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Tag Archives: Bryan Caplan

My 12th-Grade Odyssey

Co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s tale of his children’s experience with home school is quite impressive. One slight danger is that readers might think you need to be anywhere near as prepared as Bryan and his two older sons to make it a success. But my experience, although way less impressive, also makes the case for some version of home schooling. Background My birthday is in late November and so I got into first grade just under the December 1 cutoff: I was the youngest...

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Strawmen, Steelmen, and Bad Faith

Bryan Caplan makes a number of good points about straw manning and steel manning in his critique of philosopher Mike Huemer and in his 2015 post on the same issue. One of the major, and obvious points he makes is that you’re not arguing against a straw man if an actual person you’re arguing with is making the argument you’re arguing against. I would put his overall point even more strongly. I’ll do it with an example. Imagine that I’m arguing with someone on the...

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Walter Oi and Armen Alchian on Value of Life

I’ve enjoyed Bryan Caplan’s recent two posts (here and here) about how the value of life varies with age and I’m inclined to agree with him. I think about my own situation. My mother died of cancer in December 1969 at age 53. My brother committed suicide in July 1970 at age 22, just shy of 23. My father died in June 1997 at age 87. And my sister died in November 2018 at age 72. When I think about my degree of sadness and loss, it corresponds with what Bryan says....

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Krugman Illustrates Caplan’s Point

In January 2019, co-blogger Bryan Caplan wrote: The theory of market failure is a reproach to the free-market economy.  Unless you have perfect competition, perfect information, perfect rationality, and no externalities, you can’t show that individual self-interest leads to social efficiency.*  And this anti-market interpretation is largely apt.  You can’t legitimately infer that markets are socially optimal merely because every market exchange is voluntary. Contrary...

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White Guilt and Reparations: A True Story

Co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s post this morning on collective guilt and the subsequent discussion in the comment section reminded me of something that happened my first day of a microeconomics class in 2001. At the end of the opening class, a number of people came up to ask questions. One was a young black woman who said, “Professor, what do you think of reparations for slavery?” I answered, “I promise I’ll answer but first I want to know what you think.” She said, “I...

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Sullivan and Henderson Talk on School Shutdowns

Last Thursday, my Naval Postgraduate School colleague Ryan Sullivan and I made a case against school shutdowns in a Zoom talk to a local Monterey group called The Old Capitol Club. It’s an actual physical location in downtown Monterey and I’ve given 2 talks there in person in the last 20 years, something I refer to right at the end of this talk. This, of course, was remote. From about 23:00 to 25:15, I handle the issue of human capital vs. signaling...

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Five Books for the 2020 Election

Polarized is perhaps the best way to describe our current political landscape heading into the home stretch of the 2020 election, and I have consciously tried to select five books that both provide some immediate historical context to help readers understand how we got here.  However, I also wanted to add a few historical texts to remind everyone that the political rhetoric and posturing we are experiencing today isn’t new in American history.  It is distinctly...

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Case and Deaton on Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

In their recent book Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, Anne Case and Nobel economics prizewinner Angus Deaton, both emeritus economists at Princeton University, show that the death rate for middle-age whites without a college degree bottomed out in 1999 and has risen since. They attribute the increase to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Their data on deaths are impeccable. They are careful not to attribute the deaths to some of the standard but problematic...

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Caplan Nails It on Pay Cuts

Just over 5 weeks ago, co-blogger Bryan Caplan wrote: Why then are nominal pay cuts suddenly on the table?  You could say, “Workers have suddenly become more logical,” but as far as I can tell, they’re crazier than ever.  But psychologically speaking, there is one radical and unprecedented change in the emotional experience of labor in the time of coronavirus: the explosion of telework.  Until recently, only 3% of workers teleworked, and a large majority of these...

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Zingales on the Rule of Economists

In the spirit of Clemenceau, Huntington (1981) claims that in a democracy, the ultimate responsibility for a country’s military strategy belongs to the civilian political leadership. If, instead, the military controls the political decisions, it is a military dictatorship. In the same way, the ultimate responsibility for a country’s economic policy should belong to the political leadership. If economists control it, it is a technocratic dictatorship. This is the...

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