|Public Choice school|
April 8, 1971 |
|Influences||Donald Wittman, Ayn Rand, David D. Friedman, Murray Rothbard, Tyler Cowen, Gordon Tullock|
Bryan Caplan (born April 8, 1971) is an American economist, a professor of Economics at George Mason University, research fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and blogger for EconLog. He is best known for his work in public choice theory and interest in libertarian subjects.
Caplan grew up in Northridge, California. He currently lives in Oakton, Virginia. He describes himself as being type ENTJ on the MBTI and as an "openly nerdy man." He is the author of one graphic novel and several role-playing game campaigns. He has described role-playing games as "an art form, on par with novels, or movies, or comics" and has been published in Dragon magazine.
According to Caplan, he was first introduced to libertarian capitalist political philosophy through the writings of Ayn Rand and that it was his interest in philosophy that drew him to study economics.
Caplan earned a B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1993 and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 1997. Since then, he has spent his entire career at George Mason University.
As Caplan wrote on an undated article on his George Mason University faculty page, he considered himself an Austrian economist before graduate school, and much of his work draws upon themes in Austrian economics. However, he writes that he is not an Austrian economist and most of his academic work on Austrian economics is critical. He has written that "while self-labeled Austrian economists have some valid contributions to make to economics, these are simply not distinctive enough to sustain a school of thought. The task of developing an alternate Austrian paradigm has largely failed, producing an abundance of meta-economics (philosophy, methodology, and history of thought), but few substantive results."
The bulk of Caplan's academic work is in public economics, especially public choice theory. He has agreed with political economist Donald Wittman that traditional public choice has reached conclusions inconsistent with the canonical assumption of voter rationality; many of his publications examine the effects of relaxing this assumption, an idea Caplan dubbed rational irrationality. In a series of exchanges with Wittman, Caplan defended many of the conclusions of public choice while agreeing that Wittman's criticisms hold under the assumption of voter rationality. Caplan has also done empirical work on public opinion which suggests voters indeed hold systematically biased views about economics. His book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, provides a detailed account of Caplan's theory of rational irrationality as well as his summary of some empirical evidence of voters' systemically biased beliefs about economics.
Myth of the Rational Voter
The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, published in 2007, further develops the "rational irrationality" concept from Caplan's earlier academic writing. It draws heavily from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy in making the argument that voters have systematically biased beliefs about many important economic topics. Caplan argues that voters indulge these biases at the polls, creating a negative externality because they do not directly bear the full cost of their action.
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids
Caplan's second book, published in 2011, argues that the cost of having children is lower than most people believe and many potential parents could increase their welfare by having more. It is his first book written for a general audience, although it draws heavily from the academic literature in behavioral genetics, particularly twin and adoption studies which are relevant to the nature versus nurture debate.
Caplan's next planned book has the working title The Case Against Education: A Professional Student Explains Why Our Education System is a Big Waste of Time and Money; he has previously argued that almost all of education is inefficient signaling. Caplan has outlined book projects to follow will deal with the root causes of poverty (Poverty: Who to Blame) and presenting a philosophical / economic case for pacifism (Pragmatic Pacifism: The Realism of Idealism). While he still publishes occasionally in professional journals, he has shifted his focus almost entirely to books.
Moral and political views
Caplan is an anarcho-capitalist, citing influences such as Murray Rothbard and David D. Friedman, and has written on the feasibility and desirability of a stateless society. He promotes austerity for marginal reform and is a vocal proponent of open borders, submitting that immigration restrictions keep the poor locked in a prison of poverty, limiting both freedom and prosperity. Caplan has identified himself as a pacifist on pragmatic grounds. He has criticized left-libertarianism. He has also criticized some economists' (such as his colleague Robin Hanson) use of an efficiency-only moral standard, advocating instead ethical intuitionism with efficiency considerations secondary to moral principles.
In a Cato Unbound piece, Caplan identified himself as a natalist – he believes that more people are good for the world. He identifies himself as a fan of Julian Simon, who was a proponent of the idea that larger populations lead to greater technological progress and a higher standard of living for all.
Caplan believes in rational irrationality as an explanation for the failure of democracy, as explained in his book The Myth of the Rational Voter. He also believes that much of higher education is signaling. He is a believer in dualism and in libertarian free will. Caplan also holds the view that twin studies and adoption studies have demonstrated conclusively that parenting style has very little impact on the adult outcomes of children.
Views on maintaining intellectual honesty
Caplan has written about the problem of preference falsification in the face of social pressure and said that: "I think the wisest course is to turn the other cheek. I will not call anyone else names, express my disappointment in them, or try to shame them."
Caplan has called himself a "betting man" and stated that people who make predictions about the future should be willing to make bets about their claims. He has proposed and made a number of bets with others.
Inspired by a blog post by Paul Krugman, Caplan also proposed the concept of an "Ideological Turing Test" (named by analogy to the Turing test). His blog post inspired a number of tries at the ideological Turing test.
Caplan wrote an essay entitled "Columbus: The Far Left is Dead Right" to explain why his agreement with the far-left on Christopher Columbus was unusual. Caplan decried some of Columbus's defenders for engaging in cultural relativism to defend his policies of mass enslavement.
In April 2010, he caused controversy with a blog post that argued that women were more politically free in the 1880s than they are in the 21st century. This post led Bradford DeLong to call Caplan "the stupidest man alive".
- The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. 2007. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Named a Best Book of 2007 by the Financial Times)
- The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. 2008. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. [Paperback edition with a new introduction by the author.]
- Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. New York, NY: Basic Books. 2011.
- "Rational Irrationality: A Framework for the Neoclassical-Behavioral Debate." Spring 2000. Eastern Economic Journal 26(2), pp. 191–211.
- " Rational Ignorance versus Rational Irrationality." 2001. Kyklos 54(1), pp. 3–26. (lead article)
- "Rational Irrationality and the Microfoundations of Political Failure." June 2001. Public Choice 107 (3/4), pp. 311–331.
- "The Logic of Collective Belief." May 2003. Rationality and Society 15(2), pp. 218–42.
- "How Do Voters Form Positive Economic Beliefs?" Evidence from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy." September 2006. Public Choice 128(3/4), pp. 367–81.
- "Amore Infernale" 2007. Amore Infernale: The Complete Graphic Novel. (Not yet in print)
||This article uses bare URLs for citations. (June 2013)|
- Caplan autobiography http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/autobio.htm
- Bryan Caplan, Why I Am Not an Austrian Economist, Bryan Caplan faculty page, undated article, accessed June 13, 2013.
- Caplan, Bryan. "Caplan on Immigration". EconTalk (hosted by Russ Roberts).
- Caplan, Bryan (Winter 2012). "Why Should We Restriction Immigration". Cato Journal.
- Caplan, Bryan (2013-01-02). "My Path to Open Borders". Open Borders: The Case. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
- Caplan, Bryan (2010-04-05). "The Common-Sense Case for Pacifism". EconLog.
- Caplan, Bryan. "Population, Fertility and Liberty". Cato Unbound.
- "The Julian Simon Club".
- "The Magic of Education".
- "Free will".
- "The Tiger Mother versus Cost-Benefit Analysis".
- "Preference Falsification: A Case Study".
- "What Does the Betting Norm Tax?".
- Caplan, Bryan (2012-05-05). "The Bettor's Oath". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
- Caplan, Bryan (2011-06-20). "The Ideological Turing Test". EconLog.
- Caplan, Bryan (2011-06-23). "Two Tries at the Ideological Turing Test". EconLog.
- "Religious Turing Test Update". EconLog. 2011-07-07.
- DeLong, Brad (April 13, 2010). "Yes, Bryan Caplan Is the Stupidest Man Alive". Retrieved June 3, 2011.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Bryan Caplan|
- Bryan Caplan's Website
- The EconLog blog
- "The Myth of the Rational Voter" (essay)
- Anarchist Theory FAQ
- Why conservatives should be libertarians
- Intellectual Autobiography of Bryan Caplan by Bryan Caplan
- Why I am not an Austrian economist
- Caplan on voting Caplan discusses his book on EconTalk
- Caplan on labor markets Caplan discusses labor markets on EconTalk
- Caplan on voter ignorance on NPR Caplan discusses voter ignorance on NPR
- Video of interview/discussion with Caplan by Will Wilkinson on Bloggingheads.tv
- Caplan's bio at the Mercatus Center