincing. I also appreciated these reviews from David Gordon and James Otteson. I wasn't impressed or convinced, and... MORE

Dick Wagner on Buchanan

Economic Education
David Henderson
Shortly before the mid-September start of the semester, all students had to meet with Leland Yeager, then Director of Graduate Studies, to get their programs of study approved for the coming year. First-year students who came directly from their bachelor's... MORE

Huemer's "The Use of Hypothetical Examples"

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Mike Huemer's defense of hypothetical reasoning is so excellent that I feel like I'm cheating EconLog reader when I only quote a few sentences.  So here's his complete discussion, featuring a shout out to David Hume qua economist.  From Huemer's... MORE

The Missing Arguments

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Libertarians have a reputation for silly absolutism.  While there's truth in the stereotype, libertarians are at least as likely to make intellectually lazy exceptions to their general principles.  This is especially true when the people losing their liberty are foreigners... MORE

Richard Ebeling on "Thick Libertarianism"

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I have not engaged in the discussion of "thin" versus "thick" libertarianism. It took me a while even to grasp what people were talking about. Once I had understood the distinctions, I had thought I was a "thin" libertarian. But... MORE

Dan Klein on Liberalism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Two months ago, I posted about Dan Klein and Kevin Frei's project to reclaim the word "liberal." You can read the Liberalism Unrelinguished statement here. This is the bottom line: We the undersigned affirm the original arc of liberalism, and... MORE

Reply to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga

Growth: Causal Factors
David Henderson
At a conference titled "Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism," Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga attacked the free market, calling it "a new idol." This is my response. I understand that in writing it, I am assuming that in each... MORE

Friday Night Video: Mussolini--A Man of the Left

Economic History
David Henderson
My friend, Lawrence K. Samuels, a local libertarian activist in Monterey County, gave a talk in April on his research on Mussolini. The bottom line: Mussolini was clearly on the left and he never wavered from the left. 0 to... MORE

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:11. In the KJV, it reads "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I... MORE

The Difficulties with Lying

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Co-blogger Bryan Caplan, in his post, "Frank on Phony Credentials," points out a big problem with cheating on credentials. He writes: [W]hile telling an isolated lie comes easily to human beings, most human beings are bad at living a lie.... MORE

Why Sailer Scares

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The full text of Steve Sailer's response to my Eugenic Experiment post reads: According to Gregory Clark's research on wills in England from 1200 to 1800, that's pretty much how English society worked: the richer you were, the earlier you... MORE

As regular readers of this blog will probably remember, I criticized Walter Block's boss at Loyola University back in February for not defending Walter's academic freedom. This is not to say that I will always defend Walter Block. In my... MORE

A Eugenic Experiment

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Imagine a Eugenic America where citizens who earn less than median income are forbidden to have children.  Enforcement isn't perfect, so 5% of all kids born are "illegals."  Over time, this leads to a substantial stock of people who weren't... MORE

Dear Nationalism

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Dear Nationalism,We've grown up together.  In a sense, you and I have been together our whole lives.  In a deeper sense, though, we've never been together.  I've tried to let you down easy a hundred times.  But subtlety doesn't work... MORE

Lind's Challenge for Progressives

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Several of my friends were annoyed that Michael Lind's profile of me failed to mention my open borders advocacy.  They should be happy, then, that this piece makes the libertarian/open borders connection crystal clear.  Lind even says this:If progressives really... MORE

Myth of the Rational Voter: The Animated Series, Part 4

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
My Learn Liberty video on anti-foreign bias is now up.  It's the last of the series, probably the best, and certainly the most important.... MORE

Talking More to Mark Krikorian

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last week the Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian answered my post-debate questions.  Here is my delayed response.  Mark's in blockquotes, I'm not.  My original questions for Mark are in italics.[Caplan's] argument was that treating foreigners in any way differently... MORE

Noah Smith on Modern Economics

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Do a YouTube search for "Milton Friedman." Most of the hits will be speeches mixing economic theory with political philosophy. You'll see Friedman talking about the value of greed, for example, or holding forth on socialism versus capitalism. Most entertaining... MORE

Williamson on Lind and Caplan; Me on Leonard Read

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Kevin Williamson of National Review has written an excellent response to Michael Lind's attack on my co-blogger Bryan Caplan. Here's one excerpt: The ideological Turing test, modeled on Alan Turing's 1950 thought experiment for measuring the approximation of intelligence in... MORE

I Feel Blessed

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In the last 24 hours, four good things have happened in my personal and work life. Co-blogger Bryan Caplan, with wisdom beyond his years, said, when he was substantially younger, that we should feel gratitude. He's right. I've always thought... MORE

Friday Night Video: Henderson on RT

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Last week I recorded an interview with Erin Ade of RTTV's "Boom and Bust." She put me through the paces, and showed that she had obviously read, or at least scanned, some of my writing, which is better than some... MORE

Last night I debated Stephen Balch of Texas Tech's Institute for the Study of Western Civilization.  Here's my opening statement. Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Meant for Each Other: Open Borders and Western Civilization The Institute for the Study of Western Civilization... MORE

Friday Night Video: Daniel Hannan on Socialism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I didn't have time to get permission to repost the Daniel Hannan video on Econlog, but you can go here to watch it. It's very good. It's about 13 minutes long. HT to Dan Klein.... MORE

Ayn Rand in the Happy Lab

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Ayn Rand made many uncharitable claims about her philosophical opponents, but this passage from Galt's Speech in Atlas Shrugged takes the cake:They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to... MORE

A pragmatic view of causation

Monetary Policy
Scott Sumner
I'm not trained in philosophy, but I do regard myself as a philosophical pragmatist. So when I grapple with issues of causality I try to imagine which definition of 'causation' is the most useful. Consider two possible causes of WWII:... MORE

Too Many

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
"There are too many X" is usually a socially acceptable complaint.  With one key exception: If the X's are people.  Declaring, "There are too many blacks" makes you a racist.  Announcing, "There are too many Jews" makes you an anti-Semite. ... MORE

Talking to Mark Krikorian

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
At last night's debate, I finally got to talk to the Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian.  Some thoughts:1. Mark has good manners and radiates little anger.  Immigration opponents would be more influential if they emulated him.  2. Fortunately, such... MORE

Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Last night's immigration debate with Mark Krikorian and Alex Nowrasteh was... interesting.  Reflections forthcoming.  For now, here's my opening statement. Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 America Should Open its Borders Under current U.S. law, it is illegal for... MORE

Crazy Immigration

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Under open borders, over six billion people would be free to move to the United States.  The population could increase by more than a factor of twenty.  And under real open borders, there's no mandatory waiting period.  If everyone wants... MORE

Gary Johnson's Bold Attack on Freedom of Association

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
The Our America initiative, which is headed up by 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate and former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, has produced a sharp commercial asking for donations to fund a legal challenge to presidential debates. The basic argument?... MORE

Social Desirability Bias: How Psych Can Salvage Econo-Cynicism

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The strongest evidence against the economic way of thinking is the way that people describe their own behavior.  People rarely announce, "I'm looking out for number one."  Businesses rarely advertise, "Our own profit is our top priority."  Students rarely declare,... MORE

I'm a Liberal

Economic History
David Henderson
When I figured out my basic political beliefs at ages 17 and 18, I didn't know the term for them. Katherine George, a left-wing sociology professor at the University of Winnipeg with whom I was arguing, called me a libertarian.... MORE

Tuesday Immigration Debate

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
This Tuesday, Reason is hosting a DC debate on "Should America Open Its Borders?"  Cato's Alex Nowrasteh and I say yes; the Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian says no.The Center for Immigration Studies' masthead reads, "Low-Immigration, Pro-Immigrant."  I've dissected... MORE

Larry Summers is persuasive

Economic Philosophy
Scott Sumner
Tyler Cowen directed me to a long interview of Larry Summers. I have two general impressions after listening to the interview: 1. Larry Summers seems brilliant. 2. I disagree with him on just about everything. That got me wondering why... MORE

Civil Disobedience: King versus Huemer

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" defends an odd position: You may morally break an unjust law IF you make no effort to evade the legal punishment for the unjust law you break.In no sense do I advocate... MORE

The Righteous Scofflaw

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
The most popular argument against illegal immigration is probably that breaking the law is wrong.  At least since the Nazis, though, virtually no one believes that breaking the law is always wrong.  Instead, we all recognize circumstances under which being... MORE

I've Changed My Mind, Part 2

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
UPDATE BELOW In a comment on my April Fool's Post, "I've Changed My Mind," NZ wrote: You make a joke out of changing your mind, which seems to imply that you don't actually plan to change your mind because you're... MORE

I've Changed My Mind

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I woke up this morning with an epiphany. In my political views, I've been on the wrong track for a long time. Specifically: 1. I think Obamacare is great. So what if it's causing young people to subsidize the elderly?... MORE

In response to something I wrote in January, I received a letter last week, postmarked January 30. Well played, U.S. Postal Service. It's like many I've received over the years when the writer doesn't like an article or blog post... MORE

How Diabolical is Unz's Proposal?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Ron Unz wants to raise the minimum wage to discourage illegal immigration.  The mechanism: The minimum wage raises unemployment for low-skilled workers, and illegal immigrants are very low-skilled.  His words:In effect, a much higher minimum wage serves to remove the... MORE

Socialism Was Born Bad: The Case of Oskar Lange

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Oskar Lange is arguably the most famous of the market socialists.  His fans often see him as a great spokesman for "socialism with a human face."  In the early 1990s, I attended a talk where Ken Arrow lauded Lange as... MORE

Question for Scott

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Scott writes:Would you feel comfortable telling an accident victim in a wheelchair that "his type of person" is disproportionately composed of drunks? If not, be careful in making generalizations about the unemployed.My question for Scott: Would you feel comfortable telling... MORE

Open Borders Day Roundup

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Many good things about open borders for Open Borders Day via Open Borders.  Imbibe.... MORE

My debate opponent Ron Unz says he's abandoning his California minimum wage initiative for lack of funds.  The Nation's Sasha Abramsky responds with a soft-hitting interview.  The low point:You just mentioned undocumented migrants in the context of your minimum wage... MORE

Immigration: My Eyes Work Fine

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Critics of my open borders advocacy often accuse me of intellectual blindness, of living in a fantasy world of my own creation.  So rather than rehash any of my arguments or review the academic evidence yet again, I'm going to... MORE

Open Borders Day is Starting

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
March 16 is Open Borders Day, an international holiday to raise awareness of the single most important policy issue of the modern world.  Open Borders Day is a time to reflect on the many immigrants - legal and illegal -... MORE

1896: Immigration and The Atlantic

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
In 2013, The Atlantic sympathetically profiled the open borders movement.  Quite a change from this piece the magazine ran in 1896, when nearly open borders still prevailed.  The author, Francis Walker, begins with admirable clarity:When we speak of the restriction... MORE

Being Sendhil Mullainathan

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Harvard's Sendhil Mullainathan has a remarkable life story.  From a profile in Forbes:Born in a small farming village in India, Mullainathan lived there for seven years while his father moved to the U.S. to go to graduate school. On his... MORE

Economics must be harder than it looks

Economic Philosophy
Scott Sumner
Mark Sadowski sent me this paper from Paul Davidson, which he thought was hilarious: There are two different major economic theories that attempt to explain the operation of the money using, entrepreneurial economy that we call capitalism and its financial... MORE

Blame the Republicans

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When I blame people for their problems, Democrats and liberals are prone to object at a fundamental level.  One fundamental objection rests on determinism: Since everyone is determined to act precisely as he does, it is always false to say,... MORE

Poverty: The Stages of Blame Applied

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
What do my stages of blame imply about real-world poverty policy?1. As I've argued in detail here, poor healthy adults in the First World are largely undeserving.  Indeed, few are even objectively poor; just look at the many luxuries the... MORE

Poverty: The Stages of Blame

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've repeatedly argued that there's a connection between (a) how deserving the poor are, and (b) how the poor ought to be treated.  Unfortunately, as soon as I make this deliberately vague claim, many readers rush to ascribe specific, silly... MORE

The Principal Doctrines of Epicurus is a 3rd-century outline of Epicurean philosophy.  This bullet point is so consistent with my posts on friendliness, social intelligence, and the Bubble that I feel compelled share it.He who desires to live in tranquility... MORE

Reminiscences of Rogge

Business Economics
David Henderson
UPDATE BELOW: Earlier today over at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux highlighted a quote from the late Benjamin A. Rogge. That brought back warm memories for me. Rogge, who lived from 1920 to 1980, was a libertarian economics professor at Wabash... MORE

Ukrainian Prediction Challenge

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
To repeat myself:The long-run benefits of war are highly uncertain.  Some wars - most obviously the Napoleonic Wars and World War II - at least arguably deserve credit for decades of subsequent peace.  But many other wars - like the... MORE

Income, Wealth, Happiness, and Ideological Convenience

Cross-country Comparisons
David Henderson
I've had to think long and hard before writing this response to Bryan Caplan's post about income and happiness and Justin Wolfers's response. 1. I start by saying that I'm skeptical about how informative it is to ask people how... MORE

For Crying Out Loud, Dineen: Dealing with Long-Held Views that are Wrong

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
David Henderson
At first, you might think this post is just about hockey. But it's not. There's a moral to the story about how we can make the mistake of falling in love with our views simply because they have become part... MORE

Erik Prince on Collective Punishment

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
David Henderson
Co-blogger Bryan's post, "Desert versus Identity," has got me thinking. Bryan writes: War crimes are a stark example. Suppose a soldier from group X plainly murdered ten innocent civilians from group Y. What do the people of X say? "It... MORE

Desert versus Identity

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When moderns read the Old Testament, they're often horrified by the gruesome collective punishments.  Mankind falls into wickedness, so God sends a flood to drown every man, women, and child on earth?*  Before the book is over, though, the prophets... MORE

My Cato Address to Students for Liberty

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
On Friday, the Cato Institute hosted a reception for Students for Liberty - and gave me the honor of welcoming them.  Here's what I said.Welcome Students for Liberty!  I'm so happy to see all of you in the world's greatest... MORE

Diasporas, Swamping, and Open Borders Abolitionism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Paul Collier's Exodus makes one great obvious-once-you-think-about-it point: diasporas matter.The third big thing we know [about immigration] is that the costs of migration are greatly eased by the presence in the host country of a diaspora from the country of... MORE

Obituary Hypothetical: What If Mengele Cured Cancer?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Josef Mengele is one of history's most infamous Nazi war criminals.  A doctor, he notoriously performed grotesque medical experiments on human beings without their consent.  If you're strong of stomach, here's a small sample of what Dr. Mengele did to... MORE

I'm Too Busy Fighting Tyranny to Feed My Family

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Suppose your Facebook friend, John, is a political junkie.  Every day, he floods your Newsfeed with the latest political news and op-eds.  He provides play-by-play coverage of protests and rallies around the globe.  He travels hundreds of miles every week... MORE

In Praise of Passivity

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
"In Praise of Passivity" is another gem from Mike Huemer, my favorite philosopher.  Thesis:Voters, activists, and political leaders of the present day are in the position of medieval doctors. They hold simple, prescientific theories about the workings of society and... MORE

The old doctrine that the slavery of the black, is essential to the freedom of the white race, can maintain itself only in the presence of slavery, where interest and prejudice are the controlling powers, but it stands condemned equally... MORE

Mandela and Communist Villainy

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Bill Keller in the NYT:But Mandela's Communist affiliation is not just a bit of history's flotsam. It doesn't justify the gleeful red baiting, and it certainly does not diminish a heroic legacy, but it is significant in a few respects.I'm... MORE

Mandela: Reckless But Lucky

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I've heard ugly rumors about Nelson Mandela for years.  Was he a Communist - or a terrorist?  His recent death inspired me to learn more.  Alex Tabarrok nudged me to start with Mandela's autobiography, which presumably puts his career in... MORE

Some historians argue that colonialism was an outgrowth of nationalism.  Once the people in the leading industrial powers started to strongly identify as British, French, German, American, or Japanese, they fell in love with the idea of planting their national... MORE

Drowning Redheads is Wrong Even Though Water is Wet

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Suppose we lived in a society split between the following intellectual package deals:Package #1: Water is wet, so we should drown redheads.Package #2: Water isn't wet, so we shouldn't drown redheads.What would happen if a lone voice of common sense... MORE

Hayekian arguments for basic income

Economic Philosophy
Alberto Mingardi
Matt Zwolinski has an interesting article which attempts to answer the question "Why Did Hayek Support a Basic Income?". His answer is that Hayek did so because such a minimum endowment of economic means grants people the essential freedom to... MORE

The Orange Moon

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
When I was around 4 years old, my family took a trip to Nevada.  While there, I saw my first orange moon.  I couldn't believe my eyes.When I returned home, I told my best friend, Adam, what I'd seen.Me: In... MORE

How Bad Is White Nationalism?

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
White nationalism is one of the most reviled ideologies on earth.  But what exactly is so awful about it?  Menachem Rosensaft's piece in Slate quotes some leading white nationalists, but never really explains why this nationalism is worse than all... MORE

The Economics of Christmas: An Addendum

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
John Carney, over at CNBC, has a hilarious parody of some of the leading economics blogs. The topic: the economics of Christmas. I can't top it, but here is an addendum. Brad DeLong, Grasping Reality, "Worst Person in the World"... MORE

Some Explanations for the Curious Absence of Socially Conservative Economics

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Ross Douthat provides an array of explanations for the curious absence of socially conservative economics.  His top stories:1. There's more socially conservative economics than meets the eye.The first is that social conservatives actually do make such arguments, even if the... MORE

What Are Cowenian Rights?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Negative theology tells us what God is not, but refuses to say what God is.  In his post on "The Politics of Science Fiction," Tyler Cowen embraces Negative Political Philosophy.  He tells us what rights we don't have, but remains... MORE

Public intellectuals often talk about "conservative economics."  The truth, though, is that conservative economics is essentially non-existent.  Academic economists range from liberal to libertarian.  While Republicans are rarely libertarian, Republican economists are the exception that proves the rule.This is a... MORE

Zwolinski's Weak Case for a Guaranteed Minimum Income

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Philosophy professor Matt Zwolinski has written an article making the case for a guaranteed minimum income, guaranteed, that is, by the government. That, in itself, is not surprising. What makes it somewhat surprising is that Matt is a libertarian and... MORE

Levatter and Brennan Converge

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
My friend Ross Levatter, whose article I lauded in my previous post, often makes fun of me for being so optimistic. By the way, as I told him recently, the best argument I've ever seen against my optimism was this... MORE

Levatter on Brennan

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
As regular readers know, I generally focus on economic issues. Often I do it as an economist; often I do it from a libertarian perspective. But I want to point out a powerful essay on a philosophical issue, "The Brennan... MORE

Evil in Plain Sight

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
12 Years a Slave is a great chance to feel morally superior to monstrous slavers of yore.  But it is also a time to reflect: Will our descendents ever look back on us with contempt for our blatant wickedness?  If... MORE

What is Service?

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
This morning I was in a hurry to make it to my Sunday morning walk and hadn't had time to make breakfast. So, on the way home from getting coffee for my wife and daughter, I stopped at McDonald's for... MORE

Language and Social Justice

Economic Philosophy
Bart Wilson
Jason Brennan argues that language can be used as an example by which we can judge the moral consequences of a spontaneous order. His argument is to suppose that a language "through no fault of their own" results in some... MORE

Richman: Non-Libertarians Sorta Agree With Us

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
My Delightful Societal Bubble Libertarians make a self-defeating mistake in assuming that their fundamental principles differ radically from most other people's principles. Think how much easier it would be to bring others to the libertarian position if we realized that... MORE

Hobbesian Misanthropy in The Purge

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Remember my Hobbesian thought experiment?Suppose a random person is living on a desert island without hope of rescue. Call him the Initial Inhabitant, or I.I. Another random person unexpectedly washes up on shore, coughing up water. Call him the New... MORE

Unz Debate Analysis

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I suspect many readers are suffering from post-immigration-debate fatigue.  In the interests of fairness, though, here is my opponent Ron Unz's takeaway.... MORE

Vivek Wadhwa Responds

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
My debate teammate Vivek Wadhwa accepted my offer to post a response to my analysis of the debate.  Vivek:Bryan, feel free to post what you like. I am in favor of legalizing all the workers who are in the US... MORE

Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 It's hard to believe we're even debating "Let anyone take a job anywhere."  If someone said, "The law should prevent women from working," or "The law should prevent Jews from working," or "The law should prevent... MORE

At risk of sounding like a sore loser, I've claimed that many Intelligence Squared participants initially voted metaphorically.  The resolution said "Let Anyone Take a Job Anywhere," but many attendees voted For simply because they are pro-immigration by mainstream American... MORE

The Naik Strategy

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
An interesting Facebook post by the noble Vipul Naik, reprinted with his permission.  Vipul:I think Bryan Caplan could have won the Intelligence Squared debate by pandering to his audience in the following ways: (1) Stated that "America is a nation... MORE

Friday Night Video: Why No Milton Friedman Today

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
As many readers of this blog probably know, the Mercatus Center had a panel in September on why there is no Milton Friedman today. I enjoyed all the presentations. The one I enjoyed most was David Colander's. Professor Colander's explanation--these... MORE

Debate Analysis: Unz, Wadhwa, and Me

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Two of my co-debaters, Vivek Wadhwa and Ron Unz, sent out newsletters analyzing the debate.  Opponent Ron Unz:As a useful means of gauging the impact of the arguments, the organizers take before and after votes of the large New York... MORE

Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 "Let anyone take a job anywhere."  Given current policy, it sounds radical.  But notice: The resolution does NOT say "Let anyone become a citizen anywhere," "Let anyone collect government benefits anywhere," or "Let anyone vote anywhere." ... MORE

Eugene Fama, Extreme Libertarian?

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Well, I'm an extreme libertarian, but I realize we're in a democracy, and in a democracy people can have views of all stripes and there's no reason to argue about it. This is a quote from Eugene Fama, in an... MORE

Why Not Compulsory College?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
A few nay-saying libertarians and unschoolers aside, almost everyone favors compulsory K-12 education.  Yet virtually no one favors compulsory college.  It's quite a mystery.  If mandatory education is a great idea at the primary and secondary levels, why would it... MORE

An "antifragile" financial system - but how?

Economic Philosophy
Alberto Mingardi
John Kay recently had a must-read piece Financial Times, now available ungated on his website. Kay makes an interesting point: the obsession with "too big to fail" financial institutions and "the lobbying power of incumbent companies" is leading the revamping... MORE

My Two Modes

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Sometimes I wonder if I'm an extreme cynic or an extreme idealist.  The truth is that I'm both.  My mind works in two different modes.I enter my idealist mode whenever someone proposes a reform that could plausibly make the world... MORE

60 Minutes Highlights

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
UPDATE: Correction below Just before watching David Ortiz's grand-slam home run in the Detroit/Boston game this evening, I watched 60 Minutes bat 1.000. Two out of three segments were excellent, one was good, and all had explicit or implicit economic... MORE

When Is Abolitionism Justified?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler on open borders:In my view the open borders advocates are doing the pro-immigration cause a disservice.  The notion of fully open borders scares people, it should scare people, and it rubs against their risk-averse tendencies the wrong way.This raises... MORE

Daniel Goleman's Attack

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In "Rich People Care Less," Daniel Goleman, the famous psychologist who writes about emotional intelligence, writes: In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on... MORE

The Error of Utilitarian Behavioral Economics

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bart Wilson
If you hang around economists long enough, you're bound to hear the word utility. They don't mean it in the original (at least 500 years old), usefulness sense of the word, as in the utility of electric power to wash... MORE

Henderson's Godwin's Law

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
If you read blogs much, you've probably come across Godwin's Law. Godwin's Law states: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. I think it's basically correct. However, one could formulate... MORE

Happy birthday, Ludwig von Mises

Economic Philosophy
Alberto Mingardi
Today, 132 years ago, Ludwig von Mises was born in Lviv. Mises has been perhaps the last great system builder in social sciences, one of the great economists of the century (see here an insightful profile by co-blogger Art Carden),... MORE

The Homage Statism Pays to Liberty

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here's an odd thought for a libertarian: The government very rarely tells me to do anything.  Once per year, the IRS orders me to pay federal income taxes.  Once per year, the state of Virginia forces me to pay state... MORE

Friday Night Video: David Friedman vs. George Smith

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Rarely do I get totally engrossed in watching a debate, especially one that's almost 2 hours long. But I recently discovered this 1981 debate between economist David Friedman and philosopher George Smith on the issue: Ethics vs. Economics as a... MORE

A Pacifist History of Westeros: Gochenour Guest Post

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Zac Gochenour, who co-authors with both me and David, is also my go-to Game of Thrones savant.  Here's his reaction to my recent post on pacifism and GoT.I think that your analysis is very much in line with Martin's intent.... MORE

Game of Thrones and the Common-Sense Case for Pacifism

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
[Warning: Full of book and show spoilers.]"And those who have not swords can still die upon them."  The words are J.R.R. Tolkien's, but they could just as easily have come from the pen of George R.R. Martin, author of the... MORE

Four Readings from Frederic Bastiat

Economic Philosophy
Art Carden
File Frederic Bastiat under "under-appreciated thinkers." I'm talking about Public Choice in my principles of macroeconomics class tomorrow, and here are a few readings from Bastiat that continue to inspire me: 1. "What is Seen, and What is Not Seen."... MORE

Galton's Demented Idea

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In 1873, Francis Galton, founding father of modern statistics and behavioral genetics, publicized a demented idea.  It begins promisingly:My proposal is to make the encouragement of the Chinese settlements at one or more suitable places on the East Coast of... MORE

What Is the Forced Organ Donation Hypothetical?

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I often appeal to the forced organ donation hypothetical.  See for example my common-sense case for pacifism.  But what precisely is the hypothetical?  Here's an excellent explanation, courtesy of Judith Jarvis Thomson:[I]magine yourself to be a surgeon, a truly great... MORE

Faustian Economics

Alternative Economics
Bart Wilson
We solve: "In the beginning was the Payoff." Immediately I stop. Did I just quaff? A one-time buzz is too specific; The inception could be more generic. It must be wishful free and stark attentive; Perhaps: "In the beginning there... MORE

Stephen Hicks on War and Philosophy

Cross-country Comparisons
David Henderson
My friend and fellow immigrant from Canada, philosopher Stephen Hicks, has posted a 9-minute video in which he considers the major wars of the 20th century. His point is that philosophy is practical and that one can see that by... MORE

This is an almost 2-hour video of a forum held at Butler University in April. The participants are Mike Munger, Robert Skideslky, Richard Epstein and moderator Russ Roberts. The transcript is here. Some highlights: 00:08:40: Mike Munger's "beauty contest... MORE

Economics as a Branch of Literature

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bart Wilson
Shortly before arriving at Chapman University in 2008 I discovered some essays by Frank Knight. Every graduate student in economics learns about or, at least, has heard references to Frank Knight, one of the original members of the "Chicago school... MORE

Open Borders is a Moderate Position

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
After Fabio Rojas, Vipul Naik, and I created the Open Borders Logo Contest Facebook page, many opponents of immigration joined the page and behaved uncivilly.  When our troika decided to moderate the page, immigration opponents cried foul: "If you believe... MORE

Robert Murphy on Math in Economics

Economic Methods
David Henderson
Bryan Caplan (here and here) and I (here) have both posted in Econlog on economics in math. You can read our posts and find links to much of the other discussion. Now Robert Murphy has laid out some of his... MORE

The Partialtarian Corporation

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Noam Chomsky calls corporations "totalitarian" without a hint of irony (gated version only):...I'd like to strengthen the federal government. The reason is, we live in this world, not some other world. And in this world there happen to be huge... MORE

I'm working on a book I'm co-authoring with Deirdre McCloskey on the economic history of the last few centuries. Here is a choice passage from page 44 of her 2006 book The Bourgeois Virtues: The tempting shortcut of taxing the... MORE

The Means-Testing Club

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
We advocates of means-testing need a name for our club.  Singapore and Tyler Cowen (somewhat surprisingly) could be charter members.  Tyler, from Singapore: Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 This is oversimplifying of course, but you can think of the Singaporean system as... MORE

Sunstein Goes Straight to Coercion

Regulation
David Henderson
Time out from posting on Galbraith to note a current discussion. My next post on Galbraith will appear this afternoon. Co-blogger Bryan Caplan has posted recently and cogently about libertarian paternalism and outright coercion. As it happens, I have a... MORE

The Programmatic Paternalist

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Suppose you were a free-thinking, hard-core paternalist.  Regardless of the forms of paternalism that people in your society will accept, you're determined to give them forms of paternalism they need.  If coercing people for their own good will in fact... MORE

Nudge and Abortion Followup

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
"Nudge and Abortion" has sparked a lively Twitter debate.  Leigh Caldwell has most thoughtful reaction:Leigh: @BafMacro but: @bryan_caplan's arg holds IF his preference premise is true. Regretting NEVER having kids != regretting an abortion @R_ThalerMy response to Leigh: I didn't... MORE

Huemer Symposium at BHL

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
The Bleeding Heart Libertarians symposium on Mike Huemer's The Problem of Political Authority starts today.  Don't miss it!... MORE

Nudge and Abortion

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Here's my ongoing Twitter exchange with Richard Thaler: Thaler: As @CassSunstein and I say repeatedly in Nudge, the goal is to improve outcomes for people AS JUDGED BY THEMSELVES, not policy maker's tasteMe: .@R_Thaler @ATabarrok @CassSunstein So what existing *hard*... MORE

Why No Slippery Slope? Because Paternalists Start at the Bottom

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
If libertarian paternalism is a slippery slope, why aren't we sliding?  Don Boudreaux provides the obvious answer: Because almost all paternalism is coercive from the get-go:One reason why the empirical record isn't more full of nudges turning into diktats is... MORE

Tribalism, Misanthropy, and the Lesser Evil

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I've long attacked tribalism and misanthropy as grave evils.  Only recently, though, have I had two epiphanies:1. Tribalism without misanthropy is fairly harmless.  If you're optimistic about the potential of the typical human, you'll see out-groups as opportunities for mutually... MORE

Capitalism is awesome

Economic Philosophy
Alberto Mingardi
Chris Berg, a research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, has contributed a masterful little article to the Cato Policy Report. It is entitled "Why Capitalism Is Awesome," and it elegantly makes some very important points. Writes... MORE

Libertarianism as Moral Overlearning

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
"Overlearning" is a key idea in educational psychology.  One good explanation:Overlearning is a pedagogical concept according to which newly acquired skills should be practiced well beyond the point of initial mastery, leading to automaticity.In experiments, researchers often test the effects... MORE

Business Brainwashing and Vocational Education

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I'm a huge fan of child labor, also known as "vocational education."  Almost everyone would be better off if students in the bottom half of their class began full-time apprenticeships after elementary school.  If you hate sitting still and you're... MORE

Who's Second-Guessing

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
The issue from yesterday post was... drug policy.  The author, Scott Morgan, is reacting to Mark Kleiman's disinterest in the legalization option.  Kleiman:But there are things we can do about drug policy that would reduce the number of people in... MORE

Nudge, Policy, and the Endowment Effect

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Last week, Maxim Lott solicited my thoughts on Obama's "nudge team."  Here's what I would have told him if I hadn't been on vacation:"Nudging" is a great idea.  We should start by ending existing hard paternalism in favor of gentle... MORE

Guess Who's Second-Guessing

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
A single-issue website laments:It is just depressing to witness academics confining the discussion of complex issues within the parameters of pre-existing public opinion. What's the point of possessing vast knowledge of any subject if one chooses to then limit themselves... MORE

The sticky label of 'Social Darwinism'

Economic Philosophy
Alberto Mingardi
Advocates of the market economy are often dismissed as heartless and deaf to the needs of the poor. "Social Darwinism" seems to be a label perfectly tailored to convey such an alleged preference for efficiency over humanity. The concept, as... MORE

Robin Hanson on Questions

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In a post today, George Mason University economist Robin Hanson reports on an interesting interview with Bill Raduchel. The whole interview is interesting, by the way. Robin highlights Raduchel's conclusions about, when he was "assistant dean of admissions for Harvard... MORE

Vegetarianism and Moral Self-Deception

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Vegetarianism is plagued by apostates as well as hypocrites:[A]ccording to a 2005 survey by CBS News, three times as many American adults admit to being "ex-vegetarians" than describe themselves as current vegetarians. This suggests that roughly 75% of people who... MORE

The Chicago School: What Went Wrong

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I have a couple of thoughts to add to Bryan Caplan's recent excellent post on this issue. 1. I think Milton Friedman felt defensive about his libertarian activism. The main reason, I think, was the attitude of his close friend,... MORE

Misapplying Citizenism?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Check out my new guest post on Open Borders.  I expect it to provoke considerable anger, but critics should read my exact words.  I chose them carefully, and did my best to avoid giving undue offense.  In any case, please... MORE

Economics at the University of Chicago is no longer very different from economics at other top programs.  What happened?  The proximate cause was lack of a strong instinct of memetic self-preservation.  The ultimate cause, though, was that the Chicago School... MORE

Statism for Freedom

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Libertarians' odd openness to using immigration restrictions to protect American freedom has me thinking.  There are many statist policies that could indirectly lead to more libertarian policy.  If you're open to one, you... MORE

In praise of Over-Legislation (the essay)

Regulation
Alberto Mingardi
This very same month in 1853, the Westminster Review was publishing a truly seminal article in the history of classical liberalism: "Over-Legislation" by Herbert Spencer. In his lifetime, Spencer was virtually a household name among philosophers. He has since been... MORE

Don Boudreaux thoughtfully discusses the putative political externalities of immigration, then ends on a pessimistic note:I have no illusions (I really and truly do not) that anything that I write here, or that I might write in follow-up posts or... MORE

Caplan-Ting Immigration Debate

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
My Students for Liberty immigration debate with Jan Ting of the Center for Immigration Studies is now up.  Here's the teaser, here's the whole thing.  Credit where credit is due: Ting was brave enough to debate before a hostile libertarian... MORE

Tabarrok on the Ethics of Immigration

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I just discovered this great old (2000) piece by Alex Tabarrok on immigration.  Highlights:As far as wages are concerned the only difference between immigration and birth is that birth takes longer. When your neighbor has a child it as equivalent... MORE

Naik on Bastards and Stigma

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Very interesting FB post on bastards and stigma by Vipul Naik, reprinted with his permission."When you see a redneck, you call him a redneck. Perhaps, when you see a bastard, you should call him a bastard. Shame is a powerful... MORE

Bastards, Immigrants, and Misanthropes

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In the Game of Thrones series, people use the term "bastard" literally.  If your parents weren't married when you were born, you're a bastard.  While bastards are common in Westeros, everyone looks down on them for the crime of existing. ... MORE

Free Markets to the Rescue

Regulation
David Henderson
One of my biggest disagreements with fellow libertarians is on the issue of optimism versus pessimism. I tend to be an optimist, while some fellow libertarians--I have in mind my friend Robert Higgs as an extreme example--tend to be pessimists.... MORE

Caplan-Ting Foreign Policy Debate

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I debated Jan Ting twice at this year's Students for Liberty Conference: once on foreign policy, and once on immigration.  Our foreign policy debate is now up, including an awesome animated intro.  Enjoy!... MORE

Are you a libertarian?  Are you tired of being called "hard-hearted"?  Then I've got a solution for you!  You'll still be insulted.  But instead of being condemned as "hard-hearted," you'll be mocked as "soft-headed."  All you have to do: 1.... MORE

I Don't Have To

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Condi Rice Plays "Hide the Options" My favorite piece ever from Objectivist philosopher David Kelley is his article "I Don't Have To." In it, he takes on the idea that there are these things that we must do or that... MORE

Misanthropy by Numbers

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Suppose you're a self-doubting misanthrope.  You want to malign a group of people, but don't feel up to the job.  I'm here to help.  If you stick to the following four easy steps, you can and will craft a rhetorically... MORE

Rothbard: How a Circle Becomes a Movement

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
If you've ever been baffled by Murray Rothbard's appeal, check out "The Six Stages of the Libertarian Movement."  It beautifully captures not only his intellect, but his charm.  Highlight: His rich description of how a study circle becomes an intellectual... MORE

Does liberty require polymaths?

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Alberto Mingardi
In the epilogue to his The System of Liberty: Themes in Classical Liberalism--an excellent book that anybody seriously interested in classical liberal ideas should read and ponder--George H Smith takes a snapshot of the very different reasons to which we... MORE

Henderson on Milton Friedman

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
What were Friedman's other characteristics that mattered? I'll explain by telling my own tale of discovering Milton Friedman. In the summer of 1968, when I was 17 and had just finished reading almost all of Ayn Rand's works, fiction and... MORE

Vipul Naik drew my attention to Brian's comment on my last immigration post:If you are a good libertarian, you will care only about your own freedom and well being. The freedom of others is only of concern to the extent... MORE

"Craziness" and Immigration Policy: A Dialog with Brad Trun

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
A while back on Twitter, I asked:Question for people who think my views on immigration are "crazy": Would the same views remain "crazy" if I were Haitian?Brad Trun, blogger at Libertarian Realist, wrote a direct and forthright reply.  Some will... MORE

How to Spend a Billion Dollars: Best Answers

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Thanks for all 115 answers to my "how to spend a billion dollars" challenge.  Two general observations:1. When you claim that X is most efficient way for the federal government to spend an extra billion dollars, you should point to... MORE

How to Spend A Billion Dollars

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
My Ph.D. students' responses to the following question on their final exam disappointed me:In the modern U.S., what is the most efficient way for the federal government to spend an extra billion dollars?  What is the maximally utilitarian way for... MORE

Contrarian Virtue

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In case it's unclear, nothing in my analysis of conformity and virtue implies that I personally am especially virtuous.  The fact that I hold many unpopular views does however mean that my virtue is unusually easy to assess.  If you... MORE

You Will Know Them By Their Unpopular Views

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Consider a world where 80% of people are Conformists, 10% of people are Righteous, and 10% are Reprobates.  The Conformists are epistemically and morally neutral, so they believe and support whatever is popular.   The Righteous are epistemically and morally... MORE

"Most Economists?" Really?

Business Economics
David Henderson
Sari, Ed. My friend Edward Lopez, who blogs here, linked on Facebook to a great story from the New York Times about an entrepreneur's solution to the challenge of dry-cleaning saris. It's neat and the piece is short. Then Ed... MORE

In a Just World...

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
In a just world, no researcher would be fired for truthfully stating that some kinds of immigrants have low IQs.In a just world, however, researchers would be fired for arguing that people with below-average IQs should be denied their basic... MORE

Rector, Poverty, and Immigration

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Robert Rector and Jason Richwine's new Heritage report on the fiscal effects of immigration has been widely criticized (see here, here, and here for starters).  I'm honestly surprised that the report is not worse.  Rector and Richwine may get a... MORE

Dwight Lee on Ebenezer Scrooge's Morality

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
The first Scrooge [before the visit of the three ghosts] satisfied only the requirements of the first morality, which I call mundane morality, while the second Scrooge [after the ghosts' visits] enthusiastically embraced the second morality, which I call magnanimous... MORE

A Natalist Provision

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
In Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, I advise people to "privatize natalism."You don't have to be Bill Gates to strategically design wills, trusts, and one-shot gifts. A middle-class income is more than enough. Compared to the out-of-pocket cost of... MORE

I Was a Teenage Misanthrope

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When I was a teenager, I viewed all of the following with antipathy: students not in honors classes, heavy metal fans, people who disliked classical music, stoners, athletes, cheerleaders, all but two of my teachers, car collectors, sports fans, smokers,... MORE

Smuggling in Values

Economics of Health Care
David Henderson
Co-blogger Bryan Caplan made a good point yesterday about the alleged efficiency/equity tradeoff. He's right to emphasize it. Many economists smuggle in their "equality" value by equivocating between equity as equality and equity as some other value. I pointed this... MORE

A Charitable Parable

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
From Matt Zwolinski: Guy stuck on the side of the road. Car tire blown out. Waves down passing car. Libertarian/Marxist in the car: "Sorry, buddy. What we need is structural change. In a [Communist Utopia/Freed market], there would be far... MORE

The Evasion of Equity

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Economics textbooks often speak of the "efficiency-equity trade-off."  The definition of efficiency is fairly clear.  But what exactly is "equity"?  When cornered, most economists say that equity is a synonym for "fairness" or "distributive justice."  In practice, however, most economists... MORE

A Supererogatory Provision

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I incline to the view that giving charity to deserving strangers is morally good but not morally required.  To use philosophical jargon, I hold that charity is supererogatory.  However, the fact that I consider charity to be above and beyond... MORE

Open Borders in The Atlantic

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Atlantic profiles Vipul Naik, Michael Clemens, Michael Huemer, and other champions of free migration.  Highlights:What if there was a program that would cost nothing, improve the lives of millions of people from poorer nations, and double world GDP? At... MORE

How I Found Well-Being in a Bubble World

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
David Henderson
That could be the title of co-blogger Bryan's latest post, as commenter Rochelle essentially pointed out. Even though I'm not with him on all the particulars, I am with most. Here was my earlier version. My main purpose with this... MORE

Yglesias on Freedom in the 50 States

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
The Mercatus Center, for which I have done a few studies, is about to release a study of the degree of freedom in the 50 states of the union. I'll probably have more to say once it's released, but enough... MORE

The Duty to Give Away Everything You Don't Need

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Many moral philosophies seem to imply a duty to give away everything you don't need.  Consider this statement by Nicole Hassoun over at Cato Unbound:I do not have property rights that extend so far that they allow me to withhold... MORE

The Rights of the World's Poor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Over at Cato Unbound, philosopher Nicole Hassoun prompted me to sketch the main argument I plan to make in Part II of Poverty: Who To Blame.  Namely: We should view people in the Third World as victims of First World... MORE

Yglesias on Narcissism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
UPDATE: Paul Krugman makes the point that Matt Yglesias and I make. Personal Experience and Principle Various friends on Facebook this morning were celebrating the fact that Republican Senator Robert Portman has come out (no pun intended) in favor of... MORE

Inescapable Intuition

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Mike Huemer replies to his critics on Cato Unbound.  My favorite part is his common-sense defense of common sense.  His begins by methodically laying out the problem: [T]he recommendation to "rely on common sense morality" is just another way of... MORE

The Myopic Empiricism of the Minimum Wage

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Unlike most opponents of the minimum wage, I admit that David Card and Alan Krueger's famous research on the topic is well-done.  How then can I continue to embrace (and teach!) the textbook view that the minimum wage significantly reduces... MORE

Thomas C. Leonard on Nudge

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
David Henderson
See Update Below. While web surfing the other day, I came across work by Princeton economist Thomas C. Leonard. There's a lot of good work there. In this post, I want to highlight his review of Nudge by Richard Thaler... MORE

How I Raise My Children

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tonight I screened The Sixth Day, Schwarzenegger's 2000 cloning flick, for my twin sons.  After the movie was over, I had them read this passage aloud:If you think clones are contrary to nature, think twice. Identical twins are naturally occurring... MORE

Bad Social Science: A Consequence of Consequentialism

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
From my response to Mike Huemer's target essay on this month's Cato Unbound:As a free bonus, Huemer dulls the urge consequentialist libertarians often feel to stretch the truth, to make stronger claims about the benefits of libertarian policies than the... MORE

Bill Dickens vs. Me on Huemer

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've been having an extended Facebook argument with Bill Dickens about Mike Huemer's The Problem of Political Authority.  To be fair, Bill is only responding to Huemer's piece on Cato Unbound, not the actual book, which he has not read. ... MORE

Why Am I So Cheerful?

Economics and Culture
David Henderson
After we taped a segment for the John Stossel show last Tuesday, John and I took the subway to his beautiful apartment on the Upper East Side, where he had invited me to dinner with him and his lovely wife.... MORE

"Low-Immigration, Pro-Immigrant."  So reads the masthead of the Center for Immigration Studies.  I'm still trying to make sense of it.  If someone announced a "low-in-law visits, pro-in-law stance," we'd laugh.  If you like your in-laws, you'll welcome frequent visits.  If... MORE

Fiduciary Excuses

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
"I was just following orders."  "I was only doing my job."  "I had a legal obligation to act."  The most self-righteous criminals often invoke fiduciary obligations to explain why their actions were morally required rather than morally forbidden.Mike Huemer, guest... MORE

Pacifism in 4 Easy Steps

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 As I said, this morning's Students for Liberty debate was a double-header.  Here's my two minute opening statement for Topic #2: War.Pacifism in 4 Steps  1.      In the modern world, there are no... MORE

Open Borders in 4 Easy Steps

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Today at Students for Liberty 2013 I did a double-header debate against the Center for Immigration Studies' Jan Ting.  The format gave each of us a two minute (!) opening statement for each topic.   Here's my opening statement for Topic... MORE

Collective Guilt: A Socratic Dialogue

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Pericles: Have you seen the latest outrage our enemies have committed against us?  We have to strike back.Socrates: Strike back against whom? Pericles: Our enemies, as I said. Socrates: Right.  But how will we pinpoint the enemies who perpetrated this... MORE

An Amazing Consensus among Economists: Not

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
My friend and colleague Dan Klein has written a guest reply to my recent post on economists' consensus.  Here's Dan: v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} .shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);} I was surprised to read Bryan's words: "Compared to non-economists, economists enjoy... MORE

Instead of writing a guest post, Mike Huemer ended up just replying to your questions in the comments.  His main reply is here, but don't miss the back-and-forth.... MORE

Me on Economists' Ideological Divide

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
My "What Makes People Think Like Economists?" (Journal of Law and Economics 2001) also analyzes why economists disagree with each other.  Key results (footnotes omitted):Overall, the SAEE evidence suggests that disagreements among economists are surprisingly random. There are 10 questions... MORE

Kling v. Huemer

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
In case you missed it: 1. Arnold Kling critiques Michael Huemer's new book.  2. Huemer responds, with a few extra lines from me, and Kling offers his rejoinder.... MORE

Wolfers on Economists' Ideological Divide

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Justin Wolfers has skeptical comments on Gordon and Dahl's new paper on economists' ideology, featuring this cool graph:Since I remained a little unclear about the origin of the graph, I emailed Wolfers.  He graciously responded, and gave me permission to... MORE

By now, I assume that everyone has read Michael Huemer's The Problem of Political Authority cover-to-cover.  Well, almost everyone.  Mike has generously agreed to field EconLog readers' questions.  Please post them in the comments, and he'll respond in a separate... MORE

Henderson on the Future of U.S. Politics

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Shortly after the Congressional elections of 2010, talk radio host Terry Gilberg of talk radio station KFYI in Phoenix had me on to discuss some of the implications of the Republican takeover, with the help of many Tea Party candidates,... MORE

Huemer's Common-Sense Libertarianism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
My very favorite section from Mike Huemer's The Problem of Political Authority begins by distancing himself from other libertarian philosophers:The ideas of this chapter will strike many as too extreme and far too libertarian. Are we really forced to accept... MORE

Jonah Goldberg tries to play missionary to his Socially Liberal Fiscal Conservative friends.  He promisingly begins:Dear Socially Liberal Fiscal-Conservative Friend...[Y[ou know who you are. You're the sort of person who says to his conservative friends or co-workers something like, "I... MORE

From the Archives: Comments on Huemer's Book Draft

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
A year ago I sent Mike Huemer the following comments on his book draft, then titled Freedom and Authority.  He's incorporated many of my suggestions, but if you're curious to peer inside the revision process, enjoy.  (Detailed comments using the... MORE

A Conversation With Michael Huemer

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
Michael Huemer, author of The Problem of Political Authority, has kindly agreed to take EconLog readers' questions about his new book.  To get maximum value from the exchange, read the book first ($30.40 on Kindle, $37.72 in paperback on Amazon... MORE

Money for Morals

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Over at Overcoming Bias, Robert Wiblin offers a tempting reward:Personally, I would like to think I take doing the right thing seriously, so I am willing to offer a monetary prize of £300 for anyone who can change my mind... MORE

The Problem of Political Authority by Michael Huemer

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
I've read almost every major work of libertarian political philosophy ever published.  In my view, Michael Huemer's new The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey is the best book in... MORE

The New York Times Wins Bryan's Challenge

Labor Market
David Henderson
Last week, co-blogger Bryan Caplan posed a challenge: "Tell me how to sell the abolition of the minimum wage to the typical Feeling American." The next day, Bryan gave what he saw as the best responses. I thank commenter Phil,... MORE

Better Than Plowing

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
That's the title of James Buchanan's autobiography. I reviewed it in Reason in January 1993. Much of my review covers ground that will be familiar to those who have been reading the various blogs on Jim Buchanan over the last... MORE

James M. Buchanan, RIP

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I found out on my smart phone, shortly before boarding a flight from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. today, that Jim Buchanan has died. He was a good man and one of the most important economists of the last half... MORE

Two Soul-Searching Questions

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
1. Suppose you lived in a society with a massive, age-old injustice.  Think slavery.  Are you the kind of person who would staunchly oppose this injustice anyway?2. Suppose a colorful, feel-good movement advocating a massive, new injustice suddenly became fashionable. ... MORE

Women, Liberty, Marketing, and Social Science

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire have restarted a long-standing debate about the shortage of libertarian women.  They make a very fair point: Libertarians should have been friendlier and more respectful to women - and turn over a new leaf forthwith. ... MORE

If This Be Aspergers

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I've often heard people dismiss my dear friend and colleague Robin Hanson for his "Aspergers," his blindness to the way that most human beings feel and think.  They're not entirely wrong, but Robin's latest post, a review of a Peter... MORE

Global Utilitarianism and Airport Security

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Garett's main point - air travel terrorism has enormous social costs counting the effect on foreign policy - is clearly correct.  The straightforward implication: Mildly reducing the risk of terrorism with major inconvenience for air travelers easily passes a cost/benefit... MORE

Kidphobia: Decadent, or Just Misguided?

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
The U.S. birthrate is falling, and Ross Douthat largely blames decadence: [W]hile the burdens on modern parents are real and considerable and in certain ways increasing, people in developed societies enjoy a standard of living unprecedented in human history, and the... MORE

A Critique of Wisdom

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Almost ten years ago, philosopher Roderick Long wrote an uncommonly wise piece on political correctness.  The opening commands my instant assent:There are two ways of letting political correctness control your mind. One is to reject viewpoints, not because they're false,... MORE

Friday Night Video: Privatizing Everything

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
UPDATE: I was wondering if anyone would catch the contradiction between what David says at about the 2:00 point and what he says at about the 5:30 point. Apparently no one did or at least no one who did bothered... MORE

Krugman on Scientific Method

Economic Methods
David Henderson
Some of Paul Krugman's best posts are on scientific method, specifically, how do you judge a theory. One of his posts today is beautiful, or, more correctly, would have been beautiful had he dropped the last line. In that line,... MORE

Some Unpleasant Immigration Arithmetic

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Let C=total number of immigrants - legal and illegal - who annually enter the U.S. under existing laws.Let F=the total number of immigrants who would annually enter the U.S. under open borders.Under perfectly open borders, C=F.  Under perfectly closed borders,... MORE

Outsourcing My Critique of Left-Libertarianism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Despite many areas of agreement, I think that left-libertarianism is basically wrong.  One day I'll post an in-depth critique.  Until then, I'm outsourcing the job to Daniel Shapiro and Steve Horwitz.Shapiro highlights:Being one's own boss is quite a risky proposition,... MORE

Brennan's Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
As expected, Jason Brennan's latest book, Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2012) is excellent.  The format works well for the blog age: thoughtful libertarian answers to a hundred and five frequently asked questions.  My admittedly somewhat... MORE

Social Intelligence: The Wisdom of Muawiya

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
My favorite quotation in the entirety of Larry Gonick's magisterial Cartoon History of the Universe series is from the Caliph Muawiya.  Behold social intelligence:I never apply the sword when the lash suffices, nor the lash when my tongue is enough. ... MORE

Intermediate Hypothetical Bleg

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I asked Steve Sailer:Steve, would you please name a few examples of citizenist policies that you think go slightly beyond the limits of our moral obligations to outsiders?  A few examples of such policies that you think are just barely... MORE

Sailer on Fundamental Moral Obligations

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm pleased to see Steve Sailer engaging my 3 AM Dorm Room hypotheticals (here and here):"Biased in favor of" is hardly the same as "recognizes no moral obligations to non-citizens" and does not imply Poisoning Children. I also do not,... MORE

Immigration, Trespassing, and Socialism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
To trespass is to enter a piece of land without the owner's consent.  What should we infer, then, when people argue that illegal immigrants are guilty of trespassing?At first glance, the trespassing shoe doesn't fit.  The typical illegal immigrant:1. Occupies... MORE

We're Going Too Far

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Question for you: When was the last time you openly worried about "your side" treating "their side" unjustly?  This could mean:1. "Your side" intellectually misrepresenting "their side."2. "Your side" politically oppressing "their side."3. "Your side" embracing positions that, taken seriously,... MORE

A Question for Steve Sailer's B-School Professor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
An interesting vignette from Steve Sailer:By "citizenism," I mean that I believe Americans should be biased in favor of the welfare of our current fellow citizens over that of the six billion foreigners. Let me describe citizenism using a business... MORE

Tribute to an Audience

Business Economics
David Henderson
UPDATE below. One of the lessons I tell my friends who want tips on speaking is one that, in the intensity of the moment, I often forget to do myself. Last Tuesday, I remembered. It is to lead with a... MORE

In Praise of Calibration

Macroeconomics
Garett Jones
Nobelist Thomas Sargent said this, about early tests of rational expectations macro models back in the 70's: I recall [future Nobelists] Bob Lucas and Ed Prescott both telling me that those tests were rejecting too many good models. That phrase, "[T]hose tests were... MORE

Evil and Support for the Welfare State

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've been reflecting on Garett's post on human evil and the welfare state ever since he wrote it.  The most striking passage:Bryan notes that by some moral standards, we don't owe much to strangers in general; if that's right, how... MORE

Earlier this month, Vipul Naik asked me to ask you about the persuasiveness of my case for open borders.  Today Vipul posted an extended analysis of your responses.  Very thoughtful, very careful, very fair.  Read the whole thing.... MORE

True by Definition: Redistribution and Economic Freedom

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
My main complaint about Scott Sumner is that he still hasn't joined the faculty of George Mason's Economics Department.  But I'm also unhappy about the distinction he frequently makes between "size of government" (or "redistribution") and "market freedom."  The latest... MORE

Friedman on Chicago vs. Columbia

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
David Henderson
I just received my review copy of Lanny Ebenstein's The Indispensable Milton Friedman. It's a compilation of less-well-known, but, nevertheless, often very interesting, essays by Friedman. Yesterday morning, I did a "drop-in interviewer" spot on a local libertarian/conservative talk show... MORE

Imagine you live in a democracy surrounded by a hostile majority.  The median voter wants to deprive you of the rights to (a) accept a job offer from a willing employer, or (b) rent an apartment from a willing landlord. ... MORE

Open Borders Persuasion Bleg

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Immigration restrictions probably have bigger effects on the world's economy than all other regulations combined.  As far as I can tell, virtually every moral theory - utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, Rawlsian, Kantian, Christian, and Marxist for starters -  implies that these... MORE

National Egoism and Vronsky Syndrome

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I was just at a conference where several eminent economists embraced the following principle:The United States should adopt whatever policies maximize the per-capita GDP of the existing population of the United States, and their descendents.It was frustrating to listen.  On... MORE

My post on "Tough Luck" sparked a Facebook conversation with the great Bill Dickens.  Reprinted with his permission:Bill: You've got to be kidding me. The problem with most of your examples is simple. While Libertarians have to say tough luck!... MORE

Tough Luck

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
"What if a poor person gets sick, doesn't have insurance, and can't get friends, family, or charity to pay for treatment?""What if an elderly person gets defrauded out of his entire retirement and the perpetrator vanishes into thin air?""What if... MORE

Welcome, Luigi Zingales

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Starting this week and for the next few months, Econlog will have a guest blogger, Luigi Zingales. Professor Zingales is the Robert C. McCormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and the David G. Booth Faculty Fellow. We have not met... MORE

Incorruptibly Evil

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
I do not intellectually engage with apologists for Nazism or Communism.  When I think someone does not deserve a reply, I simply don't reply.  Still, Counterpunch's instantly infamous "Pol Pot Revisted" has a striking passage:The people now in charge of... MORE

Somin on Libertarians and Jim Crow

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here are Ilya Somin's interesting observations on my recent bleg, reprinted with his permission. Bryan, David Bernstein probably knows more about this than I do. But here are a few examples: 1. Moorfield Storey, one of the early leaders of... MORE

Econ Blog Humor

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Noahpinion has a great send-up of the people who comment frequently on blogs. It leads with, guess what? Libertarians. And the primary blog for libertarians is--you guessed it--our very own Econlog. The one on libertarians is hilarious, as are the... MORE

Libertarians and Jim Crow Bleg

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A searching question inspired by Vipul Naik: Consider the period between 1930 and 1964.  What priority did libertarians give to the abolition of Jim Crow laws?  How many even considered the issue worth specifically addressing?The first instances that come to... MORE

Arnold Kling on "Libertarians and Group Norms"

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
David Henderson
Still, I think it is unwise to dismiss altogether the case for group loyalty and adherence to group norms. My inclination is to approve of organizations that promote group objectives and attempt to limit individual choices, as long as participation... MORE

Vipul Naik and the Priority of Open Borders

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Vipul Naik of Open Borders has started a thought-provoking series of posts on libertarians and immigration:I aim to consider three aspects to this issue in three separate blog posts. In the current blog post, I consider the extent to which... MORE

Do Indians Rightfully Own America?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Critics of libertarianism occasionally claim that, if libertarians are correct, the entirety of America rightfully belongs to the Indians.  After all, we stole it from them, didn't we?Unfortunately, the preceding question is missing a lot of scare quotes.  Yes, "we"... MORE

The Debiasing Dollar: How to Get Markets in Everything

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Critics of the free market often object to commercialism on aesthetic grounds.  Caruso, Vohs, and Baxter's recent paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology ("Mere Exposure to Money Increases Endorsement of Free Market Systems and Social Inequality," 2012) suggests that... MORE

Individualism: True and False

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
One of my Facebook "friends" (really a friendly acquaintance) linked today to an excellent piece on Salon. It's Jeremiah Goulka's "Why I Left the GOP." In it, he tells how he was a Republican as a young adult and even... MORE

Two More Hanson Posts

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
1. Hanson replies to my claims about his Tautological Fallacy.2. The top two results for the Name Robin's Creatures survey are Sentients and Intelligent Agents.  Background: Robin initially did a small Facebook survey.  The top two choices were Agents and... MORE

Ronald Hamowy, RIP

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The great libertarian scholar Ronald Hamowy died yesterday.  I only met him once, but I read most of his work while I was an undergrad.  Though he had a long and productive career, I'm fondest of his early writings for... MORE

The Metaphorical Fallacy

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Consider the following argument:1. Cars are mechanical horses.2. Horses are faster than walking.3. Therefore, cars are faster than walking.Pretty plausible, right?  Unfortunately, this argument is logically as awful as:1. Cars are mechanical horses.2. Horses eat oats.3. Therefore, cars eat oats.Both... MORE

When my favorite economists change, I usually think they change for the worse.  Dan Klein is a glowing exception.  I've always liked his work.  But in recent years (see e.g. here, here, and here) Dan's metamorphosized from very good to... MORE

The Temptation of Discrimination

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Why doesn't everyone just follow the rules?  The obvious answer, in many cases, is that breaking the rules has concrete advantages... if you don't get caught.  Why do people jaywalk?  Because it's quicker than schlepping to the crosswalk.  Why do... MORE

The One Blameworthy Lifestyle

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
People are often taken aback when I argue that the First World's poor are usually undeserving.  In modern political discussion, we're supposed to "propose solutions," not point fingers.  Even when we're talking about politically connected banks, we usually discuss alternate... MORE

Thoughts on Dickens

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Bill, that is, not Charles. Both co-blogger Bryan (here) and many of his commenters (here and here) have done a nice job of handling Bill Dickens' major criticisms of Bryan's views on poverty and the poor. I have a few... 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

Nizer on Fascism and Communism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I didn't know that I would generate such discussion with my previous post about Ethel Rosenberg. Just to clear things up, Bryan Caplan's comment is, of course, right. He was referring to the socialist movement, not individuals, as being "born... 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

Ethel Rosenberg: Born Bad?

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In a number of posts, co-blogger Bryan Caplan has argued that many socialists are "born bad." I can't find the references quickly: I'm on a friend's computer and it just isn't working the way mine does. Of course, I don't... MORE

Friday Night Video: Henderson on His Case for Freedom

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
HT to LibertyPen.... MORE

Are You Asking or Telling?

Economic Methods
David Henderson
I had a smart aleck friend in high school, Jack McKay, who, when a teacher ordered us to go to the principal, whispered "Are you asking or telling?" I laughed out loud and, if I recall, got in deeper trouble.... MORE

Gillespie and de Rugy on Generational Warfare

Social Security
David Henderson
I get some of my best uninterrupted reading done on long flights and on a recent flight I read the latest issue of Reason magazine (August/September) cover to cover. It's excellent. I found virtually every article valuable. The highlight was... MORE

Memories of Milton

Economic Education
David Henderson
As co-blogger Bryan and many others have noted, today would have been Milton Friedman's 100th birthday. Over the years, I have posted appreciations of him and so I don't want to redo it. Instead, I'll link to a few and... MORE

Capital One's Actuals

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Arnold Kling
Bryan writes, Was Capital One's sales pitch fraudulent in this sense? No; at minimum, they're missing element #3 (falsity). As commenter Thomas DeMeo pointed out, the actual allegation may differ from Bryan's hypothetical. consumers were: Misled about the benefits of... MORE

Arnold's Hypotheticals

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I agree with Arnold's analysis of all three of his hypotheticals.  But I doubt Capital One's sales pitch was analogous to:I tell you that a tree is about to fall on you, but if you give me all the money... MORE

Defining Voluntary Exchange

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Bryan writes, Couldn't you just as easily say that consumers benefit from the peace of mind of Capital One's payment protection products, even though the products make little financial sense? Now it's my turn to raise some hypotheticals. (a) If... MORE

Social Darwinism vs. the Economic Way of Thinking

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
David Gordon has a fascinating piece on Social Darwinist defenses of capitalism:[I]t is difficult to find writers who called themselves "social Darwinists." But some of Obama's critics have gone too far. Jonah Goldberg, e.g., treats social Darwinism as largely a... MORE

How I Love Education

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When I write about education, I suspect I come off as a philistine.  You might even boil my position down to: "Students are bored, and aren't acquiring job skills, so their education is a waste of time and money."  But... MORE

Mitt Romney's Passion

Business Economics
David Henderson
I don't think of Mitt Romney as a passionate man. But there is one area in which I think he shows some passion: defending businesses and corporations from hostile attacks. I saw this when he argued that "corporations are people."... MORE

Markets Don't Ration

Central Planning vs. Local Knowledge
David Henderson
For example, Uwe Reinhardt, an economics professor and advocate of government-controlled medicine, writes, "In short, free markets are not an alternative to rationing. They are just one particular form of rationing. Ever since the Fall from Grace, human beings have... MORE

Jersey Shore, Emily Whitehurst, and Merit

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
I've repeatedly argued that economic success and merit are moderately positively correlated.  In plain English: Talented people who work hard usually enjoy considerably higher income and status.  I hasten to add that in a free market, this correlation would be... MORE

Henderson on Shiller

Finance
David Henderson
My review [scroll down] of Robert Shiller's Finance and the Good Society is out in the latest issue of Regulation. A highlight about the finance portion: On the issue of crises, the main financial crisis in our future is likely... MORE

The Party Line Continuum

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Two veterans of the Council of Economic Advisors object to my claim that political appointees have to toe a party line.Jeff Frankel:Bryan, When I was a Member of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, I never said anything I didn't... MORE

The Curious Ethos of the Academic/Appointee

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
High-status academic economists often look down on economists who engage in blogging and punditry.  Their view: If you can't "definitively prove" your claims, you should remain silent.  At the same time, though, high-status academic economists often receive top political appointments. ... MORE

Evil Exceptions

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Philosophers spend a great deal of time crafting plausible exceptions to widely-accepted moral rules.  Sure, murder is wrong.  But what if you could murder a man on his death-bed to prevent a plane crash?  What if you could smother the... MORE

Real Subjects Have No Arbiter

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When you challenge the morality of the status quo, people usually leap to its defense.  After a few rounds of argument, though, defenders of the status quo often retreat to meta-ethics.  Maybe immigration restrictions do seem wrong.  But how are... MORE

Friday Night Video: Greed Is

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
This is one of the best of Milton Friedman, all in 2.4 minutes. He's not saying greed is good. He's saying greed is. The big question is which institutions harness that greed for good outcomes.... MORE

When I was in sixth grade, a 1967 copy of The Pageant of World History by Gerald Leinwand came into my possession.  While I learned a great deal from it, the book contains shocking omissions.  Here's what Leinwand says about... MORE

Jose Antonio Vargas Is Sadly Ineligible for Semi-Amnesty

Labor Mobility, Immigration, Outsourcing
Bryan Caplan
Jose Antonio Vargas, the Rosa Parks of U.S. immigration law, is one year over Obama's cut-off for semi-amnesty.  But Vargas is too noble not to celebrate:Obama's temporary order, however incremental and incomplete, is the most significant development in the fight... MORE

Of Honor Codes and Social Contracts

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When I was at Princeton, every exam began with a strange ritual required by the Honor Code: Students had to sign a promise not to cheat.  The promise reads:I pledge my honor that I have not violated the honor code... MORE

Nullification or Nothing

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Arnold doesn't share my conditional jubilation over Obama's semi-amnesty.  Arnold's in blockquotes, my replies follow.Even if you want open borders, I am not sure that this is how you want your goals accomplished. I see no other politically possible way... MORE

Here are six theses on extremely unjust laws that I dare you to dispute:1. Extremely unjust laws are conceivable.2. Extremely unjust laws exist.3. It is morally permissible to break an extremely unjust law.4. It is morally permissible to evade punishment... MORE

Merit, Ethics, and Reward

Business Economics
David Henderson
I've enjoyed the back and forth between co-blogger Bryan Caplan and Trevor Burrus. I'm starting to think that a good line for Vizzini to have used in "The Princess Bride," besides "Never get involved in a land war in Asia,"... MORE

Burrus and Merit: Final Thoughts

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Trevor Burrus continues our previous exchange on merit and liberty (see here, here, here, and here for previous installments).  Trevor misses one of my key points here:Bryan asks, if the question of merit is incidental to the case for free... MORE

Trevor Burrus, I Want to Convert You to Meritocracy

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The meritorious Trevor Burrus responds to my defense of merit against his critique.  Though he's not crying uncle, Trevor concedes a key point:Bryan argues that "the correlation between market success and merit is imperfect, [but] still fairly high." Great success... MORE

The meritorious libertarian Trevor Burrus has unfortunately joined the ranks of libertarians against merit:Libertarians are often accused of advocating for a merit-based society. The free market, the argument goes, produces a distribution that more-or-less corresponds to how meritorious the people... MORE

Replies on Means-Testing

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm happy to see all the feedback on my latest means-testing post, but I wish more readers engaged my original question.  After presenting one simple means-testing formula, I asked:In the new political equilibrium, how much do you predict the full... MORE

Means-Testing and Political Economy

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Why not means-test Social Security and Medicare?  On the surface, this seems like a perfect liberaltarian reform.  Libertarians should favor drastic cuts in government spending, liberals should favor drastic cuts in government spending on the rich, and both should favor... MORE

If You Don't Like It: Reply to Some Comments

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Thanks for many thoughtful comments on "If You Don't Like It."  A few that particularly grabbed me:Tom P:I think we can give a friendlier interpretation to Roehling's terms. "Bargaining power": you spend many years working for a firm, developing human... MORE

If You Don't Like It

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose your boss screams all the time, has extremely bad breath, or requires all his employees to speak in a faux British accent.  Even today, the law usually offers you no recourse - except, of course, for "If you don't... MORE

Vignettes from the Harold Demsetz Conference

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
As a student of UCLA economist Harold Demsetz, I was invited to a conference in his honor. It occurred on Friday and Saturday. My travel and attendance there, plus my time spent on my Saturday lunch tribute to him, are... MORE

Somin on Extremer Extremists

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy methodically answers my questions about extremer extremists.  My original suggested response umbrellas:1. Public relations. Views more extreme than your own are counter-productive because they alienate the moderates you need to convince to get better results.... MORE

The Extremer Extremists

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm an extremist.  I freely admit it.  The status quo is deeply immoral, and would remain so even if there were many moderate changes in the right direction.  Many EconLog readers presumably think the same, even if they sharply disagree... MORE

Friday Night Video: Markets Breed Virtue

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson

The Terrorist Contradiction

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
After watching Carlos - a dramatization of the life of notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal - I had an epiphany.  Carlos supposedly turns to terrorism because the wicked bourgeois imperialists don't understand any language but violent resistance.  But the only... MORE

The Freedom to Disown

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
[Warning: Downton Abbey spoiler near the end.]Once your children come of age, you are free to disown them.  A parent can financially and emotionally cut off his own children with legal impunity.  The children have the same right, but since... MORE

Sidney Winter's Case for Government Intervention

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Married couple economists Sidney Winter and Alice Rivlin came to the Naval Postgraduate School today and gave a joint talk. I'll blog on Rivlin's talk tomorrow. Today I want to focus on a true story that Winter told to make... MORE

The Road to Freedom: Bumps and All

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Reading Arthur Brooks' The Road to Freedom is eerily like having a conversation with myself.  He never calls himself a libertarian, and certainly never mentions Ayn Rand or Thomas Reid.  But the Hollywood pitch version of Brooks' book is "Rand... MORE

Arbitrary Intervention

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Life is full of suffering.  At least that's what the Buddha tells us - and if you're a glass-half-empty kind of person, you'll find endless confirmation.  In a statist society, our response often seems to be, "If there's a problem,... MORE

Does Facebook Restrict Liberty?

Regulation
David Henderson
In a comment at the Bleeding Heart Libertarians (BHL) site, "figleaf" wrote: Consider further that the privately owned Facebook restricts user liberty more than any fully-owned public university website. Therefore it's not as simple as private-sector = more liberty, public... MORE

Eugenics, Malthusianism, and Trepidation

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Nazis were eugenicists and Malthusians (see Mein Kampf, chapter 4).  They wanted to murder "the inferior" because they were convinced there wasn't enough food to go around.  The Malthusianism told them that millions had to die; the eugenics told... MORE

The Bettor's Oath

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Another great thing about my new daughter: she got me to start watching Game of Thrones.  The first episode didn't hook me last year, but now I can't stop thinking about the show.  I've even been inspired by the Night's... MORE

Social Justice of the Gaps

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Consider the so-called "God of the gaps" argument:1. There are many questions that science hasn't - and perhaps never will - answer.2. Therefore, God exists.You could call this this a straw man, and insist that no theist ever really made... MORE

Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism: Stephen Hicks Weighs In

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Philosophy professor (and fellow Canuck) Stephens Hicks has a thoughtful post on bleeding-heart libertarianism (BHL). The whole thing is not long and is well worth reading. Two highlights: As a political-philosophical method: BHL says we should start politics by dividing... MORE

The Able Slave

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose there are ten people on a desert island.  One, named Able Abel, is extremely able.  With a hard day's work, Able can produce enough to feed all ten people on the island.  Eight islanders are marginally able.  With a... MORE

George Stigler on Prisons

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In a comment on my last post, John Goodman went in a different direction from mine. I had pointed out that prisons make people poor or keep them poor. My idea was that many of the people in prison shouldn't... MORE

Jason Brennan replies to the critics of bleeding-heart libertarianism, most notably David Friedman.  David feels like he's nailing jelly to a wall:My complaint about the BHL, as may be obvious from the exchanges now going on, is that they insist... MORE

David Friedman on Bleeding Heart Libertarianism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Sometimes a comment on Econlog is so valuable that I think it needs to be highlighted. Most of the people I talk to who read this site regularly but who don't comment, don't read others' comments either. They would miss,... MORE

Is Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism Evil?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Todd Seavey's awfully unhappy about the rise of bleeding-heart libertarianism.  He begins by describing his recent experience with bleeding-heart non-libertarians:I saw a lecture by (charming, charismatic, funny) Brown professor of Africana studies Tricia Rose last night, and it was a... MORE

The Argument from Hypocrisy

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I think Will Wilkinson failed to understand Matt Zwolinski's argument about the significance of the miniscule level of voluntary donations to the U.S. government.  But this is also an ideal time to defend a related, underrated argument.  I call it... MORE

Calvin Coolidge Channels Lysander Spooner

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Matt Yglesias amusingly mocked Calvin Coolidge's note cards in this video, but the actual speech is remarkable.  The President of the United States sounds only two or three steps short of Lysander Spooner:Taxes take from everyone a part of his... MORE

Why Are Donations to Government So Small?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
My new baby has delayed my intended post on the Matt Zwolinski-Will Wilkinson debate, but late is better than never.  Matt kicked it off:[W]hile government is, in principle, able to do some good, there are very often (almost always?) superior... MORE

Ideas Have Consequences, Valeria Edition

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Valeria Jacqueline Caplan, my first daughter, my fourth child, was born one day early yesterday.  Baby and mother are both doing very well.  As usual, I welcome my child's birth with a reading from the book of Julian Simon:One spring... MORE

Robin Channels Epicurus

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
The great Epicurus:Yet much worse still is the man who says it is good not to be born, but "once born make haste to pass the gates of Death." [Theognis, 427]  For if he says this from conviction why does... MORE

How "Ethically Risky" Is Creating a Life?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Today I appeared on Anthony Brooks' NPR show to discuss the ethics of having kids (audio now up).  Philosopher Christine Overall, my sparring partner, emphasized that having a child is "ethically risky."  Who knows what this child's life will be... MORE

To repeat:The "Catholic" approach has extremely high moral standards (e.g. Be celibate; give everything you have to the poor; love everyone), but enforces them loosely.The "Protestant" approach has moderate moral standards (e.g. Don't commit adultery; prudently give to the deserving... MORE

Libertarian Schisms

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
At Cato Unbound, Roderick Long defends Rothbard, Rand, and Mises against charges of absolutism. Daniel Klein expresses his disagreement with Mises and Rothbard. I am keen on liberty as a central principle and analytic fulcrum, and I depend deeply on... MORE

"Catholic" versus "Protestant" Ethics

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've often heard people distinguish between two distinct ethical outlooks.  They usually call them the "Catholic" approach and the "Protestant" approach, but the distinction has little to do with theology.  Instead:The "Catholic" approach has extremely high moral standards (e.g. Be... MORE

The Intellectual Danger of Label-Avoidism

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
In my defense of labels, I claimed that, "Will's implicit label is "label-avoidism."  Adam Ozimek at Modeled Behavior explains the unique intellectual dangers of this label:[T]o define oneself as, for example, "of no party or clique", as Andrew Sullivan does,... MORE

Are Political Labels Uniquely IQ-Draining?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Will Wilkinson replies to my defense of labels against his attack:Bryan has sort of wrongly inferred that my aversion to specifically political labels flows from a much more general aversion to naming one's convictions. At the limit, Bryan makes it... MORE

The Wise Pluralism of David Friedman

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
This month's Cato Unbound discusses Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi's "Bleeding Heart History of Libertarianism."  David Friedman's response is good enough to make me see utilitarianism in a more favorable light.  Friedman agrees with Zwolinski and Tomasi that pre-20th-century libertarians... MORE

Tyler Cowen on Stories

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
David Henderson
Commenter Ken B's positive comment on Tyler Cowen's TED talk motivated me to watch the whole thing. I agree that it's excellent. The talk is about 15 minutes long and moves along at a good pace. The basic message: don't... MORE

Consistency and IQ

IQ in Economics
David Henderson
Bryan Caplan's latest post is a great response to some assertions made by Will Wilkinson and Tyler Cowen. When Michael Kinsley was writing regularly for The New Republic during the first Bush administration, he was brilliant. He usually attacked Bush... MORE

Do Labels and Good-versus-Evil Stories Drain IQ?

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
I'm a libertarian, a natalist, an atheist, a credentialist, an economist, an optimist, a behavioral economist, an elitist, a public choicer, a dualist, a Szaszian, a moral realist, an anti-communist, a pacifist, a hereditarian, a Masonomist, a moral intuitionist, a... MORE

Unbroken--and the Bomb

Central Planning vs. Local Knowledge
David Henderson
Like co-blogger Arnold, I'm a big fan of Lauren Hillenbrand's book, Unbroken. I highly recommend it. I was shocked and disappointed, though, by the following statement from Arnold: When the inevitable movie arrives, it will be interesting to see whether... MORE

The New Yorker on the Ethics of Fertility

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Elizabeth Kolbert has a fun piece on the ethics of fertility, featuring Christine Overall, David Benatar, and me.Kolbert on Overall:Of course, people do give reasons for having children, and Overall takes them up one by one. Consider the claim that... MORE

Introduction to Microethics

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When they teach their subject, economists almost always start with microeconomics.  Why?  Because it's easier to reach clear-cut answers when you start small.  Once you know what you're talking about, you can build on it.  When economists can't give their... MORE

Weighing the Coerciveness of Marital Law

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've been having an extended Twitter discussion about the history of women's liberty with Cato's Jason Kuznicki (@JasonKuznicki), the Atlantic's Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo), and others.  I find some of the issues hard to address in 140 characters, so I'm moving... MORE

All-Volunteer Matrimony

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The end of the draft is arguably the greatest policy success of libertarian economics.  Libertarians still have plenty of complaints about the U.S. military.  But libertarian complaints about the way the military treats its manpower have virtually ceased.  It's an... MORE

The Banality of Leninism vs. the Wisdom of Acton

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I finally finished Crime and Punishment, and was rewarded with two more great Leninist diatribes that predate the dictator's birth.  The first is a confrontation between murderous intellectual Raskolnikov and his sister:"Aren't you half expiating your crime by facing the... MORE

The Unsung

Growth: Causal Factors
Bryan Caplan
GDP is an agnostic statistic.  If someone spends money on something, it counts as GDP.  This agnosticism helps statisticians avoid controversy.  But it's hard to see any other epistemic benefit.  If we really want to measure output, we have to... MORE

The Awful Mill

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've never been a fan of John Stuart Mill.  Yes, he had a massive IQ and a dreadful Tiger Dad.  But his thinking is shockingly muddled.  One especially cringeworthy example: In the span of two pages in On Liberty, Mill... MORE

My Comments for Haidt

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Jonathan Haidt kindly let me read an earlier version of The Righteous Mind last June.  Here are the comments I sent him.  I haven't seen the final version, so perhaps he revised the book in response.Hey Jonathan, I finally finished... MORE

Rand on Totalitarian Motives

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Ayn Rand's verdict on totalitarian motives* is remarkably similar to mine.  From Galt's Speech:[I]f the ravages wrought by their acts have not made them question their doctrines, if they profess to be moved by love, yet are not deterred by... MORE

The Banality of Leninism

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
Historians often act like Lenin's tyranny was a bolt from the blue: Who would have expected a bunch of socialists to be so bloodthirsty?  Admirers of Lenin, in contrast, often paint him as a great innovator - at least as... MORE

Open Borders: The Website

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Vipul Naik has just opened the virtual doors of his Open Borders website.  The idea is to bring together the best philosophical and economic arguments for free migration, including a few by yours truly.  (I'm honored to be quoted on... MORE

Quietism and the Bubble

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
If I prefer to live in a Bubble, why do I spend so much my time publicly promoting my own ideas?  A true Bubble Boy, you'd think, would give up on the world; to say, with The Misanthrope's Philinte: Normal... MORE

A Libertarian Defense of Blacklisting at The Nation

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
Ilyse Hogue has a shockingly libertarian piece on the Limbaugh boycott at The Nation.  Not "civil libertarian," but hard-line my-money-my-choice libertarian.  Background:Bill Maher spent a significant portion of last Friday's Real Time defending Rush Limbaugh. Well, not defending the man,... MORE

Compromise and Priorities

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm steering clear of the Cato-Koch dispute.  But these remarks by Will Wilkinson are intriguing at the meta level: [I]n actual large-stakes political fights in Washington, Cato is generally on the Republican side. It would not be strange to spot... MORE

Under the Jim Crow laws, discrimination was not merely legal.  It was mandatory.  It was illegal for blacks to live, work, and shop in certain places.  Virtually everyone today regards this as an enormous injustice.  So do I.  But I... MORE

Huemer at TEDx

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Mike Huemer, my favorite philosopher, spoke at TEDx in Colorado.  Enjoy.... MORE

Refuted By Events

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Did the financial crisis of 2008 refute capitalism once and for all?  I was just on Al Jazeera to debate this question.  My opponents - and, I suspect, my host - thought so.  Obviously I disagreed about capitalism.  But even... MORE

My Interview at Rockford College

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Rockford College philosophy professor Stephen Hicks asks me some questions. Here's the result. Here are the questions: Why did you become an economist or political-economist? Does liberal society need an economic theory, and if so why? Your books: Key themes... MORE

Matt Zwolinski replies to me on Peter Singer's Drowning Child hypothetical.  Matt:Bryan starts off by questioning whether we really have an obligation to save the drowning child. After all, we'd praise someone who rescued a kid in that way as... MORE

Rand vs. Human Weakness

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I didn't want to goad Krugman by quoting Ayn Rand against him.  So I waited for one day to pass.  This passage from Galt's speech is one of Rand's best:"It's only human," you cry in defense of any depravity, reaching... MORE

What If the Stranger Is a Drowning Child?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I regularly appeal to the moral intuition that we have a strong obligation to leave strangers alone, but little obligation to help them:What are you morally forbidden to do to a stranger?  You may not murder him.  You may not... MORE

Krugman, Human Weakness, and Desert

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Krugman makes fascinating concessions to David Brooks:David says,I don't care how many factory jobs have been lost, it still doesn't make sense to drop out of high school.True enough. But suppose we apply the same logic to another problem, say... MORE

The Puzzling Ethics of Emergency Care

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The disdain most Americans feel for illegal immigrants appalls me, but it does not surprise me.  What does surprise me: Even though Americans will call a person a "criminal" for accepting a job from a willing employer, they still think... MORE

How Deserving Are the Poor? Debate Wrap-Up

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The resource page for last week's Caplan-Smith debate is now up, complete with full video.  Here's Karl's post-debate statement.  It's basically a more detailed version of his original statement.  But he does introduce two new points I want to answer:1.... MORE

Don't Judge a Scholar By His Deals

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When re-reading my recent critique of Robin Hanson's "dealism," I realized that the following could come off as rather harsh:Robin has spent decades proposing unconventional policy deals.  His track record is an abysmal failure.None of this means, however, that Robin... MORE

Economists' Self-Conception

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Robin grants much of my critique of dealism.  Then he offers a bet:Imagine that economists were surveyed and had to choose how they'd best like to describe economic policy recommendations, as: Morals - Arguing for the morality of actions,Deals -... MORE

The Deal Delusion

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Robin Hanson often describes his normative view as "dealism."  Forget talking about "right and wrong."  Lets take people as they are, and help them hammer out mutually beneficial deals.  Robin's latest word on this topic:My closest colleagues seem to mostly... MORE

"How Deserving Are the Poor?": My Opening Statement

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Thanks to everyone who attended last night's debate, and especially to Karl Smith for being such a good sport.  In the near future, I'll put up a webpage of debate resources, including full video.  For now, here's my opening statement... MORE

Rena Henderson on the Komen Controversy

Economics of Health Care
David Henderson
If you've followed the news on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure controversy lately, you know that it has been getting a lot of flak. The foundation had been sending funds to Planned Parenthood to finance breast-cancer screenings and... MORE

What's So Special About Huemer's New Book?

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Bryan Caplan
In the comments, Mark V. Anderson asks:I would like to know why you think this book is so extra-special. I read the first chapter for which you provided the link. It was well written, but I saw nothing there that... MORE

A Freedman's Moral Intuition

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In 1865, a former slave owner mailed a job offer to one of his former slaves.  Here's the highlight of the freedman's response:Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat... MORE

Social Capital, Property Values, and Salam

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Reihan Salam replies to my case for free immigration, emphasizing the importance of "social capital":It is possible that cash transfers are the most appropriate vehicle for addressing problems that stem from cultural and economic isolation and family breakdown, but my... MORE

Why Should We Restrict Immigration?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Cato Journal's special immigration issue is now out.  I have the lead article, entitled "Why Should We Restrict Immigration?"  My piece sums up everything I've been saying about immigration since I joined the blog: (a) Common-sense morality implies a... MORE

Next week, I'm going to debate Modeled Behavior's Karl Smith on "How Deserving Are the Poor?"  Logistics:Date: Wednesday, February 1Time: 6:00-9:00 PMLocation: Johnson Center Meeting Room A, George Mason University (Fairfax Campus)My strategy, as usual, is to use an uncontroversial... MORE

Tell Me the Difference Between My Lai and Hiroshima

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In the My Lai Massacre, a company of American ground troops killed between 347 and 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians in a village suspected of harboring Communist guerrillas (the VC).  After the massacre became public knowledge, Captain Ernest Medina denied giving... MORE

Jeff Sachs is Right--and Misleading

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
My friends Steve Horwitz and Don Boudreaux have taken strong exception to a recent piece by Jeff Sachs. But I think Sachs got this one right, at least on the particular passage to which Steve and Don take exception. Here's... MORE

Caplan, Kahneman, Bastiat, and the First Amendment

Economic Education
David Henderson
Bryan Caplan's post earlier this week, "Eureka! Economic Illiteracy as Mental Substitution," is one of his best ever. And that's a high bar. Bryan applies the insight from Kahneman--that people answer the question they want to answer rather than the... MORE

The Demented Pacifism of Irving Fisher

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
On July 15, 1915, the New York Times ran an interview with legendary economist Irving Fisher.  His response to the Great War was staunchly pacifist:After this war is over, of course, Europe will find herself prostrated economically, by the destruction... MORE

"Economic growth seems like an extremely good thing.  But growth could have undesirable side effects so severe that growth is actually bad."  This position is totally reasonable - and totally uninteresting.  Could?  Could?!  If something seems extremely good, you need... MORE

Sylvia Nasar's Grand Pursuit

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
David Henderson
The idea that humanity could turn tables on economic necessity--mastering rather than being enslaved by material circumstances--is so new that Jane Austen never entertained it. With an opening sentence like that, I thought, Sylvia Nasar's Grand Pursuit: The Story of... MORE

Correction on the Swedish Consequentialism Study

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In the comments, Olof Johansson-Stenman points out an error in my post on his consequentialism study:The third choice alternative is actually not "The extent to which the action infringes upon someone else's NATURAL rights" but simply "The extent to which... MORE

Most People Are Consequentialist???

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Robin blogs a new piece based on a survey of Swedes.  Its conclusion: most people are consequentialist.  I don't buy this for a second.  Consider the response options:How bad an action is, from an ethical point of view, depends primarily... MORE

Here's the most fascinating exhibit from the Holocaust Museum's "State of Deception" exhibit:(full-size version) The top and bottom read: "Hate and annihilation to our enemies.  Freedom, justice, and bread to our people."  But it's the four heads of the dragon... MORE

Patria, Parenti, Amici

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Patria, parenti, amici, Voi dunque non avete? Country, family, friends, Possess you none of them? -Giuseppe Verdi, RigolettoI'm a staunch opponent of nationalism.  But I'm also a family man.  Isn't there a direct contradiction between the two?  If I... MORE

Suicide and Sincerity

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I just shared the sublime Downfall with my older sons.  It's the German-language movie of the last days of Nazi Germany.  (You probably already to know it from the countless Youtube parodies of Hitler screaming at his generals with funny... MORE

The Julian Simon Club

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
Art Carden, who is also expecting another child, is inviting economists to join his new Julian Simon Club:Simon's research shows that fears and worries about "overpopulation" are senseless. Further, expressions of those fears and worries in comments like "it is... MORE

A Cursory Rejection of Anti-Natalism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Critics of my kids book occasionally argue that creating new life is, all else equal, morally questionable or objectionable, a position known to philosophers as anti-natalism.  The most extreme proponent of anti-natalism is probably David Benatar, author of Better Never... MORE

My Fourth Statement

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
When I was promoting Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, one of the most common questions I heard was, "Are you going to have any more?"  I always avoided a definite answer.  But now I'm pleased to announce that my... MORE

Dostoyevsky on Gratitude

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Only two days after Thanksgiving did I remember this wonderful passage on gratitude from The Brothers Karamozov:This legend is about Paradise. There was, they say, here on earth a thinker and philosopher. He rejected everything, 'laws, conscience, faith,' and, above... MORE

Blame Everyone

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Scott Sumner says much I agree with about nature, nurture, and behavior.  When Ronald Green argues that obesity is caused by genes rather than laziness and lack of self-discipline, Scott retorts:Do you see the problem with Green's assertion?  He asks... MORE

My lecture "Immigration Restrictions: A Solution in Search of a Problem" begins with the following hypothetical:Moved by the plight of Haitian earthquake victims, you go to Haiti to aid in the relief efforts.  After two weeks, you're ready to go... MORE

What Greg Mankiw's Defenders Missed

Economic Education
David Henderson
News Flash: Harvard Has no Access to the Web and No Libraries Last Wednesday, Greg Mankiw blogged about the students who walked out of his Ec10 class. They have various complaints about it that you can read here. One student,... MORE

Identity and Misanthropy

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Paul Kelleher's critique of my recent post on mobility and misanthropy is a rare pleasure.  He begins by carefully explaining and defending a position on personal identity that I've repeatedly championed.  Kelleher:  The following claims seem true: I could have... MORE

From Mobility to Misanthropy

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Scott Winship's written a good piece on ingenerational income mobility... with one highly objectionable passage.  Ponder the underlying philosophy here:[R]educing the number of unplanned pregnancies would unquestionably reduce the number of children experiencing divorce and other disadvantages. Since it is... MORE

Immigration Restrictions as Affirmative Action

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One of my closest conservative friends is chronically angry about (a) immigration and (b) affirmative action.  The irony is that the immigration restrictions he so passionately favors are affirmative action - for native-born workers.Advocates of standard affirmative action see the... MORE

In Time

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
[Warning: spoilers]Sci-fi thriller In Time has a simple premise: In the future, people become immortal as long as they don't run out of the crucial tradable commodity: time.  Everyone is born with 26 years of life; to live longer, they... MORE

Libertarianism...and its Discontents

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Three items crossed my computer screen recently: --the launch of Libertarianism.org by the folks at Cato. It looks like a nice web site, one that invites exploration. --Tyler Cowen's link to a piece by Will Wilkinson. --two older pieces by... MORE

Moral Theory & Voluntary Overpayment of Taxes

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler, responding to Karl Smith, responding to Steve Landsburg, asks:[I]f government action to redistribute income is morally required, in the meantime is not greater private charity morally required too?Tyler's not impressed with Karl's position.  Karl:If we want to be truly... MORE

The Brother's Keeper Bill

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose someone proposed a "Brother's Keeper Bill."  According to this BKB, people earning at least double the poverty line would be financially obliged to give 20% of their income to any sibling earning less than the poverty line.I doubt many... MORE

David on 2nd-Best Immigration Policy

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
David made me think a second time about second-best immigration policy.  My thoughts on his:1. I think Bryan drastically understates the ability of even fairly low-skilled workers to come up with a substantial five-figure admission fee. (I'm assuming the fee... MORE

Quiggin the Pacifist?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
My betting partner John Quiggin seems to be in near-perfect agreement with my pacifism:When is violence justified as a response to manifest and apparently immovable injustice? My answer, with Martin Luther King is: Never, or almost never... In large measure,... MORE

The Profound Sumner

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
Great hard-to-summarize post by Scott Sumner.  Highlights:I'd like to make some observations about inequality.  First as a person, then as an economist.  These are based on 56 years of observing all kinds of people, in all sorts of different situations. [After... MORE

Leon Louw's Talk at Mont Pelerin

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
One of the highlights of the Mont Pelerin Society meetings that are ending in Istanbul tonight was a talk by Leon Louw of the Free Market Foundation in South Africa. Some high points: 1. He led off by stating, "I... MORE

From the Vault: My Response to Victor Fuchs

Economics of Health Care
David Henderson
Stanford University health economist Victor Fuchs wrote an op/ed in the Wall Street Journal on January 26, 1996, titled "The Tofu Triangle." Here is my letter in response. The Journal published it on February 22, 1996, titling it "Equal Justice."... MORE

Single Motherhood and Poverty: A Few More Replies

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Lots of good comments on my critique of Marsh.  Some quick replies:PrometheeFeu: A lot of women either do not know about birth-control or more commonly do not know how to obtain or use it. Also, some disastrous education policies have... MORE

When to Wash Your Hands

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
John Marsh replies to my critique of his most outrageous passage:Bryan thinks single-motherhood is a choice, I think it is more or less a given. In other words, if, like me, you wanted to reduce levels of poverty in the... MORE

Openness in the Gilded Age

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
A great debating point by Don Boudreaux:[Pat Buchanan] frequently asserts that 19th-century America's policy of relatively high tariffs, along with its impressive economic growth, proves that protectionism promotes prosperity.  End of story; full stop; no further analysis is necessary.  Fact... MORE

Who Said It?

Central Planning vs. Local Knowledge
David Henderson
The abolition of consumers' choice in favor of universal rationing is a typical product of that onslaught, sometimes called Bolshevism. This was written by an economist in 1940 to oppose rationing during World War II. Who was the economist? You... MORE

Ron Paul and Austin Frakt Agree

Economics of Health Care
David Henderson
Background: There's been a lot of discussion on the blogosphere about Ron Paul's answer to a question about health care from Wolf Blitzer: was it a softball, how should Ron Paul have answered, etc. (For a post that links to... MORE

The Bizarro Blitzer Interview

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Since you're nerdy enough to read EconLog, I assume you're familiar with Bizarro World, Bizarro Superman, and Bizarro Jerry.  Now imagine adding a new figure to this mythology: Bizarrro Wolf Blitzer.*  In Bizarro World, the masses and the mainstream media... MORE

Philosopher Rod Long's gotten a lot of attention for his recent post on Bleeding Heart Libertarians, and it's easy to see why.  Rod leads with Wolf Blitzer's "gotcha" for Ron Paul:Wolf Blitzer: You're a physician, Ron Paul, so you're a... MORE

Two Questions for People Who Respect the Law

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I don't respect the law.  If my conscience says one thing, and the law says another, I often follow the law to avoid punishment.  But in my eyes, legality per se has zero moral weight.My position is admittedly controversial.  As... MORE

David Gordon Responds

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In a comment on my recent post on the debate between Nick Gillespie/Matt Welch and David Gordon, I challenged David Gordon to give instances where Gillespie and Welch have claimed that one must have certain tastes or attitudes in order... MORE

Live and Let Live

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
David (Henderson, not Gordon) writes:Nowhere in the definition of "tolerate" is there the idea of embracing or liking a particular group, practice, race, type of music, etc. "Tolerance," in short, seems to mean the belief in the idea of "live... MORE

Do Nick Gillespie/Matt Welch and David Gordon Disagree?

Economics and Culture
David Henderson
I have a different take from Bryan Caplan's on the debate between Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, on the one hand, and David Gordon, on the other. My take is informed by the further discussion that Bryan doesn't mention: Welch's... MORE

Tolerance and the Libertarian Penumbra

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A while back I wrote of the "libertarian penumbra":Libertarians are famous for their internal disagreements, but they have far more beliefs in common than their core position requires.  For starters, even non-consequentialist libertarians generally believe that libertarian policies have good... MORE

Good News from Amitai Etzioni

Fiscal Policy
David Henderson
A well-known sociologist shares information about a prominent Democratic Senator that made him despair--and gave me hope. For some reason, I'm on what is probably a very large e-mail list from Amitai Etzioni, the left-wing sociology professor at George Washington... MORE

From the original - and surprisingly Snicketesque - Pinnochio: "Tomorrow your five gold pieces will be two thousand!" "Two thousand!" repeated the Cat. "But how can they possibly become so many?" asked Pinocchio wonderingly. "I'll explain," said the Fox. "You... MORE

Aphorism of the Day

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
An economic model is just a story without any holes in it.  A good economic model is a credible story without any holes in it.P.S. Why The Lord of the Rings is a great story but a terrible model.... MORE

Notes from My Tea Party Talk

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Last Thursday I gave a talk to the Tea Party Patriots of Monterey County. I had not had much connection with local tea partiers since the speech I had given at their July 4 event in 2009. My talk was... MORE

How I Fought Envy, Part 3

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Here's the third installment (for the first two, see here and here) in how I have fought my envy over the years (taken from The Joy of Freedom: An Economist's Odyssey.) The third thing that helps me when I feel... MORE

Of Vigilantes and Warriors

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Remember my pacifism debate with Ilya Somin?  No offense to Ilya, but I heard that our hosts invited Robert Bidinotto first.  Bidinotto refused, I'm told, because he's now focused on writing novels.  And what's his novel about?  A vigilante.  But... MORE

My Worst Parenting Mistake on Freakonomics

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Freakonomics features a quorum of economist-parents on the "worst parenting mistake they ever made."  My previously blogged position on parenthood and regret seemed to tie my hands, but I tried to wriggle out with careful choice of words:My closest thing... MORE

How I Fought Envy, Part 2

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I promised in my post two days ago to tell the other two steps I used, and, truth be told, still occasionally must use, to fight my envy. Here's the next passage from my book, The Joy of Freedom: An... MORE

How I Fought Envy

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I totally agree with Bryan Caplan's post on envy. Well done, Bryan. And I can say from personal experience that I fought it in myself. Some excerpts from my chapter, "Whose Income, Who's Distributing?" in my The Joy of Freedom:... MORE

10:1

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Hawks love the analogy between defensive war and individual self-defense.  But as I keep saying, there's a big difference: so-called "defensive war" almost always involves the deliberate or reckless killing of innocent bystanders.  Why They Die: Civilian Devastation in Violent... MORE

Metaphors for the Economy

Central Planning vs. Local Knowledge
David Henderson
A much more accurate metaphor for the economy is an ecosystem. We are simultaneously independent and interdependent. We can no more fix an economy than we can fix a rainforest or a coral reef. At best, we can leave it... MORE

Bridging the Conservative-Libertarian Impasse

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A puzzle inspired by last night's debate: Conservatives and libertarians were almost equally likely to praise "liberty."  You'd think this shared value would facilitate a constructive dialog.  But it didn't - not even for the subset of "economic liberty."  Why... MORE

Question for Conservatives

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
As expected, I greatly enjoyed last night's Libertarianism vs. Conservative Debate at Cato.  I'm always impressed to see students publicly defend their cherished beliefs before hundreds of onlookers.  I spent most of the Q&A mentally searching for constructive questions -... MORE

A Rant Against Non-Profits

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Today, I attended this panel (the link already has an audio, so you can listen. I ask a question at one hour and 29 minutes in.) featuring Gara Lamarche, who I mentioned in this post. He was much more self-effacing... MORE

Against "Defensive War"

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
Almost everyone is incredulous at my pacifist opposition to so-called "defensive war."  In last week's debate, Ilya Somin's case began with this supposedly clear-cut case of legitimate war.  What could possibly be wrong with a country using military means to... MORE

I've set up the resource page for my recent "Liberty and Foreign Policy" debate with Ilya Somin, including the complete audio (now in mp3), my Powerpoint slides, and Somin's outline.  Enjoy.P.S. Special thanks to Chris Baylor for organizing and handling... MORE

Fight, Flight, Submission: War and Rhetorical Asymmetry

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
My sons and I read some sad stories together.  Most recently, we shared Maus, Art Spiegelman's transcendent graphic novel about how his father survived Holocaust.  In the process, I've noticed something: My sons' preferred response to evil is always "fighting... MORE

People frequently try to refute my pacifism by merely saying "Hitler."  "If only Britain and France had declared war and unseated Hitler when he occupied the Rheinland in 1936!" they say.  My quick reply is, "Yes, but I've got a... MORE

Pacifism Redux

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Today I'm debating pacifism - another position I acquired in the process of blogging - with Ilya Somin at GMU's law school.  My pacifist writings so far:1. Why libertarians should be pacifists, not isolationists.2. The common-sense case for pacifism -... MORE

Finished Reading Pallotta

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Arnold Kling
Bracing diagnosis, disappointing prescription. Having finished Uncharitable, I have that capsule review. As I see the diagnosis, donors evaluate non-profits on criteria that are not related to results. The big one is "percentage of donations that go to the cause."... MORE

More Thoughts on Philanthropy

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
From Gara Lamarche: it is values that move people to enthusiasm and action, not more sterile concepts of metrics and results. Read the whole thing. Rarely do I encounter a piece that I disagree with so broadly and so deeply.... MORE

What I'm Reading

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
Arnold Kling
Uncharitable, by Dan Pallotta. Recommended by Amy Willis with regard to my discussion of nonprofits. So far (I am less than 1/4 through), the book says the following: 1. Organizations that seek to achieve charitable ends should be permitted to... MORE

John Goodman on Justice

Economics of Health Care
David Henderson
A few days ago, I posted on a John Goodman post in which he asserted that he knows of no theory of justice that would imply that the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, is a good idea. There followed a... MORE

The Soup Kitchen Example

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Arnold Kling
David French writes, In this category are all the things you do when a person typically thinks of "fighting poverty." Serve in a soup kitchen. Donate canned goods. Sponsor a child. Fight for the right candidates and public policies. Volunteer... MORE

Judge the Religious Turing Test

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
You can now vote in Leah Libresco's religious Turing Test.  Anyone care to predict the results?  Propose a bet?Update: I just voted.  Overall, amazingly credible answers - I suspect Leah is drawing heavily from ultra-sophisticated Ivy League Christians.  The main... MORE

Religious Turing Test Update

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Leah Libresco is moving forward with her proposed religious Turing Test - and she'd appreciate your comments on her draft.  Stay tuned for the result.... MORE

Non-profits, yet again

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Christopher writes, imagine three axis [axes], one that runs from voluntary to coerced, one that runs from private means to public means, and one that runs from public ends to private ends. Now imagine three spheres: one tends towards voluntary,... MORE

Still More on Non-profits

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
A commenter suggested, among other readings, Susan Rose-Ackerman: an organization that binds itself not to distribute its surpluses to owners may be trusted more by customers and donors unable to judge service quality directly... Second...The nonprofit form provides a weak... MORE

More on Profits vs. Non-profits

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Picking up some comments on this post: 1. Non-profit is just a tax status. 2. One thinks of non-profits serving the poor, with for-profits serving the affluent. On (1), I can see it for hospitals. When I go to a... MORE

Lessons from the Yellowjacket War

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
On July 13, I'm debating pacifism with Ilya Somin at the GMU law school.  (The debate's open to the public).  Yet last weekend I declared war on four nests of yellowjackets on my property.  I won, but one stinger pierced... MORE

On Profits vs. Non-profits

Political Economy
Arnold Kling
I am curious about the intuition that people have about non-profit work. The standard intuition is that going to work for a profitable company means that you are not serving people, only the profits of the company. On the other... MORE

A.B.A.: Always Be Advising

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I often annoy other economists by giving advice.  "Economists are supposed to describe behavior, not change it," they insist.  But they couldn't be more wrong.  Economics is inherently advisory.  Anytime an economist notices a discrepancy between (a) the world as... MORE

Anthony Gregory on Why the Left Hates Us

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Libertarian Anthony Gregory has written the best article I've read this year. I've been trying to decide what excerpts to paste in and I found myself wanting to paste the whole thing in. I'll restrain myself and use a few... MORE

Perfectionist Parents: Perfect Yourself

Family Economics
Bryan Caplan
I've got a question for perfectionist parents who strive to raise prodigies: Instead of pushing your kids to succeed, why don't you try to perfect yourself instead?  Why don't you start taking piano lessons for three hours a day?  Why... MORE

Is Equality Before the Law Always Good?

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In an article today in The Freeman on-line, economist Steven Horwitz makes a case for allowing same-sex marriage. In doing so he makes the following statement: Government must treat all its citizens equally, and nothing paid for with tax dollars... MORE

On July 13 at 7 PM, I'll be debating GMU law professor (and my co-author) Ilya Somin on "What Liberty Implies for Foreign Policy."  Location:George Mason Law School Room 221 3301 Fairfax Drive Arlington, VAI will defend pacifism.  Ilya will... MORE

How to Make Me Lose an Ideological Turing Test

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I bet I would do relatively well on ideological Turing Tests.  But whenever I say the words "I bet," my mind starts to imagine losing scenarios.  If someone wanted to make me fail an ideological Turing Test, what kinds of... MORE

The Ideological Turing Test: Religious Edition

Economic Methods
Bryan Caplan
Leah Anthony Libresco is looking for partners and judges for an ideological Turing Test on Christianity and atheism:I'd like to put my money where my mouth is and play in an ideological Turing Test against a Christian blogger. We could... MORE

Two Tries at the Ideological Turing Test

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
1. DeLong pretends to be Nozickian.2. I pretend to be conservative. Give me more examples of attempts to pass Ideological Turing Tests in the comments; I'll link to them.... MORE

Euvoluntary Employment

Labor Market
Arnold Kling
Karl Smith asks, If we accept that the labor market would clear at One Cent Per Year. Then the question is why has the labor market not cleared while at the same time the wage has not dropped to One... MORE

The Ideological Turing Test

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In a Turing Test, a computer tries to pass for human:A human judge engages in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, each emulating human responses. All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot... MORE

Munger on Voluntary Exchange

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Mike Munger and Russ Roberts discuss what makes an exchange truly voluntary. Munger suggests that if my best alternative to doing business with you is a really lousy alternative, then many people would deny that my decision to do the... MORE

Krugman on Favorite Books

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Sophie Roell interviews Paul Krugman on his five favorite books. A couple of highlights: I think it's actually a point when you're quite vulnerable, because you are looking for someone who is going to offer you all the answers. Some... MORE

Amartya Sen on Women in Science

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
As I mentioned in a post last week, I was at a Liberty Fund seminar in Indianapolis last weekend at which we discussed Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice. Before that, I had read only sections of his books and... MORE

Cowardly Positions

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One common criticism of pacifism is that it is "cowardly."  What might this mean - and is it true?1. "Pacifism is cowardly" = "Pacifists are cowards."  Given the unpopularity of pacifism - and the extreme unlikelihood that your pacifism tips... MORE

Medicare Rules: Bring 'Em On

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
David Henderson argues that (thanks to the Gipper, no less), Medicare imposes price controls on health care:But what made it a system of price controls was that the government, along with DRGs, made it illegal for hospitals to charge even... MORE

The Golden Age of Immigration

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Gilded Age was no libertarian paradise, and it certainly had far lower per-capita GDP than the modern world.  Nevertheless, the Gilded Age was awesome in many important ways.  Above all, as Goldin, Cameron, and Balarajan explain in Exceptional People:... MORE

Robots of the Future: A Poor Argument for Socialism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
For Matt Yglesias, my vision of the future - "Simon for people, Malthus for robots" - is a powerful argument for socialism:Another way of putting it would be Simon (i.e., plenty) for capital and Malthus (i.e., subsistence) for labor. That,... MORE

Steven Levitt's "Daughter Test"

Economics of Crime
David Henderson
It wasn't until the U.S. government's crackdown on internet poker last week that I came to realize that the primary determinant of where I stand with respect to government interference in activities comes down to the answer to a simple... MORE

Replies to Critics on Cato Unbound

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Highlights from my reply to Greg Clark:I am pleased to in principle accept Greg's proposed bet: So if Bryan wants to bet even odds that farmland prices will be higher relative to average wages in 30 years time, I am... MORE

How Could the Draft Not Be Slavery?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
From the Free Dictionary:slav·er·y  1. The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household.con·scrip·tion 1. Compulsory enrollment, especially for the armed forces; draft.To me, you'd have to be blind to deny the libertarian truism that... MORE

Atlas Shrugged--And I Didn't

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
David Henderson
My title is a takeoff on the title of P.J. O'Rourke's panning of the movie Atlas Shrugged. He obviously didn't like it and, with an eye for detail, noticed the strange world in which cell phones exist but oil pipelines... MORE

Richard Ely, Racist and State Worshipper

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Who Was This Guy? As many long-time members of the American Economics Association (I was one for about 25 years) know, one of the famous economists to whom the AEA pays respects is Richard Ely. An annual lecture at the... MORE

Hanson on Regulatory Bias

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Don't miss this great post by the great Robin Hanson.  The heart of it:[R]egulations hold some things to higher standards than others, even when the relevant consequences seem similar. For example we seem to prefer: Individuals over firmsNon-money over money... MORE

Why Libertarians Should Not Fear Good Things

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
From my reply on Cato Unbound to Matthew Connelly:As far as I can tell, Connelly doesn't deny that fertility is good.  But he's afraid of the consequences of admitting that fertility is good. After all, won't governments take advantage of... MORE

The Morality of Fractional Reserve Banking

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One of Murray Rothbard's strangest doctrines is that fractional reserve banking (i.e. virtually all banking with which First World consumers have any direct experience) is inherently fraudulent and should therefore be illegal.  As he puts it in The Mystery of... MORE

Seagren on Service

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
To David's recommendation, I wish to add mine. One of my pet peeves is people who describe volunteer work and non-profit work as "giving back." Instead, working for a profit can be (and, I suspect, usually is) a higher form... MORE

Chad Seagren on Service in a Free Society

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Today, while most Americans celebrate, quite appropriately, the killing of a mass murderer, Osama bin Laden, we are likely to hear encomiums to people in the U.S. military. In the May Econlib Feature Article, one member of that military, Major... MORE

Of Kids and Kardashians

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Check out Steve Sailer's appreciative review of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.  In many ways, we see eye to eye.  But passages like this show just how far apart we are.  Steve:Let me say that Caplan has written a... MORE

Cowen Contra Pacifism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I don't have time just now to reply to the many new comments on my pacifism, but I can't let Tyler Cowen's critique go unanswered.  At the outset, let me say that I realize how crazy and naive my position... MORE

Pacifism and Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma

Game Theory
Arnold Kling
Tyler Cowen argues with Bryan on pacifism. There is also a Lucas critique issue of how the bad guys start behaving once they figure out that the good guys are pacifist, and I don't see him discussing that either. I... MORE

Pacifism Defended

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
It's time to reply to my critics.  Here goes:Mike DC writes:Suppose some jerk burns a Koran, and devout Muslims respond with by killing every American they come across. Should I, and other Americans not organize for our collective defense? Whether... MORE

Reply to Aeon Skoble

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Like Aeon Skoble, I think my co-blogger Bryan Caplan has overstated the case for pacifism and against defensive war. Also, in his article to which he linked, Professor Skoble makes some important distinctions that libertarians sometimes fail to make and... MORE

Rights: A License to Kill?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I am a libertarian and a pacifist.  Contrary to many, the two are not merely compatible; given the ugly realities of the world, the former implies the latter.  As I've put it before:I'm a pacifist not because I oppose self-defense,... MORE

Applied Ignorance

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A key premise of my pacifism:2. The long-run benefits of war are highly uncertain.  Some wars - most obviously the Napoleonic Wars and World War II - at least arguably deserve credit for decades of subsequent peace.  But many other... MORE

The GMU Difference

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
How are GMU economists different from normal economists?  Many ways, but here's one that's struck me lately:Them: Impossibly high intellectual standards for a handful of high-status research questions - and embarrassingly low intellectual standards for all other questions.Us: Reasonably high... MORE

Using Loopholes

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose an economist tells you about an obscure tax loophole: You can reduce your taxes without going to jail.  You've never taken advantage of it because you've never even heard about it.  But when you investigate his factual claims, they... MORE

Epistocracy and the Anti-Authority Tenet

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
While you're waiting for Jason Brennan's The Ethics of Voting to arrive in the mail, check out his new article in The Philosophical Quarterly.  In the book, Brennan merely argues that uninformed and irrational voters should voluntarily abstain.  In the... MORE

Jason Brennan's The Ethics of Voting

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Jason Brennan is my favorite philosopher under the age of 40.  Now he's published a marvelous book, The Ethics of Voting, with Princeton University Press.  In 210 short pages, he raises and resolves a series of ethical dilemmas every potential... MORE

Posner on Means-Testing

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
From Richard Posner, the man who possibly inspired me to stay in econ:Perhaps some politician will be bold enough to advocate that all entitlements programs, including social security as well as Medicare, be means-tested, as Medicaid is. There is no... MORE

40 Things I Learned in My First 40 Years

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Today I turn 40.  To ease the pain, I've decided to write a list of important lessons I've learned during my first four decades.  In no particular order:Economics1. Supply-and-demand solves countless mysteries of the world - everything from rent control... MORE

Michael Huemer Profile

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Don't miss this great profile of my favorite living philosopher, the noble Michael Huemer of the University of Colorado.  Intro:Michael Huemer asks his students to imagine being a neighborhood vigilante. Suppose, he says, you live in a crime-ridden neighborhood, and... MORE

Future of Political Philosophy Bleg

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Will any fundamentally new political philosophy emerge in the Western world during the next fifty years?  If not, why not?  If so, what is it likely to be?... MORE

Hypocrisy and Child Labor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Robin Hanson on child labor:Kids work hard at school, housework, sports, practicing music, supporting clubs, etc. and none of this cruelty is prevented by "child labor" laws. Such laws only prevent getting paid to work; they don't even stop kids... MORE

Desert Defended

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Matt Zwolinski responds at length to my two earlier posts on poverty and desert.  I'm going to limit myself to his most telling points.1. Discerning desert is doubly difficult:It's important to distinguish between two kinds of problem we might have... MORE

Moral Risk-Aversion and the Deserving Poor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Another passage by Matt Zwolinski on poverty and desert that keeps coming back to me:[A]ny measures we take to diminish the likelihood of false positives - people getting welfare who don't deserve it - will probably increase the likelihood of... MORE

Cowen on Moral Intuitionism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler Cowen writes:I am a moral realist and intuitionist, as is Bryan, but my view on applications is very different.[...]...Bryan wants to "coin" a large number of (non-trivial) moral truths this way, such as his claim that taxation is morally... MORE

Hanson's Pragmatic Pacifism

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
I just discovered that I could conceivably co-author Pragmatic Pacifism with Robin Hanson.  Robin:War is bad. Defending against war, that can be justified. But starting a war, well that is presumably very bad. Not that starting a war could never... MORE

The Greatest American Hero

Books: Reviews and Suggested Readings
David Henderson
I wrote this one evening in the fall of 1981 after watching an episode of "The Greatest American Hero" in which the key character interacts with the Lone Ranger. I had known nothing ab0ut the show but I was suddenly... MORE

In Search of the Deserving Poor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
While vacationing in Italy, I kept thinking about philosopher Matt Zwolinski's thoughts on the deserving and undeserving poor:[T]he mere fact that there is a valid moral distinction to be made does not entail that we want our public policies to... MORE

Absurdist Passages of the Year

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Bryan Caplan
How many of you don't find the following passage from the NYT utterly bizarre?Admiral Hueber also said that the coalition was communicating with rebel forces. But later, when he was pressed on whether the United States was telling rebels not... MORE

Critical Thinking on the Holocaust

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Since students actually know so little, I must explain the differences between Holocaust deniers, Holocaust minimizers, and Hitler rehabilitationists. I must explain propaganda and euphemism and anti-Zionism. I must acquaint them with fascism, eugenics, Romantic struggle and surrender, Einsatzgruppen and... MORE

Callous Reflections

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Like Jason Brennan, I think that truly "callous" libertarians are few and far between.  But I keep thinking about reasons for the misperception.  I already mentioned two.  Libertarians are relatively unafraid to...1. Make a distinction between the deserving and the... MORE

The Sarajevo of the Cato Institute?

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
David Gordon makes a category error. The other factor was more fundamental; we have discussed it already but now Rothbard elaborated on it in more detail. Crane and Koch, in a quest for political power, wished to compromise with libertarian... MORE

Failings of Left-Wing and Market-Oriented Economists

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Tyler Cowen (here and here) and co-blogger Arnold Kling have commented on what they see as the main failings of left-wing and market-oriented economists. I agree with much of what Arnold said and some of what Tyler said: my disagreements... MORE

Maybe Liberaltarianism Has a Prayer After All

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Ezra Klein sounds like my clone when arguing with the Secretary of Agriculture.  Highlight:EK: You keep saying that rural Americans are good and decent people, that they work hard and participate in their communities. But no one is questioning that.... MORE

Jason Brennan, my favorite philosopher of democracy, ponders the "case of the missing callous libertarians" at Bleeding Heart Libertarians: If you only read academic philosophy discussing orthodox right libertarianism, you might expect that libertarians are callous and indifferent to poverty...If... MORE

Kids and Happiness: The Sweet and Sour Spot

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've heard a wide variety of objections to my forthcoming book on kids.  But the thinkers I most respect usually argue that the empirical happiness research is my Achilles heel.  After all, they point out, the negative effect of kids... MORE

Rand Paul on Letterman

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
When Rand Paul ran for the U.S. Senate, my worst case rating of him, out of 10, was about a 4, and my best case was about a 7. One of my biggest concerns was that he seemed to waffle... MORE

Agnostics for Pacifism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A striking observation from my childhood friend Ghassan Bridi:Had we never invaded Iraq, we may have seen the people of Iraq today take to the streets and topple a despotic dictator in the second most populous Arab country on this... MORE

Mao's Great Famine and Depraved Indifference

Economic History
Bryan Caplan
In Mao's Great Famine, Frank Dikötter joins the elite club of historians who live up to their duty to impose "the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict on wrong."  On purely literary terms I still prefer Jasper... MORE

The Conscience of a Liberaltarian

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Immigration restrictions are the single worst policy the First World imposes.  They're a massive violation of human freedom with awful consequences.  That's the main reason I write about the issue so frequently and so doggedly.But to be honest, I have... MORE

Rand the Intuitionist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last week I saw the debate between my co-author Ilya Somin of the GMU Law School, and Will Thomas from the Atlas Society.  The topic: Are there conflicts of interest between rational people?  If you're inclined to respond, "Of course. ... MORE

Reply to David on Immigration

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last month I digested my position on the political externalities of immigration, but I'm happy to elaborate.  David writes:I could imagine that leading to an additional 300 million people coming into the United States within a couple of years. My... MORE

David Gordon: Harvard University Press Leans Left

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
The latest issue of Econ Journal Watch is out today and one of the articles is by David Gordon. It's titled, "The Ideological Profile of Harvard University Press: Categorizing 494 Books Published 2000-2010." In it, Gordon methodically goes through 494... MORE

The Stranger

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
What do you call a man you never met?  A stranger.What are you morally forbidden to do to a stranger?  You may not murder him.  You may not attack him.  You may not enslave him.  Neither may you rob him.What... MORE

More Liberaltarian Than Thou

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Karl Smith calls this line from Will Wilkinson "liberaltarianism in one sentence":It's best to just maximize growth rates, pre-tax distribution be damned, and then fund wicked-good social insurance with huge revenues from an optimal tax scheme.Smith adds:A core hope of... MORE

The Overlords of Immigration

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In his Cato Unbound essay "Against Overlordship," my colleague Dan Klein argued that the heart of the modern liberal position is the idea that the citizens of a country collectively own their country:Although they may not be fully conscious of... MORE

Advantage Kant

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler (via Ken Feinstein) says I should raise my opinion of Kant.  After reading this paragraph, I can only say: Done!The usual touchstone of whether what someone asserts is mere persuasion or at least a subjective conviction, i.e., firm belief,... MORE

What Will You Do If Someone Tries to Kill You?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I largely agree with David Henderson's remarks on foreign policy (here, here, and here), but his initial post makes a rather improbable claim.  Here's David:As I once said, after someone in a roundtable discussion had called me a pacifist, "If... MORE

Engage Pacifism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
It's time for a belated reply to Arnold's critique of pacifism.  I wish Arnold would engage the three-premise argument I actually made, but I'll take what I can get.  Here's Arnold:I just cannot buy into pacifism as some libertarians express... MORE

The Improbably Awful Conservative Coincidence

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Why is it the case that conservatives are most passionate about the two issues - immigration and war - where they are least libertarian?  It seems like an improbably awful coincidence.... MORE

Crime Without Hate, Hate Without Crime

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
The topic of hate has come up in disparate places lately. On the one hand,Mark Thoma points to Daniel Little, who offers an analysis of conservatives as motivated by hate. On the other hand, Matthew J. Franck calls this "playing... MORE

Why the Great Leap Forward Was Murder

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Even scholars well familiar with the horrors of the Great Leap Forward occasionally refuse to call Mao Zedong a murderer.  Why not?  Because Mao didn't know.  People kept telling him that his crazy agricultural schemes were working wonders.  What does... MORE

Raico on Howe and Trotsky

Labor Market
David Henderson
[Irving] Howe ends by saying of Trotsky that "the example of his energy and heroism is likely to grip the imagination of generations to come," adding that, "even those of us who cannot heed his word may recognize that Leon... MORE

Labeling the Ridiculous

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Jonah Goldberg's critique of the "No Labels" movement is a cogent defense of stereotype accuracy and a model of elegant ridicule.Stereotype accuracy: If I tell you I'm a conservative Republican, you'll have no idea what my views are on Buffy... MORE

Behaviorism Works Because It's False

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
"Behaviorism" describes a range of positions, but they all claim that we should focus on "observable behavior" instead of mere mental states.  (For more, see here, here, here, and here).  While this position is counterintuitive, it seems to work: One... MORE

Grisly Statistical Discrimination in The Road

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Bryan Caplan
Last night I saw The Road, a truly bleak post-apocalyptic movie.  [Warning: Minor spoilers.]  As I watched, I realized that I was witnessing a mighty counter-example to my views on the propriety of statistical discrimination.  In the movie, about 80%... MORE

The Stages of Libertarian Denial

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Libertarians set themselves apart from other political thinkers by habitually denying that government should do things.  Denial is therefore at the heart of libertarian thought.  Thanks to pop psychology, unfortunately, "denial" has come to mean "refusing to admit the truth"... MORE

Cliches of Anti-Pacifism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm a pacifist.  I realize that it's an unpopular position, but I'm still surprised by how quick people are to dismiss the position with cliches.  Here are three of the most common.1. "If you want peace, prepare for war."  This... MORE

Park Ranger, Continued

Economic Methods
Arnold Kling
My earlier post drew a number of helpful comments, including one from Karl Smith on his own blog. it is right that take the knowledge of market failure that we have and do what we can to alleviate what suffering... MORE

The Park Ranger and the Museum Curator

Economic Methods
Arnold Kling
Below is a metaphor I am working on. Feel free to comment.... MORE

Philosophical Correlations

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Public opinion research on philosophers was long in coming, but the results have been worth the wait.  Here are a bunch of tables summarizing the correlations between philosophers' positions.  Some are surprisingly low considering that they're near-tautological.  "Moral judgment: cognitivism"... MORE

Ozimek's Challenge to Paternalists

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Is paternalism a slippery slope or not?  People like Thaler insist that it's not.  Adam Ozimek ingeniously explains why disbelievers keep missing the evidence that the slippery slope is all too real.  Evidence like... San Francisco's ban on the Happy... MORE

Big Business and Regulatory Double Standards

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Robin Hanson points out yet another way that, contra left-libertarians, big business faces exceptionally and unreasonably harsh regulation:Many of our regulations apply to big firms more strongly than small firms, and and even less to homes. For example, many regulations... MORE

Return to Solipsism

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
In my "Solipsist's Guide to Comparative Advantage," I showed how, for all practical purposes, trade actually raises worker productivity.  Notice, though, that my example shows the productivity effects of trade if you and I have different absolute advantages: you're a... MORE

A Solipsist's Guide to Comparative Advantage

Microeconomics
Bryan Caplan
According to extreme solipsism, you're the only person who really exists.  Suppose this strange position were true.  What would it imply for the Law of Comparative Advantage?Consider a standard textbook problem with two agents: you and me.  By hypothesis, I'm... MORE

A Noble Nobel for Medicine

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Robert Edwards, IVF/"test-tube baby" pioneer, has won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.  From the official press release:As early as the 1950s, Edwards had the vision that IVF could be useful as a treatment for infertility. He worked systematically to realize... MORE

Rational Religious Ignorance?

Economics and Culture
Bryan Caplan
People aren't just rationally ignorant about politics and economics; they also seem to be rationally ignorant about religion.  The latest Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll weighed, measured, and found wanting the religious knowledge of over 3000 adult... MORE

When Are We the Bad Guys?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In response to "Terrible Turnaround," Scott Sumner writes:Suppose that in 1943 we knew for a fact that dropping a bomb on Germany and Japan, and killing 3,000 civilians, would have caused them to surrender.  Would the act have been morally... MORE

Ed Crane on David Brooks

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
David Brooks wrote what I thought of as one of his strangest editorials last month and I didn't get around to commenting on it. Titled "A Case of Mental Courage," it led off with a gruesome story about a woman... MORE

Rod Replies

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Rod Long replies to my "Why I Am Not a Left-Libertarian":Bryan's response focuses on the ways in which free markets would solve the problems I point to if they were really problems. But the whole point of my position is... MORE

Terrible Turnaround

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
We often have ethical arguments about when it's morally permissible for us to do seemingly terrible things to them.  Examples:1. When is it morally permissible for us to deliberately drop a nuclear bomb on their civilians?2. When is it morally... MORE

Against High-IQ Misanthropy

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Out of all the reactions I've heard to Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, the most disturbing are all variations on "Except stupid people.  They shouldn't have kids."  I could snark, "You mean people like you?," but that would be... MORE

Selfish/Self-Interested

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Agree or disagree: "Selfish" is to "self-interested" as "cheap" is to "thrifty."Please explain your answer.... MORE

Ozimek's Reductios

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Adam Ozimek offers two reductios against my claim that it's almost always good to create life.  Reductio #1:[I]f you take seriously the notion that the utility of not being born is less than the utility of being born, it seems... MORE

My Syllabus of Errors

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If Brad DeLong himself has a few mistakes to confess, imagine how many I've made!  I discuss quite a few in my intellectual autobiography, but here are my highlights (lowpoints?), in rough chronological order:1. I used to think Catholicism was... MORE

The Economics of the Gift of Life

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If someone gives another person $100, almost all economists agree that the recipient is better off.  Hard-line neoclassical economists will say it's true by definition; the rest won't be so emphatic, but they'll confidently agree.  Even happiness researchers will probably... MORE

Do Mark Shields and Michael Gerson Understand Principles?

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
No. Well, I think we saw some of that in the mosque controversy, where the president first set out a very clear and ringing principle, and then retreated from it significantly. Saturday, when he qualified his unqualified endorsement of Friday... MORE

The Horwitz Challenge

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
On Facebook, Steve Horwitz writes:The next time you're engaged in a political discussion with someone who has very strong views different from your own, ask them if they can name two famous thinkers or politicians whose politics are opposed to... MORE

How Far Does the Five-Organ Hypothetical Get Us?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Simple moral theories are almost always easy to refute with simple hypotheticals.  Yet in the real world, right and wrong rarely seem ambiguous to me.  The reason isn't that I think that consequences don't count.  I take consequences seriously.  My... MORE

How Bad Was Moral Relativism?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I just finished re-reading Paul Johnson's Modern Times.  According to Johnson, moral relativism was the root of all evil in the twentieth century.  I'm tempted to agree, but ultimately I doubt that meta-ethics played more than a supporting role in the statist horrors... MORE

The Conservative Dissenter

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Convincing conservatives to legalize drugs is an uphill battle for the Libertarian Missionary.  But how about for the Conservative Dissenter - the conservative who tries to convince other conservatives to abandon the drug war?  I'm thinking of the late William... MORE

The Libertarian Missionary

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
You've already heard from the Conservative Missionary - the hypothetical conservative debater eager to convert libertarians to his side.  Now it's time for the Libertarian Missionary to take the podium. Why Conservatives Should Be LibertariansI agree with my conservative opponent... MORE

Persuasion

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
A number of commenters found, as did I, that Bryan's conservative missionary statement was quite powerful. (I'll give my own criticism or two in a later post but that's not what I want to focus on here.) The question is:... MORE

The Conservative Missionary

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I had a blast at Wednesday's Libertarianism vs. Conservatism Debate at Cato.  It's great to see students who care enough about fundamental ideas to publicly argue about them.  Some attendees would have preferred a more focused topic, but I would... MORE

Last week, I posed the following challenge:[T]he inevitable existence of some statistical discrimination doesn't make the practice immune to criticism.  You can grant that it's OK to some degree, but - even if the law is silent - still limited... MORE

Cloning v. Cryonics

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Which is more outrageous: cloning yourself and raising the clone as your son, or freezing your head in hope of achieving immortality?  Why?... MORE

Cryonics and the Hanson Family

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Wordsmith Kerry Howley has a great piece on the Hanson family and cryonics in the New York Times Magazine:"I'm just really terribly curious," Robin told me in January over Skype. "Cryonics isn't just living a little longer. It's also living... MORE

No matter what they say, everyone engages in statistical discrimination. (See also here).  Judging everyone as an individual is expensive, and relying on statistical generalizations is a cheap and effective alternative.  You don't clutch your purse when you see a... MORE

What I'm "Dogmatic" About

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler recently wrote:If you're very dogmatic in one area, you may be less dogmatic in others.  I've also met people -- I won't name names -- who are extremely dogmatic on ethical issues but quite open-minded on empirics.  The ethical... MORE

The U.S. government does much more to abridge freedom of association than freedom of exclusion.  But I still think freedom of exclusion is worth defending.  Over at Cato Unbound, my friend David Bernstein has presented a libertarian defense of "the... MORE

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
"Worker Bee" Stings the Blogosphere The title I've chosen for this post could have been the title of a short recent piece by self-described "worker bee" economist Kartik Athreya. (The article, titled "Economics is Hard. Don't Let Bloggers Tell You... MORE

Association, Exclusion, Liberty, and the Status Quo

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One of my conservative friends keeps telling me that, "The right to associate is the right to exclude."  As a libertarian, I agree.  But the subtext of his slogan is that libertarians focus far too much on government regulations that... MORE

Inflation, Socialism, and Moral Indifference

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Back in 2008, I told my lunch buddies that the bailouts were worse than four years of 10% inflation.  Now I think that's an understatement.  Crazy new policy initiatives will probably end after the next election, but the idea trap's... MORE

Traditional Third World Elites: A Qualified Defense

Cross-country Comparisons
Bryan Caplan
My parents and teachers raised me to despise traditional Third World elites - not kleptocrats like Mobutu or Marcos, who were barely on their radar, but anyone who lived well in the midst of poverty.  "The extremes of wealth and... MORE

In "Cato Memories," I recalled the joy of cleaning the archives:In a footnote in Why Americans Hate Politics, E.J. Dionne wrote: "My thanks to Ed Crane and David Boaz of the Cato Institute for letting me read through their excellent... MORE

How Libertarian Was the Civil Rights Movement?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Rand Paul is in the news for expressing (and then apparently recanting) what I've long seen as the standard libertarian view of civil rights legislation: 1. Government discrimination should be illegal.2. Private discrimination should be legal.3. Private discrimination is immoral.In... MORE

Liberal Conflation

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Academic political philosophers use the word "liberalism" in a way that would baffle almost anyone else.  (See here and here).  Who counts?  Virtually all the thinkers that normal Americans would call "liberal" + mainstream thinkers who call themselves "conservatives" and... MORE

IQ and Immigration: Only a Slight Caricature

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Mr. Human Biodiversity: The average IQ of immigrants from Mexico is 11 points less than ours.  Therefore, let's hunt them down like animals and cast them back into the fiery chasm from whence they came!Dr. Mainstream Intellectual: Only a monster... MORE

Amartya Sen vs. Dan Klein on Adam Smith

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Last week the New York Times blog had a post referencing an article on Adam Smith by Amartya Sen. Those of Sen's thoughts that sounded correct were not news and those that sounded like news were ones that I wasn't... 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

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

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

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

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

Balan and the Deserving Poor

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In last week's debate, David Balan surprisingly endorsed the old-fashioned view that only the "deserving" poor are entitled to taxpayer assistance.  As the debate proceeded, however, he admitted that in the real world, a lot of undeserving poor would receive... MORE

Relieving the Extreme Tension in Caplanian Thought

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler Cowen says he's found "the extreme tension in Caplanian thought":Bryan loves to stress the heritability of intelligence, income, and even life expectancy, among other variables.  But how can your parents be your fault?  This is a fundamental tension in... MORE

What Do We Owe the Deserving Sick?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The main recurring question in the comments on the Separation of Health and State Debate: What do we owe the deserving sick?Garett Harmon writes:Specifically, I feel like you sort of sidestepped the issue of what to do about people that... MORE

Michael Cannon's Brave Bet

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm impressed: Cato's Michael Cannon bet Karen Davenport, and let her adjudicate the outcome:I bet Davenport $20 that I could convince her that the following two claims are true:We agreed on three rules.  First, there would be no splitting the difference or... MORE

Hard-core libertarians often describe themselves as "isolationists."  As Murray Rothbard argued:Pending the dissolution of States, libertarians desire to limit, to whittle down, the area of government power in all directions and as much as possible... In foreign affairs, the goal... MORE

Walter Block on Capitalism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Walter writes: I readily admit that "capitalism" has a bad press, and its historical use is none too salutary either. But, the enemies of libertarianism are always trying to take words away from us. They have already long ago stolen... MORE

Haidt Responds

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Don't miss Jon Haidt's response to my questions.  It's in the comments, but I reproduce it here in its entirety. Dear Bryan, and other commentators: The question you ask is one of the most important ones we've been trying to... MORE

Haidt's Bet

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm impressed to learn that Haidt backed up his Five Foundations theory with his own cash.  The offer expired on August 1, 2009, but it ran for two years:IF ANYONE CAN DEMONSTRATE THE EXISTENCE OF AN ADDITIONAL FOUNDATION, OR SHOW... MORE

Liberal Puritanism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In the comments, Jason Malloy points out that Jon Haidt recently added a battery of questions to test liberal puritanism.  Here's Haidt's explanation:At Yourmorals.org we have always found that scores on the Purity/sanctity foundation are higher on the political right... MORE

Will's latest blogging on Jonathan Haidt's "five foundations" theory of morals inspires me to publicly ask Haidt a question that's been bugging me: How hard did you try to include items about Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity that would specifically appeal... MORE

The W.D. Ross Club?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Mankiw's latest paper takes the ethical significance of merit (or, as he calls it, "Just Deserts") seriously.  I'm tempted to propose that the two of us become the founding members of a W.D. Ross Club.  Its purpose: to promote the... 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

Cross-Country Musings

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there is within me an invincible summer." --Albert Camus I'm a congenital optimist. I can't tell you why exactly. Maybe it comes from my genes. Maybe it comes from figuring out... 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

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

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

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

Rand vs. Evolutionary Psychology: Part 2

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
"I want you to observe, that those who cry the loudest about their disillusionment, about the failure of virtue, the futility of reason, the impotence of logic - are those who have achieved the full, exact, logical result of... MORE

Huemer Flourishes

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Mike Huemer is excellent as usual at the Cato Unbound Rand symposium.  Here's his take on the Objectivists' "survival vs. flourishing debate":The important question, however, is not which view is Rand's, but which view is more likely true. On this,... MORE

Ayn Rand's Niche

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Michael Huemer writes, What accounts for the continuing and increasing interest in the work of Ayn Rand? Clearly, the attraction of her ideas has much to do with it. This is true despite the fact that most people, even in... MORE

Huemer on Rand at Cato

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Mike Huemer, my favorite philosopher in the world, is true to form in the Rand symposium at Cato Unbound.  Highlights:Rand is the most popular libertarian thinker because of her great novels, not her comprehensive philosophical system:Rand, I believe, is the... MORE

Simon vs. Ehrlich at a Funeral

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I recently attended my first funeral.  Even though I never met the deceased, I cried.  The only good thing to say about death is that it beats severe, chronic pain.  I didn't need a lot of details about her life... MORE

Moral Knowledge: A Question of Timing

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand writes:No philosopher has given a rational, objectively demonstrable, scientific answer to the question of why man needs a code of values.  So long as that question remained unanswered, no rational, scientific, objective code... MORE

Soft Rule-Utilitarianism

Institutional Economics
Arnold Kling
In my follow-up to James Manzi's manifesto, I brought up a notion that I call soft rule-utilitarianism. In the comments, Manzi interpreted this as being close to what I would call hard rule-utilitarianism.... MORE

An Alibertarian Case for Reproductive Laissez-Faire

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Libertarians often highlight "the right to do wrong."  We are often morally obliged to tolerate the wicked and foolish behavior of others.  A quote wrongly attributed to Voltaire beautifully captures the intuition: "I disapprove of what you say, but I... MORE

Stephen Kinsella offers an analogy to offend two disjoint movements in one swoop:I would love to see libertarian IP advocates have to live in a world that truly implemented their IP views fully, consistently--it would be like a communist USSR... MORE

Repugnantly Corrupt Bargains

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Even if I favored Obama's move towards socialized medicine, I'd still be repulsed by the bribes and opportunism of the legislation designed to take us there.  I can see the appeal of coercing for a pure cause.  I can't see... MORE

Distilling Famous Thinkers

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Dan Klein has thoughts on studying the great minds of the past. This bears on the issue of whether or not one can or should distill Hayek (or any other famous thinker) to five blog posts, as Bryan blithely suggested.... MORE

One Take on Strauss's Craziness

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If you think Rothbard was harsh on Hayek in Rothbard vs. the Philosophers, here's what he has to say about Leo Strauss's Thoughts on Machiavelli:First, something should be said about the manner, the texture, the methodology of this book, which... MORE

How Wise Is Repugnance?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I finally read that instant classic of bioethics, Leon Kass' "The Wisdom of Repugnance."  While its proximate goal is to urge a ban on human cloning, Kass advances a much more general ethical position:[R]epugnance is the emotional expression of deep... MORE

Today Tyler pointed me to the PhilPapers Surveys, the most fascinating opinion poll I've seen in years.  Not only does it survey philosophers' views on thirty classic and modern controversies; it meta-surveys philosophers' views on philosophers' typical views! The PhilPapers... MORE

The Ethics of Giving Machiavellian Advice

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A British reporter just gave me the following hypothetical: Suppose a politician wanted to cynically take advantage of voter irrationality to gain their support for costly measures to fight global warming.  What would his most effective strategies be?One of my... MORE

What Does Selfishness Require of Us?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I often wish the people around me were more selfish - or at least better at being selfish.  I know how to deal with rational, self-interested actors.  They're really quite charming.  If I want them to change their behavior, I... MORE

Obvious Stuff I Agree With

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
1. Nationalism is evil:One big problem with nationalism is that it is a leading cause of mass murder. Fascism and Nazism were, of course, extreme forms of nationalism and the mass murders Nazi and fascist regimes committed were justified on... 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Utility Isn't Everything

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Scott Sumner is one of the great monetary thinkers of our age.  But the news isn't all good - he's also a utilitarian.  I am frankly mystified by the enduring popularity of a moral theory subject to so many simple... MORE

I'm glad that Tyler's criticizing faux-agnostic economists, but I'm enough of a spoilsport to point out that he previously advised his readers to closet their inner economists - at least to their families.... MORE

Boettke on Masonomics

Austrian Economics
Arnold Kling
Pete Boettke pens An Open Letter to Tyler Cowen (and Arnold Kling). He has some nice things to say about Tyler.... MORE

Jimmy Carter's Ad Hominem

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Former President Carter Presents Us With a Teachable Moment One of the terms most misused in recent years is the charge of ad hominem. Once, when I testified before the Food and Drug Administration and quoted an FDA bureaucrat, Dr.... MORE

Against Human Weakness

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Whenever a politician is exposed as an adulterer, the same meme always resurfaces: "We're all human, we shouldn't have 'unrealistic' expectations, everyone has moments of weakness, so let's forgive and move on..."  Micha Gertner gives an eloquent version over at... MORE

Why Do People Oppose Organ Markets?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Will Wilkinson writes:It seems that Bryan thinks most opposition to markets in organs is a function of either ignorance of the likely consequences or perverse and exotic moral premises. This makes me wonder if he has ever debated this issue... MORE

At the Mont Pelerin Society, the Swedish economist who commented on my paper criticized me for stealth utilitarianism.  Since economics by itself has no policy implications, any economist who gives policy advice requires a moral premise.  Since I didn't explicitly... MORE

Hugh Grant on Ends and Means in Medical Care

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Warning: Spoilers for the movie, Extreme Measures. In the 1996 movie, Extreme Measures, Hugh Grant discovers a plot to purposely destroy the health of healthy homeless men in order to use them for medical experiments. He confronts the doctor who... MORE

The Economics and Philosophy of the Wall

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I usually dislike movies based on true stories.  But The Tunnel, a tale of five heroes who tunnel under the Berlin Wall to rescue their family and friends, is excellent.  We don't just vicariously enjoy the excitement of digging to... MORE

John Goodman on the Lottery

Income Distribution
David Henderson
I was waiting for others to take up John Goodman's June 12 challenge, but I think I've waited long enough. Goodman mentioned Neil Wanless, who won a $200+-million jackpot in a lottery. Statists, both economists and non-economists, often argue against... MORE

Whenever someone appeals to my charity, four questions pop into my head:1. Aren't you at least partly to blame for your problems?2. Can't someone closer to you help?3. Isn't there someone else in the world more deserving of my help?4.... MORE

What I Told the Liberaltarians

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I went to my first Liberaltarian Roundtable dinner last night to see Robin Hanson debate Ezra Klein on health care.  My favorite observation came from Brink Lindsey.  He approximately said:There are two health policies that liberals and libertarians would both... MORE

Are Libertarians Especially Predictable?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm grateful for the Wall St. Journal's coverage of EconLog, even if they can't spell my name correctly.  I was struck, though, by its "quibble": The blog's libertarian viewpoint means that you can almost always guess the punch line.Counter-quibbles:1.  The... MORE

Sumner's One-Sentence Class Autobiography

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Three years ago I asked economists to share their class autobiographies.  Yesterday Scott Sumner boiled his down to one sentence:At various times in my life I have been in all 5 quintiles of family income distribution, and yet I have... MORE

America vs. Japan: Where Is It Better for Kids?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In the U.S., 40% of babies are now born out of wedlock.  In Japan, only 2% are.  Clearly, then, it's better to be a baby in Japan than America, right?  For all my skepticism about nurture effects, I'm tempted to... MORE

Cowen on Vaticanomics

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In today's Wall Street Journal, Tyler Cowen has a piece, "Vaticanomics," in which he analyzes pieces of the Pope's latest encyclical letter, "Caritas in Veritate." He finds it less anti-market than many other commentators have. He doesn't provide enough detail... MORE

Flags, Free Speech, and Property Rights

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Law professor Eugene Volokh has a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal defending the right to burn the American flag as an exercise of free speech. It's good reasoning, and there's nothing in it that I disagree with. But... MORE

Reading Brad DeLong's "non-Socratic dialogue on social welfare functions" has inspired me to return to one of my favorite literacy forms.  In DeLong's original dialogue, Prof. Agathon helps Prof. Glaukon reach a shocking conclusion:Agathon: "That means that the market system,... MORE

Behaviorial Geneticists versus Policy Implications

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
In most disciplines, experts oversell their ability to give useful policy advice.  In behavioral genetics, however, experts strangely undersell their ability to give useful policy advice.  Here's a striking passage from Plomin, DeFries, McClearn, and McGuffin's leading behavioral genetics textbook:The... MORE

Hanson on Morality

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In other news, my debating partner Robin Hanson has come up with the least plausible moral principle since "Might makes right": [U]sually it is fine to do what you want, to get what you want. Robin manages to make his... MORE

Mankiw on Morality

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here's a great passage from the noble Mankiw:A moral and political philosophy is not like a smorgasbord, where you get to pick and choose the offerings you like and leave the others behind without explanation. It is more like your... MORE

Government Fundamentalists

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
What do you call people who want government solutions even when those solutions don't work? In my latest article in The Freeman, I introduce the term "government fundamentalists." Here's a passage: What should we call people who seem to regard... MORE

Richard Epstein on Happiness, III

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
This is my last post on Russ Roberts's interview of Richard Epstein on the happiness literature. For the previous installments see here and here. 40:40. Epstein talks about insights from sociobiology, now called evolutionary psychology. He points out their finding... MORE

Robin's Wishful Thinking

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I usually think of my colleague Robin Hanson as a hard-headed, "just-the-facts-ma'am" kind of guy.  But here's just the latest example I've found of Robin's wishful thinking:In our culture we are supposed to oppose ordinary bloody war, preferring peace when... MORE

Richard Epstein on Happiness, II

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
The word 'friend' is an important word. Last week, I posted about Russ Roberts's interview of Richard Epstein on the happiness literature. This is the second installment. 20:00. Epstein quotes Hayek pointing out that if we try to stabilize the... MORE

Caplan-Hanson Debate Video

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
You asked for it; now you've got it.  Thanks to the GMU Econ Society for doing the legwork.... MORE

Best Ridicule of the Week

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If, like Mike Huemer, you oppose both gun control and immigration restrictions, you'll appreciate this fine piece of ridicule from Chris Rasch:Just imagine what would happen if we relaxed gun laws. Poor people would buy guns. Uneducated people would buy... MORE

A Trillion Nazis Versus the Trolley Problem

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last week, I defended the usefulness of moral hypotheticals.  Last night, I dismissed trolley problems as "silly."  Fenn, an Econlog reader, is understandably puzzled: "Silly trolley problems?"Wasn't it just a coupla days ago you were talking about Nazis and defending... MORE

Is There a Right to Immigrate?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
That's the title question of philosopher Michael Huemer's latest essay.  Like his earlier piece, "Is There a Right to Own a Gun?,"  this is a masterpiece of applied ethics.  It begins with an explanation of the general concept of prima... MORE

Free Will and Behavioral Genetics

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Behavioral geneticists (BGs) don't like to be called "genetic determinists."  "No, no, no," they protest, "all we've shown is that genes exert some influence.  Twin and adoption studies show that environment is important, too."  But what would they say if... MORE

Robin Hanson now has an official catechism.  A key passage:I need not accept all clients, but for the clients I do accept I work to suggest deals that, if accepted, would get them more of what they want, relative to... MORE

The more I think about Robin's position on efficiency, the more it puzzles me.  In his talk, he heavily emphasized economists' need to build an iron-clad reputation for "neutrality" in order to persuade a world full of non-economists who distrust... MORE

Sumner's Free Trade Example

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm pleased to see that Scott Sumner's not just a cool macroeconomist; he also moonlights as an economic philosopher.  Here's a challenge Sumner poses to me inspired by my debate with Robin: Assume that imports of Barbie dolls will eliminate... MORE

Who Loses From Efficiency?

Cost-benefit Analysis
Bryan Caplan
During last night's debate, Robin repeated an argument many economists have made: In the long-run, maximizing efficiency is actually better for everyone.  If we consistently adopt any policy with benefits greater than costs, then the times that you win will... MORE

Are Grotesque Hypotheticals Cheap Shots?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In my opening statement for last night's Caplan-Hanson Debate, I relied heavily on a couple of grostesque hypotheticals:...Robin endorses an endless list of bizarre moral claims.  For example, he recently told me that "the main problem" with the Holocaust was... MORE

Pre-Debate Disagreement

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
In his promo for Tuesday's Caplan-Hanson debate, Robin writes:We don't actually disagree that much; basically we both like debates but couldn't find anyone else to debate us.  So we looked for something we sorta disagree on, and will at least... MORE

A Price on Integrity

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In Peggy Noonan's latest weekly column in the Wall Street Journal, she quotes theologian Michael Novak's encomiums to capitalism. The quotes reminded me of an event I spoke at some years ago. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute had sponsored the event... MORE

Chapters for a book on Masonomics

Austrian Economics
Arnold Kling
Should I write it? I do have other projects, but Tyler believes in multitasking. Possible chapters (not necessarily in this order): 1. The love-hate relationship with Austrian economics. Pete Boettke (note that he has co-bloggers) is relatively gung-ho Austrian, but... MORE

Who Said It? Larry Summers

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In yesterday's post, I gave a long quote from the book, Commanding Heights, by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, and I asked who said it. Two of the commenters answered correctly: Larry Summers. Here's the paragraph that follows the two... MORE

Who Said It?

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
"Three things happened to change people's thinking in recent years," he continued. "First, they have seen how badly the public sector can mess things up. With competition, things seem to go better. Innovation happens. The world is more focused on... MORE

Watchmen Non-Spoiler

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I give the Watchmen movie 3.5/4 stars.  This isn't because I'm a big fan of comic book movies.  Indeed, I greatly prefer Rachel Getting Married to the supposedly excellent Spiderman 2.The deal-breaker, for me, is a simple question: "What exactly... MORE

Ayn Rand Villains Walk the Earth!

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last night I was part of a John Stossel panel of bailout/stimulus critics.  It's supposed to air a week from Friday; you'll definitely see my face, but whether you'll hear my voice is up to the editor.During the session, I... MORE

Krugman's Collectivism

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
When someone accuses someone else of stupidity and the someone who does the accusing is generally pretty smart, I expect that the accusation, even if nasty, will at least hit the target. Not so Paul Krugman's attack on Ohio Republican... MORE

The Principal of Convenience

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Eliezer beautifully articulates the moral outrage I felt from the age of 3 to 18:Another example would be the principal who, faced with two children who were caught fighting on the playground, sternly says:  "It doesn't matter who started the... MORE

Rick Santelli: My New Hero

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In response to Bryan Caplan's post this morning about Hank Rearden and Atlas Shrugged, one of the commenters, Bob Murphy, made an insightful comment and another commenter, megapolisomancy, recommended the following youtube video of CNBC's Rick Santelli. This is fresh... MORE

Favorite "Liberal" Economist

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
In the 1990s, before Paul Krugman became a regular columnist for the New York Times, my friend Alan Reynolds referred to Krugman as "my favorite Keynesian economist." What he had in mind, I think, was Krugman's great popular articles on... MORE

Fraud and Punishment

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
While I'm not a libertarian absolutist, there are plenty of criticisms of strict libertarian doctrine that don't hold water.  Two that have been on my mind lately:1. Will Wilkinson doesn't see why libertarianism prohibits fraud:Even when I was a believer... MORE

SummaryIn this chapter ("Property and Exchange"), Rothbard introduces the "non-aggression axiom," also often known as the "non-initiation of force axiom."  The intuition is simple enough: No one has the right to start using physical violence or the threat thereof against... MORE

Response to Shelby Steele

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
I sent the following letter to the Wall Street Journal, but I'm guessing, given that they haven't published it yet, that they won't. So I am: I was shocked by two statements by my friend and Hoover colleague, Shelby Steele... MORE

The Price of Everything

Economic Education
David Henderson
My review of Russ Roberts' excellent economics novel, The Price of Everything is in the latest issue of Regulation. Roberts is definitely growing as a novelist. I like it better than The Invisible Heart, which I liked better than his... MORE

Coasean Fortune Cookie of the Day

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The Coase Theorem is a tautology, but as tautologies go, it's an inspiration.  Once upon a time, it inspired me to say, "Coasean reasoning only holds perfectly with zero transactions costs. But the Coasean insight that creative bargaining is a... MORE

The Power of Friedman

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
My main New Year's resolution, which I've kept for two days so far, is not to waste time channel surfing but, instead, to watch interesting DVDs. On New Year's Day, I watched the last half hour of the Keira Knightley... MORE

Tyrannicide: Now in a Theater Near You

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Valkyrie, Bryan Singer's film about the 1944 officers' plot against Hitler, is worth seeing.  But I'm admittedly a little biased.  After all, my first academic publication (in the Humane Studies Review) has a whole section on the philosophy of tyrannicide.  In hindsight, I'm... MORE

The Law: Going from Bad to Worse

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
At risk of offending my many friends in the legal academy, I think that law is a shockingly phony discipline.  Virtually everyone - liberal, conservative, Marxist, libertarian, or whatever - imagines that the law conveniently agrees with what they favor... MORE

The Immortal Dilemma

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose you were offered the following gamble:1. With probability p, you will live forever at your current age.2. With probability (1-p), you instantly, painlessly die.What is your critical value of p?  If you combine expected utility theory with the empirical... MORE

The Immigrant in My Basement

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When I advocate open borders (and I mean truly open borders, not the 95% closed borders of the U.S.), critics often respond like EconLog reader Carter did: [Caplan] said: "But there are literally billions of lower-skilled workers who would... MORE

Nozick--An Appreciation

Economic Philosophy
David Henderson
Over on "The Austrian Economists," Peter Boettke writes an appreciation of the late Robert Nozick, who would have turned 70 on November 16. The title Pete gave it has caused most commenters to focus on Nozick's smarts, but Pete's appreciation... MORE

Truth and Narrative

Finance: stocks, options, etc.
Arnold Kling
Consider two propositions: 1. Market failure is inevitable. 2. Government failure is inevitable. In talking about the financial crisis, I believe that to speak the truth one has to accept both propositions. Most people prefer narrative, which either explicitly or... MORE

Epicurus and Elections

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If I let electoral results upset me, I would be miserable all the time.  No matter who wins, I lose, because I am light-years away from the views of virtually all electable politicians.Fortunately, I long ago achieved philosophical detachment.  I... MORE

I've often catalogued the errors of my dear friend Tyler Cowen. (See here, here, here, and here for starters).  But I can't stand to see him attacked unfairly.  The unfairest of the unfair: The strangely common charge that Tyler is... MORE

Frankly Fundamentalist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One good thing to come out of the bailout: Barney Frank gave me another nice example of what I call "democratic fundamentalism."  If you don't want politics in this process, you probably shouldn't be handing it over to 535 politicians.... MORE

Klein, Clark, and the Liberty Maxim

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Dan Klein and Michael Clark have a very thoughtful new working paper. Lead-in:Again, we embrace Rothbard’s definition of liberty. We reject, however, some of Rothbard’s major claims for liberty. He tended to frame the liberty principle as an imperative, as... MORE

Who Said It?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
"It would be as unnatural to refer the choice of a proper magistrate to the people as it would to refer the choice of colors to a blind man." (quoted in Rick Shenkman, Just How Stupid Are We?)... MORE

Twilight of the Idols

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Putin defends Russia's new history textbook with the classic excuse of "The other kids are doing it too":Mr Putin ...described Stalin’s Great Purge of 1937, in which 1.5 million people were imprisoned and 700,000 killed, as terrible “but in other... MORE

When Is It Wrong To Vote?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Philosopher Jason Brennan defends a very Caplanian answer to this question in a forthcoming paper, "Polluting the Polls: When Citizens Should Not Vote":Irresponsible individual voters ought to abstain rather than vote badly. This thesis may seem anti-democratic. Yet it is... MORE

Since people are starting to respond to my actual six questions, I thought I'd return the favor: Questions: 1. Are markets for ideas/culture less subject to market failure than other markets? Why or why not? For pure entertainment, probably yes.... MORE

Questions for Civil Libertarian Economists

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Virtually all free-market economists are civil libertarians, staunch advocates of freedom of speech, religion, and the like. But in my experience, virtually all economists who eschew the "free-market" label are civil libertarians, too. Economists disagree about whether laissez-faire is the... MORE

How Evil is that Sheep?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
And in any policy debate, I don't assume that the people on my side intellectually are somehow morally superior or more honest. In any particular case I usually give that 50-50. --Tyler Cowen, July 31, 2008 This essay is not... MORE

Moral Philosophy

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Will Wilkinson and Jesse Prinz. Highly recommended. You could easily spend four years at an Ivy League college and not have a class as interesting as this one. Prinz works through the view that moral values are highly culturally determined.... MORE

When Has Independence Been Worth the Price?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I think that the American Revolutionary War was a tragic mistake. After years of bloodshed, it's hard to see how independence led to better policy. So when has independence improved policy? My favorite modern example is the break-up of the... MORE

Arnold is mistaken to think that my notes on signaling indicate that I've joined the Pigou Club. If you read the quote carefully, I only say that a tax on education could increase efficiency. I don't advocate such a tax.... MORE

A Splendidly Undignified Hatchet Job

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If you appreciate a good hatchet job, don't miss Steven Pinker's dissection of bioethicist Leon Kass:Kass... came to prominence in the 1970s with his moralistic condemnation of in vitro fertilization, then popularly known as "test-tube babies." As soon as the... MORE

The Most Meaningful Compliments You Ever Received

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
What are the most meaningful compliments you ever received? Here's my short list: 1. When Robin Hanson told me that I'm his "favorite person to talk to." 2. When Thomas Szasz wrote me that this paper "gave me more pleasure... MORE

Rodrik Turns Cowen Into Caplan

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've had a hundred arguments with Tyler Cowen where claims that seemingly idiotic popular positions are actually subtle, deep, and correct, and I respond that popular positions are every bit as idiotic as they appear. It's a pleasure, then, to... MORE

Milton Friedman Opposed a Pareto Improvement

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One of Milton Friedman's most famous lines: "You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state." He said it in a 1999 ISIL interview, and I've heard it quoted dozens of times. It even inspired me to write a... MORE

Libertarians are widely seen as welfare-state abolitionists - people who want to eliminate government's "safety-net" role, not make it more efficient. Will Wilkinson rightly points out that many well-known intellectuals in the libertarian camp - including Friedman, Hayek, and Buchanan... MORE

Meet the Rational Optimist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I like the first post on the new blog, The Rational Optimist:Some say we need pessimists, to see what’s wrong with how things are, and push for positive change. Yet pessimism and cynicism actually foster resignation, despair, and a sense... MORE

How Different Are People? A Caplan-Cowen Dialogue

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here's a true conversation between me and Tyler Cowen, filtered through several years of memory:Tyler: People like to think they're special, but we're all pretty much the same. Me: No we're not. Some people are really great; others are simply... MORE

The Under-Principled Life

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I just finished re-watching The Bridge on the River Kwai. If you've never seen it, it's all about Colonel Nicholson (played by Alec Guinness), a British officer with Principles. Nicholson refuses to try to escape from his POW camp, because... MORE

Tradition of Liberty: Advanced Studies Seminar

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
There are actually a couple spots left at the IHS seminar I'll be doing this summer. Email John Thrasher (jthrashe at gmu.edu) directly if you want in. My topics:The Myth of the Rational VoterPublic Choice and Public GoodsThe Case Against... MORE

The Time Capsule from 1983

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here's Tyler:I ask Bryan: would he still take the advice that his 12-year-old self might have taped to a door?My answer: Definitely, especially if my time capsule from 1983 contained advice about how to treat kids. You can say "hindsight... MORE

Who Said It?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
From Matthew Connelly's Fatal Misconceptions:X was asked whether this was fair to the poor. "Well, as you know," he replied, "there are many things in life that are not fair, that wealthy people can afford and poor people can't." But... MORE

A Cerebral Defense of Gun Rights

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Arthur Brooks' finding that gun owners are markedly happier ("[C]ontrary to the implication of Mr. Obama's comments, for many Americans, happiness often does indeed involve a warm gun") reminds me of another gem by philosopher Michael Huemer, "Is There a... MORE

Bill Cosby: Underrated

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
As a small child, I loved Bill Cosby, but when I became a man, I put aside childish things. But a few minutes ago, while perusing a list of Cosby quotes, I decided I was right the first time. A... MORE

You're Never Too Old to Become a Kidult

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If you think that James Hamilton is just a brilliant quant, think again: He's also a sensitive humanist. Here's a moving tale of his father-in-law's last year:Jack's last year was not an easy one. Everything was becoming increasingly difficult, and... MORE

Statistics is Not Right-Wing, But It is Elitist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here's a thought-provoking passage from Ian Ayres' Super Crunchers:Like me, Ben Polak is passionate about the need to inculcate a basic understanding of statistics in the general public. "We have to get students to learn this stuff," he says. "We... MORE

My Ideal Foil?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Tyler calls Better Never to Have Been the "ideal foil" to my natalism. Book summary:Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence... David Benatar argues that coming into existence is... MORE

Robin's "Rant"

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
On Saturday, Robin Hanson told me that he was going to blog a "rant" about Guatemalan baby-selling. As expected, Robin's ranting is superior to most people's carefully chosen words:It is in general a good thing if willing women are induced... MORE

What Philosophy Needs: A Strong Dose of Hanson

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Robin Hanson and I have our fair share of philosophical disagreements. But the longer I stayed at the Social Philosophy and Policy conference, the more I kept thinking, "These people desperately need a strong dose of Hanson." To be specific:... MORE

What Are Philosophers Experts At?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Recently Tyler Cowen publicized one of his periodic challenges to me:I often joke with Bryan that the time has come for him to accept the consensus of what the experts in moral philosophy (or atonal music) tell us (him) to... MORE

Where I'll Be... If I Really Exist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm off to the inter-disciplinary Social Philosophy and Policy conference on "Aggregation in Moral and Political Philosophy." What makes the conference interdisciplinary? Me! Yep, it's 14 philosophers and one economist. Still, if I return wondering if I'm a brain in... MORE

Villainy Amok

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
While we're on the subject of villainy, here's a challenge: Name the villains (presumably fictional) that you most identify with. My top picks:Gollum MagnetoHow about you? P.S. Check out Hero Games' Villainy Amok.... MORE

Masonomics

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
I try to explain what George Mason economics is all about. If you want to be a Masonomist, you have to lose the we. When people use we in today's politics , they are doing two things. 1. Appealing to... MORE

Villains, Victims, and Heroes

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Many of my favorite economists - including Arnold and Tyler - recoil from "villains-and-victims" stories. After a recent lunch, similarly, Robin Hanson panned the movie Blood Diamond in large part because of it is a villains-and-victims story. It's a safe... MORE

The Cultural Relativism of Columbus Apologists

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Critics of multi-culturalism often mock its proponents for (a) cultural relativism and (b) disrepecting Columbus. The problem, as I've explained before, is that Columbus was a pioneer of slavery and barbarism. The only way to excuse his behavior is to... MORE

What Racism Is

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Megan asks, "What is racism?":Part of the problem with talking about race and gender in America is the definition of racism and sexism. Most of us use a working definition of racism and sexism that is something like "Holding (bad)... MORE

My Bias About Bias

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Robin Hanson writes, let me outline an argument for the importance of overcoming bias: 1. Our beliefs have many errors, i.e., deviations from truth. 2. Reducing error is important goal, for which we are willing to pay substantial costs. 3.... MORE

Villains, Victims, and Economics

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Tyler Cowen writes, Wherever there are problems, people look for villains. The subprime mortgage crisis is a case in point. ...But financial markets rarely fit into simple moral narratives, and much as these stories may comfort many of us, they... MORE

Morality is No Smokescreen

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Only a handful of people (and I'm not one of them) will be able to comprehend Steve Landsburg's "The Methodology of Normative Economics," but the conclusion is both profound and accessible. Highlight:What evidence is there that people care about the... MORE

Overcoming Squemishness

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
James Miller calmly defends torture at Overcoming Bias, without even mentioning terrorism:Some would argue that it’s excessively cruel to torture criminals. But both prison and torture impose costs on criminals. Why is one type of cost crueler than the other?... MORE

Feminism and Just Price Theory

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Economists have spent the last couple centuries scoffing at "just price" theory. Almost everyone now admits that prices have to fluctuate in response to supply and demand; it's silly to insist, for example, that the "just price" of a loan... MORE

What's Worth Overcoming?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
What's so special about "overcoming bias"? Tyler's questioned Robin's obsession twice (here and here), mingling sensible observations with bizarre Dadaisms like:If I were allowed to retitle Robin's blog (and I am not), I would call it "Reaping the Fruits of... MORE

Rosen and Responsibility

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I was on the Mike Rosen show on Monday. Overall, he was a sympathetic host, until we got to the subject of... you guessed it... immigration. Unlike most opponents of immigration, though, he was quite explicit about his core principle:... MORE

Misunderstood

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
This morning on Wisconsin public radio, I had the odd experience of being lectured by a caller about the virtues of markets. By extolling the wisdom of the economics profession, I led a Ron Paul supporter to conclude that I... MORE

The Bayes Who Wasn't There

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
From an early age, I've furrowed my brow at the claim that "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Huh? Absence of evidence is not absolute proof of absence, but surely if you don't notice your friend in a... MORE

If you're reading this blog (or any blog!), you probably have some controversial factual beliefs. Suppose you managed to convince everyone that you were right on each and every controversy. How would the world change? Initially, you might assume that... MORE

Schools of Thought

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Tyler Cowen writes, An oversimplified version of my view is that anything good is underprovided at the margin. This follows from a belief in strong network and peer effects, and a belief in the relevance of basic sociology. I think... MORE

Battlestar Libertopia

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Last week I had a few days on my own, so I decided to try Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica. I'm probably the last geek on earth to take the plunge, and I wasn't disappointed. My verdict: It's a great... MORE

Is Jeffrey Friedman Ignorant?

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
He would say so. Back in November, He wrote, The economist’s approach reduces human error to the merely so-called “errors” of people who actually know that they are wrong, but prefer to be wrong—either because (1) they have some sinister... MORE

What's Wrong with REVENGE?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Dialogue from a hundred interchangeable Law and Order episodes:"You didn't want justice. You wanted revenge!" "The law says 'Thou shalt not kill,' not 'Thou shalt not kill nice people!'"Each time, I'm thinking: "Maybe justice required revenge? Ever think of that?"... MORE

The Preponderance of the Evidence

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Years ago I attacked the "reasonable doubt" standard of criminal justice, using the following hypothetical as a starting point: [I]magine that you are observing a trial for murder. Most of the evidence goes against the accused (who allegedly murdered a... MORE

In yet another extremely fair review of my book, Jason Furman ends with a confession: Although largely immune to the widespread biases about economic issues that Caplan attributes to the unwashed masses, I find that I suffer from what he... MORE

Prescriptions for Democracy

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The book review in the Economist says that "Mr Caplan is better at diagnosis than prescription." I have to agree. In fact, my diagnosis implies that administering a cure will be very difficult. The irrational majority will oppose any reforms... MORE

Hanson: What's Worth Celebrating

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I don't think I've ever quoted an entire post before, but today I'll make an exception for the incomparable Hanson: Today is Memorial Day. In a park near my home is a plaque that reads: We honor all those who... MORE

Glaeser on Coercion and Contracts

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Edward Glaeser writes, there are cases where freedom to contract is and should be imperfect. For example, many contracts rely on expensive government enforcement, and it is reasonable to set limits on the scope of government action in this, as... MORE

Another Herring

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Bryan writes, Suppose that in Libertopia, you're extremely undesirable, so no woman will marry you. In Paterfascista, you're extremely desirable, but it's illegal to marry you. In both Libertopia and Paterfascista, you're not able to marry. So you could say... MORE

Defending Libertarian Coercion Arguments

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Arnold's a bit hasty to dismiss a compelling line of reasoning: Suppose that in community Libertopia, in response to customer preferences, all of the better restaurants ban smoking. In nearby community Paternafascista, there is a law that bans smoking in... MORE

Levitt Libertarians?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Steve Levitt assures us: In general I am not much of a libertarian... But then he holds government policies up to a standard many can't meet: ...but our government’s policy towards gambling is completely idiotic and rife with internal contradictions.... MORE

Coercion

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Daniel Klein writes, In my view, economic understanding, by experts and the general public alike, would gain by economists doing more of the following: (1) using the voluntary/coercive distinction in their formulations, analysis, and discourse; (2) making that utilization explicit... MORE

Jimbo and Me

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales made the cover of Reason. I immediately remembered our protracted debate on Ayn Rand's meta-ethics on the Association for Systematic Philosphy's listserv (set up by the other Wikipedia co-founder, Larry Sanger) way back in the... MORE

Who Is the Successor to Milton Friedman?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When Milton Friedman passed away, he was clearly the most famous free-market economist on the planet. Who would you say has taken his place?... MORE

Empiricism and Dogma

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Virginia Postrel writes, For decades, the deductive tradition has defined libertarian identity and dogma, while the empiricist tradition has achieved libertarian goals. For parallelism, we can call this second intellectual strand the Hayek-Friedman tradition, though that unnecessarily truncates the list... MORE

Radicals for Capitalism Comes to GMU

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here at GMU, there are always radicals for capitalism. But it is only on 4 PM Wednesday, March 21, that we will have Radicals for Capitalism, and its learned and witty author, Brian Doherty. See here for more info.... MORE

Tom Palmer on Markets

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
He writes Market competition is decidedly unlike the competition of the jungle. In the jungle animals compete to eat each other, or to displace each other. In the market, entrepreneurs and firms compete with each other for the right to... MORE

The Philosophy of Introspection

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've long claimed that economists undervalue introspection. Now Tyler is giving opponents of introspection some new excuses for ignoring it, and ends with: Will Bryan Caplan take the bait and present his argument that such studies are a priori false... MORE

The Incomparable Hanson

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Here is one of the most original philosophical examples I've read in years. It starts: Imagine you are walking in the wild and come across what looks like a big rock painted with the following words: I may look like... MORE

Testing the Freedom to Choose

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Jane Galt relays a challenge to believers in free will (myself among them) from Scott Adams: It seems to me that free will can be easily tested. The next time someone is getting brain surgery, just take a few minutes... MORE

Journalism, Blogging, and Truth

Information Goods, Intellectual Property
Arnold Kling
David Warsh writes, Classified advertising, especially help-wanted and houses for sale, near-monopolies for daily newspapers for more than a century, have been especially hard-hit. Consolidation in the once-exotic world of trade magazines has been the rule. Significant revenues from other... MORE

Shylock Was Robbed

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
The best way to experience Shakespeare is on t.v. with the English subtitles on. Read Shakespeare, and you miss the visual cues; watch it performed, and you can't make out the words. My latest foray into Shakespeare is the Al... MORE

Elitism: The Lesser Poison

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Now we're getting somewhere. Arnold writes: One can argue, as Bryan does, that populism is more dangerous because the people are really, really ignorant. [Actually, I argue that the people are really, really irrational! -B.C.] However, my counter-argument would be... MORE

Elitism or Populism: Pick Your Poison

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Bryan argues for elitism. In a modern democracy, not only can a libertarian be elitist; a libertarian has to be elitist. To be a libertarian in a modern democracy is to say that nearly 300 million Americans are wrong, and... MORE

The Mirage of Libertarian Populism

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
There are times and places where most people want more individual freedom than they have. The majority of the citizens of the Soviet Union did not want the state to seize farmers' land, or send Orthodox priests to Siberia. The... MORE

Will the Real Wise Advice Please Stand Up?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Arnold wonders if I'm asking a trick question: Bryan writes, Politicians usually ignore wise advice. Is that a reason not to try to make them take wise advice? Coming from a libertarian (or someone who I thought was a libertarian... MORE

What's Wrong With DeLong?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I'm puzzled by Arnold's critique of Brad DeLong: 1. The technocrats occasionally make large errors, which tend to persist far longer than market failures. 2. Even when the technocrats are wise, the political process is never going to coincide with... MORE

Dexter: Beyond Good Intentions

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A cliche of literature is the sympathetic character who does bad things. The moral of the story is usually that as long as you mean well, you basically get a pass. Showtime's got a new series that turns this cliche... MORE

I Heart Steven Pinker

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Recently, he took on George Lakoff, and he got off this one-liner: One can just imagine the howls of ridicule if a politician took Lakoff's Orwellian advice tried to rebrand "taxes" as "membership fees." ...If you choose not to pay... MORE

What's Wrong With Fraternalism?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
You share as many genes with your siblings as you do with your parents and your children. Yet not only is there no legal responsibility to help your brothers and sisters; even the perceived moral responsibility is pretty weak. Socialists... MORE

Of Markets and Ideas

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
I would like to make a couple of points about Bryan's post. (A) Bryan says, Leftist professors promote leftist policies, leftist policies are largely contrary to libertarianism, and are therefore socially harmful. ...The broader lesson is that libertarian reformers -... MORE

What We Owe Immigrants

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
When I re-wrote a scene from The Edukators, I was expecting some opponent of immigration to try to use it against me. Dennis Mangan has taken the bait: Toward the end, we get this: Jan: Now you're changing the subject.... MORE

The Edukators

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
No, this isn't another post on simplified spelling. The Edukators is a German movie about anti-capitalism protestors who break into rich people's houses, re-arrange their furniture in the spirit of Dadaism, and leave a note saying "You have too much... MORE

A Deserved Correction?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Will Wilkinson denies that I was the only defender of desert at a recent Liberty Fund conference. Hmm. I seem to remember that one participant asked for a show of hands of all defenders of desert, and only mine went... MORE

Defending Desert

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I just got back from a Liberty Fund conference on Serena Olsaretti's Liberty, Desert, and the Market. (Here's Will Wilkinson's account). The big surprise: Only one libertarian out of more than a dozen was willing to defend the free market... MORE

Trains versus Tulips

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I just got back from a relaxing trip to the famous Vanderbilt mansion, the Biltmore, in Asheville, North Carolina. The mansion was constructed at the behest of George Vanderbilt, grandson of shipping and rail magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. Biltmore is especially... MORE

Economists are deeply suspicious of lexicographic preferences - that is, preferences which are supposed to take absolute precedence over other preferences. "You can't be serious." If you have a lexicographic preference for lifespan over other goods, for example, you would... MORE

Revealed Preference vs. Happiness

Behavioral Economics and Rationality
Arnold Kling
Will Wilkinson writes, The neuroscience shows that satisfaction of the highest ranked preference does not imply the greatest hedonic satisfaction. It does not imply any hedonic satisfaction. Take a look at this paper, “Parsing Reward,” [pdf] by Kent Berridge and... MORE

Are Low-Skilled Americans the Master Race?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Suppose you could give American high school dropouts a 1000% raise by exterminating every man, woman, and child in Latin America. Would that be the right thing to do? No? Why not? Your answer, hopefully, is that murder is wrong,... MORE

Happy 101st Birthday, Ayn Rand

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Would Ayn Rand be proud of how I turned out? Probably not, but I love her just the same. Here's why, and here are details on her contributions to literature, philosophy, and social science. If that doesn't satisfy your Rand... MORE

Cinematic Proof

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
If you're one of those economists who says "we can only talk about observable behavior," check out Brokeback Mountain: One minute of sex, two hours of yearning.... MORE

Folk Beliefs, Locke, and Marx

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
In my latest essay, I write Folk Marxism looks at political economy as a struggle pitting the oppressors against the oppressed. Of course, for Marx, the oppressors were the owners of capital and the oppressed were the workers. But folk... MORE

Who's More Irresponsible?

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
One of the main rationales behind welfare reform was the view that teenage single moms are irresponsible. Since their predicament is in large part the result of their own high-risk behavior, they're less deserving of help than, say, the congenitally... MORE

The Humanity of the Economist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A sad, true story: One of my parents' neighbors (allegedly) murdered a transvestite prostitute on Sunday. NORTHRIDGE - A 50-year-old man who was living in his mother's home in a quiet middle-class neighborhood killed a transvestite prostitute earlier this week... MORE

Boudreaux Blog on Bloom Beats my Brains

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Reacting to a piece by Paul Bloom in the Atlantic Monthly, Don Boudreaux writes not only are we genetically predisposed to infer the existence of a supernatural designer of our physical world (or a supernatural bully, depending), but we’re also... MORE

Social Choice Theory: A Case of Moral Blindness

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Steven Brams of NYU presented his latest paper on approval voting at GMU Wednesday. While it was better than most papers in the field of social choice theory, its main effect was to help me realize what's wrong with the... MORE

Ethics and IQ

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I claim that IQ research makes libertarian policy conclusions more compelling, but Tyler Cowen isn't convinced: When Bryan says "IQ matters a great deal" I hear "inelastic factors of production." IQ won't change much in the short run, and perhaps... MORE

The Cynical Optimist

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Yesterday Robin Hanson, Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok, and I had lunch at Morton's to celebrate Robin's tenure. As the guest of honor, Robin picked the main topic of discussion. His choice: Cynicism - what it is, who's got it, and... MORE

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Business Economics
Arnold Kling
In my latest essay, I write, While I have little faith in individual corporations, I have more faith in decentralized market processes. For example, although I have no admiration for any oil company in particular, I believe that we will... MORE

Libertarian Basics

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
is the title of my latest essay. Consider the following classification system for government regulations and programs. (a) interventions that work so much better than private alternatives that we feel grateful for them (b) interventions that are better than private... MORE

The Economics and Philosophy of Pity Grades

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
More students than I care to remember have argued with me about their grades. But there is one argument that I always dismiss out of hand: "You should raise my grade because I NEED a higher grade!" I don't do... MORE

Anti-antitrust

Regulation and Subsidies
Arnold Kling
David R. Henderson writes, The best statement of the philosophical case against antitrust is in philosopher Harry Binswanger's essay, "Antitrust: 'Free Competition' at Gunpoint." Binswanger draws a fundamental distinction between economic power and political power. Economic power, he notes, is... MORE

The Economics and Philosophy of the Cruise Ship

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
I've taken cruises to Bermuda, the Bahamas, and in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. And of course I'm not one to just sit back and enjoy the food. My mind soon wanders back to economics and philosophy. Tyler Cowen's recent... MORE

Freak Storm

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
James Q. Wilson and I offer similar criticisms of the economics book that became a best-seller. Wilson writes, My advice is this: if you find something that intrigues you in Freakonomics, do not rely on the book to give you... MORE

The Economics of Woody Allen

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Many people feel that death makes life meaningless. The religious use this to sell the afterlife, and the irreligious use it to rationalize depression. Woody Allen can hardly get his mind of the subject: Life is full of misery, loneliness,... MORE

Stat Fight

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
Arnold Kling takes issue with the "Deadly Chicago Econometrics" underpining a couple of my favorite empirical literatures. I'm from Princeton, not Chicago, but I think Arnold's mostly off the mark. Charge #1: A fundamental fallacy in classical statistics is to... MORE

Economics, Standing on One Foot?

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Andrew Samwick writes, Economics consists of exactly two ideas: optimization and equilibrium. Optimization is the process by which all economic agents--households, workers, firms, governments--achieve their objectives subject to constraints on their resources. It leads to the familiar condition that an... MORE

Just Resting

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Economic behaviorism isn't dead. It's just resting. Or pining for the fjords. Seriously, I think that behaviorism is a reaction against two propositions. One is that we need to examine whether people really optimize. The other is that we need... MORE

Let Them Get Roommates

Economic Philosophy
Bryan Caplan
A fun fact about the U.S. versus Europe is that poorest 25% of Americans have more living space than the average European. But some Americans have been left behind. Our most deprived citizens often sleep three to a room, eat... MORE

Evolutionary Psychology and Economic Behavior

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Will Wilkinson writes, What evolutionary psychology really helps us to appreciate is just what an unlikely achievement complex, liberal, market-based societies really are. It helps us to get a better grip on why relatively free and fabulously wealthy societies like... MORE

The Price System

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Russ Roberts writes Over the next five or ten years, hundreds of millions of Chinese are expected to leave the Chinese countryside and move to the city. This extraordinary migration will require millions of adjustments to take place to make... MORE

I Heart Michael Powell

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Reason interviews the Chairman of the FCC, who says I’m a big believer in individual entrepreneurship and innovation. I think American capitalism is the finest economic system ever invented. It has crushed— not beaten, crushed—every alternative deployed in the history... MORE

Friedman on the Battle of Ideas

Politics and Economics
Arnold Kling
Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman writes, Hardly anyone today, from the far Left to the far Right, regards socialism in the traditional sense of government ownership and operation of the means of production as either feasible or desirable. Those who profess... MORE

What is selfishness?

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Don Boudreaux writes, when someone selfishly jogs to improve his or her health, we applaud. When that same someone selfishly seeks financial profit by offering goods or services for sale to consumers, many of us are wary. (And even most... MORE

Nobel Prize Speculation

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Various economics blogs, such as Division of Labour, are speculating on candidates for this year's Nobel Prize in economics. One thing I've noticed is that the winners tend to be people with concepts named after them. Coase theorem. Nash equilibrium.... MORE

Socialism as Primitivism

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Madsen Pirie writes, Hayek told his rapt audience that the old values of the hunting band still had their allure, including the urge to share everything when value could not be stored... Members of the audience actually gasped when Hayek... MORE

In Praise of Temperance

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Deirdre McCloskey writes that economists no longer view underconsumption as a threat to full employment. Nothing would befall the market economy in the long run, says the modern economist, if we tempered our desires to a thrifty style of life--one... MORE

Fear Factor

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
How does government grow? I offer this hypothesis: My theory is that the political process preys on fear. A politician identifies something that constituents might perceive as a threat. Next, the politician "markets" the threat, playing up its importance. Then,... MORE

Economists' Assumptions

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Donald J. Boudreaux writes, What about the assumption of self-interest? It, too, is equally inoffensive. All that economists need to be true on this front is that each person generally cares more about himself, his loved ones, and his friends... MORE

Hostility Toward Economics

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Zimran Ahmed, commenting on a piece by David Warsh, writes, I've been thinking of why people find economics so fundamentally repugnant, and I think the fact that it goes against millennium of natural selection that re-enforced building, monitoring, and maintaining... MORE

The Morality of the Market

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Jerry Muller, author of The Mind and the Market, gives a brief synopsis of his book. In previous societies, one's status as a peasant, artisan or merchant often defined one totally. Being a member of a guild, for example, encompassed... MORE

Economics and Moral Intuition

Economic Philosophy
Arnold Kling
Here's one for all those with a philosophical bent, from Robin Hanson via Tyler Cowen. How does economics, which talks about the positive effects of self-interest, square with moral intuition? we economists...seem to be constantly giving people excuses and social... MORE

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