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Home / Tag Archives: Behavioral Economics

Tag Archives: Behavioral Economics

An Ageless Hypothetical

Suppose you could either save one 10-year-old, or X 80-year-olds.  What value of X is morally indifferent? That is, if you wanted to make the world as morally valuable as possible, when should you switch from saving one youth to X elders? I suspect that people’s modal answer will be 1.  Not the median, and certainly not the mean.  But probably the mode. Why would X=1 be such a popular answer?  Charitably, people set X=1 because they sincerely believe that all lives...

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Businesspeople Deserve Every Penny: A Businessman Reacts

Yesterday self-described “mid-level manager” Ben White sent me this reaction to “Businesspeople Deserve Every Penny.”  Reprinted with his permission. Bryan, I read your post about the 12 Labors you’ve been subjected to shortly after I wrapped up a call with the VP in Supply Chain at the company where I work.  We spent most of the call basically reflecting on the idea that everything is a mess in the world right now and this mess is replicating across multiple...

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Covid Caution and Curry

On March 17, my favorite NBA player, Steph Curry shot a 3-pointer and then, as is his wont, backpedalled. The problem: he was backpedalling off the sideline instead of down the court and there was no barrier to stop him. In a normal game, there would have been some normal barrier to stop his going backward, whether the barrier be other chairs that players were sitting on or something else. But because of Covid cautions, there are large spaces between chairs and so as...

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Moral Relativism and Moral Fanaticism

In high school, Ayn Rand’s writings convinced me that moral relativism was a grave social problem.  Not in the weak sense that, “If everyone were moral relativists, there would be bad consequences,” but in the strong sense that, “Moral relativism has terrible consequences already.”  Soon afterwards, I read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, and he reinforced my Randian belief.  In Johnson’s words: At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first...

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SDB and Me: An Autobiographical Exploration

Now here’s the story of how Social Desirability Bias has haunted my life. The two earliest centers of Social Desirability Bias in my life were Beckford Elementary and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church.  In school, they told us an endless stream of absurdities – things like, “We’re all going to be great at X!,” “We all take great pride in our school!,” “No one works harder than our teachers,” and so on.  I don’t think it bothered me at first.  But even in...

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Write Your SDB Autobiography

The most neglected psychological phenomenon in the world has a name, and that name is Social Desirability Bias.  Long story short: When the truth is ugly, people lie – and get angry at those who refuse to play along.  When the dosage gets high enough, lies and anger morph into self-righteous absurdity.  SDB illuminates a wide range of issues: diction, demagoguery, public goods theory, intelligence research, the rhetoric of freedom, abortion, vegetarianism, self-help,...

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Wiblin, Probability, and Nuclear War

Here’s a guest post from the noble Rob Wiblin of 80,000 Hours.  Posted with Rob’s permission. I’ve periodically read commenters online say that with random unprecedented events (e.g. a total nuclear war) one can’t give meaningful Bayesian probabilities and therefore the probability of e.g. a nuclear war over the next 100 years is 50/50. Tabarrok got this from many people in response to his series of blog posts on the likelihood of nuclear war. It’s hard to believe...

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Can economists be trusted?

For the most part, economists don’t give people advice on how to run their lives. Rather we tend to focus on explaining the behavior of consumers and businesses, usually assuming they are at least somewhat rational. One exception is when there is a “principal-agent problem”, the case where the people you hire (the agents) have interests that differ from you own interest. Thus economists might advise someone to be a bit skeptical if one’s dentist recommends that you...

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My Social Media Experiment: A Self-Assessment

Early last year, I foresaw the epistemic horrors of the impending 2020 election, so I made this pledge. I am ceasing intellectual discussions on social media until March 1, 2021. I will continue blogging and promoting my own work, but will not engage until then. Here's why:https://t.co/bPAdhuxFpg — Bryan Caplan (@bryan_caplan) January 24, 2020 Near the end, I asked Jonathan Haidt a question on twitter, and I impulsively responded to his answer.  I’d call that a...

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The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club: Final Thoughts

In “Why I Write,” Orwell declares “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”  A curious claim.  I’ve read 1984 at least ten times and Animal Farm at least five times, plus much of his other work.   Orwell’s attack on totalitarianism is blatant, trenchant, and thorough.  His defense of democratic socialism, in contrast, is practically...

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