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Tag Archives: Behavioral Economics

The Abused Friend of My Enemy Is My Friend

When I play Sid Meier’s Civilization, as I have thousands of times, I have an eccentric strategy. When other civilizations demand tribute – or just attack me with without provocation – I give them what they want. I sue for peace. And then, I propose an alliance. The AI almost always accepts the offer – and the subsequent alliance is almost always fruitful.  It’s almost as if the programmers never imagined that anyone would try my self-abasing approach.  Sure, humans...

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As Bitter As It Is Illuminating

Co: Why did they pick you? Because you like to fight? Rambo: I’m expendable. Co: What mean expendable? Rambo: It’s like someone invites you to a party and you don’t show up. It doesn’t really matter. —Rambo: First Blood, Part II “Leave no man behind.”  This slogan is the peak of military romanticism.  No matter how much you suffer for the cause, you are never alone.  You belong to an unbreakable brotherhood of blood. “I’m expendable.”  This admission is the peak...

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Social Desirability Bias vs. Punishment

I break unjust laws all the time.  Though I’m proud of my law-breaking, I don’t claim to be especially courageous.  News flash: I’d rather live on my knees than die on my feet.  After all, I’ve got a lot to live for. Why then do I choose to be a righteous scofflaw?  Because the expected punishment for breaking the kinds of laws I break is very low. Government enforcement is rare, and even if I get caught, the sanction will probably be mild. Which raises a puzzling...

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Teaching Paranoia: An Open Letter to Every University President

Dear University Presidents: We all know that higher education falls far short of its promise.  I’ve spent a large part of my twenty five years as a research professor documenting the shortcomings of our system.  Perhaps you’re even familiar with my The Case Against Education (Princeton University Press, 2018).  In recent years, however, we’ve begun failing our students in new and improved ways.  In the past, we failed to transform our students into thoughtful and...

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Rational Irrationality in High Places

In the early 2000s, I coined the phrase “rational irrationality,” and later made it the foundation of my The Myth of the Rational Voter (and well as my case for betting).  It’s very gratifying, then, to see that Steven Pinker is on board.  From his recent interview with Richard Hanania, entitled “Rationality Requires Incentives.” Richard: Yeah, I think that’s right. I guess, a different way to ask that question, is there a rationalist case against rational...

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Angry Bears

In a comment replying to MikeP about my post “Preach What You Practice,” September 20, 2021, I made the point that acting rationally often involves going along with something that doesn’t make sense because the penalties are substantial. I wrote: Something that helps me deal with government in these situations is to think of it as a big angry bear. That helps me not moralize too much and, instead, to just remember to focus on how to survive and thrive around the big...

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Why Are There Zero Republican Mega-Cities?

When my best friend in Austin quips, “It’s great living in a blue city in a red state,” I’m often tempted to reply, “We really don’t know what it would be like to live in a red city in a red state – or even a red city in a blue state.”  Why?  Because they barely exist.  Zero cities with over one million people currently have Republican mayors. From the standpoint of the textbook Median Voter Model, this is awfully puzzling.  Even if urbanites are extremely left-wing,...

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Why It’s OK To Speak Your Mind and Exposure

Just finished Hrishikesh Joshi’s Why It’s OK To Speak Your Mind.  Fun book, suitable for campus-wide adoption.  My favorite passage: Now consider a person who conducts his mental life as wildebeest or sardines conduct their lives.  He just moves with the popular opinion of the time… The thing to think now is X, the thing to get outraged about today is Y; tomorrow it might be Z that one must express outrage about.  Such an individual may not conceive of himself as a...

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Liberty’s Crisis Crisis

I often remember the parting words of Robert Higgs’ Crisis and Leviathan: [W]e do know something – at least abstractly – about the future.  We know that other great crises will come.  Whether they will be occasioned by foreign wars, economic collapse, or rampant terrorism, no one can predict with assurances.  Yet in one form of another, great crises will surely come again… When they do, governments almost certainly will gain new powers over economic and social...

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The American Experiment in Federalist Dictatorship

During Covid, legislatures became extraordinarily deferential to their executives.  Congress deferred to the President, yes.  But more shockingly, state legislatures across the country virtually abdicated in favor of their governors.  On everything Covid-related – and what isn’t “Covid-related”? – governors have essentially ruled by decree since March of 2020. In short, America is now an elective dictatorship.  Unlike almost all historical dictatorships, however,...

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