|Born||April 8, 1971|
Northridge, California, U.S.
|Influences||Ben Bernanke, James M. Buchanan, Michael Huemer, Ludwig von Mises, Philip Tetlock|
|Information at IDEAS / RePEc|
|Part of a series on|
in the United States
Bryan Douglas Caplan (born April 8, 1971) is an American economist and author. Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University, research fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and former contributor to the Freakonomics blog and EconLog. He currently publishes his own blog, Bet on It. Caplan is a self-described "economic libertarian". The bulk of Caplan's academic work is in behavioral economics and public economics, especially public choice theory.
Caplan holds a B.A. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley (1993) and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University (1997).
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 writes that rational irrationality is an explanation for the failure of democracy. The book was reviewed in the popular press, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, as well as in academic publications such as the Journal of Libertarian Studies, Public Choice, Libertarian Papers, and The Independent Review. It received a disparaging critique by Rupert Read in the European Review.
In 2011, Caplan published his second book, titled Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, arguing that people often work too hard in child-rearing, and as a result, they are scared of the idea of having children. Caplan's book urged parents to relax with respect to child-rearing. The book argues that as the perceived costs (in terms of child-rearing expense and effort) of having children fell, it made sense to have more children based on the basic theory of supply and demand. The book was reviewed in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, RealClearMarkets, and The Washington Times. It also led to debates sponsored by The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. The Guardian had Caplan debating "Tiger Mom" Amy Chua on the merits of strict parenting style. The book was also featured in a story on National Public Radio. Kirkus Reviews described it as "inconsistent and unpersuasive."
See also: Rapoport's rules
In a June 2011 blog post titled "The Ideological Turing Test" contesting Paul Krugman's claim that political liberals can accurately state conservatives' views but not vice versa, Caplan proposed a test analogous to a kind of Turing test: instead of judging whether a chatbot had accurately imitated a person, the test would judge whether a person had accurately stated the views of ideological opponents to the opponents' satisfaction. Other writers have since said of someone that they can (or can't) "pass an ideological Turing test" if they are deemed to be capable (or incapable) of understanding and accurately stating an adversary's arguments.
The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money was published in 2018 by Princeton University Press. Drawing on the economic concept of job market signaling and research in educational psychology, the book argues that much of higher education is very inefficient and has only a small effect in improving human capital, contrary to much of the conventional consensus in labor economics that Caplan claims takes the human capital theory for granted.
Caplan and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoonist Zach Weinersmith created the graphic non-fiction book Open Borders: the Science and Ethics of Immigration, which was released on October 29, 2019.
Tyler Cowen called it "a landmark in economic education, how to present economic ideas, and the integration of economic analysis and graphic visuals." The Economist praised it as "a model of respectful, persuasive argument". Kevin D. Williamson concluded a review of the book with "Professor Caplan's argument is multifaceted, energetically presented, fun to read, and worth giving some real attention to if only as an exercise in clarifying one's own thinking about the question".
While National Review said that the book was "fun to read" and well-presented, they also pointed out that Caplan did not address some obvious counterarguments against open borders and suggested that he oversimplified the issue.
In 2022, Caplan published Labor Econ Versus the World: Essays on the World's Greatest Market, a collection of his essays from the publication EconLog edited by Jack Pfefferkorn. In it, Caplan argues against minimum wage laws, immigration bans, government spending on education, and Keynesianism.
Tyler Cowen wrote a reaction to the book, stating that his disagreement with Caplan is "that most of the inequity occurs upstream of labor markets, through the medium of culture."
Caplan was cited as one of the leading proponents of the open borders position in articles in The Atlantic and Vox. He has also been quoted on the topic of immigration in outlets such as the Huffington Post and Time magazine.
Caplan's anarcho-capitalist views were discussed by Brian Doherty in his book Radicals for Capitalism and in Reason magazine. Caplan has argued that anarcho-capitalists have a better claim on the history of anarchist thought than "mainstream anarchists", or "left-anarchists", as he refers to them. This argument has been disputed by other anarchists.
Caplan is married to Corina Caplan, with four children, and resides in Oakton, Virginia.
Bryan Caplan, a George Mason University economics professor and a former Ph.D student of Mr. Bernanke's.
Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies has been received by rave reviews. These reviews appear to have failed to note that Caplan's book celebrates the market and denigrates democracy at the very time when markets worldwide have failed and democracies have ridden to the rescue. It thus appears to have been undermined fatally by events that occurred as it was published (and which Caplan artfully omits to mention in the more recent paperback edition). Caplan's book in fact stands in the long tradition of anti-democratic writings that argue that an elite must rule. An elite of free-market economists. An elite no longer in good odour, since the financial crisis (and the climate crisis) occurred and became starkly evident to all. This Critical Notice also points out that numerous of Caplan's key claims, such as that individual voters have zero effect on election results, are empirically false.
A useful heuristic is what Bryan Caplan (2011) calls the 'political turing test'. Caplan actually calls this the 'ideological turing test', but I prefer my label in the context of this paper.
I treat the ideological Turing test as a kind of 'North Star', an ideal to guide my thinking ... I once saw someone talk about how important it is to be able to pass an ideological Turing test and then add, 'Of course, people often don't want to do this, because they're afraid they'll change their minds.'
That characterization of progressives and conservatives would not pass an ideological Turing test.
I wanted to do a sort of performance art to do three things: first, ... pass the partisan Turing test; second, to do my own Sokal experiment; and third, to demonstrate why the Right is good at propaganda.