May 2019

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Any recognition and praise is well deserved. Bryan Caplan is his generation's best political economist and his work on voter (ir)rationality should inspire work for years to come. His blog (at least his posts) are the best sort: expanding on his academic research agenda with commentary on new data and the work of other researchers, all made accessible to the intellectual public. He strives for common-sense appeal, and achieves it, but refuses to water-down his commentary for the sake of mass appeal, which is the key reason he's so great.

They say good bloggers make good teachers (or at least, someone has said that) and in this case it is certainly true; Bryan Caplan is the best teacher I've ever had, which is saying a lot considering the quality of teachers I've been fortunate enough to have.

Pete,

This is not to disagree with your assessment of Bryan Caplan and his work at all, but, just how is it that "Straight-shooting econ 101 unvarnished with complications and qualifiers doea a better job" of explaining recent economic events that have roiled most of the world?

Isn't the Wall Street Journal predictable? Duh.

If Econlog is predictable, then it's an insult. If Econlog is consistent, then it's a compliment.

Barkley,

Look we will disagree about this, but with respect to best first approximation, I would argue that econ 101 does better than any alternatives explanations. Steve Horwitz's FEE lecture is awesome on this. First, saying greed caused this would be like saying gravity caused plane crashes. Second, saying irrationality caused this would be like saying that drivers woke up one day and drove irrationally. But why would they all make similar mistakes. A better explanation would be to look at confusion in the traffic signals.

In short, it ultimately relates to perverse incentives and distorted information (econ 101). Combine that with the econ 101 idea of the quantity theory, and look at Fed policy concerning deviations from the Taylor rule, and the explanation of how this system got "off track" starts to make very straight-shooting common sense.

As a first approximation of the causes of our current situation, as well as learning from those lessons to think about what we need to do to fix it. Again, this would be pretty much in my mind classic economics from Say-Bastiat to Mises-Hayek.

I realize this is simple economics, but I insist that it is not simple-minded. But I also know that good economics and good politics do not align (again a lesson from basic econ 101). So the idea that good economic policy will be followed in our political world is highly dubious.

Rather than debate this in comments, perhaps we could have a forum set up to discuss this taking off from Steve's FEE presentation.

Pete

Econ 101 is strange.

A lot of time was spent learning about how prices relate to supply, demand, surpluses, and shortages ... then we learned about a magic price called an "interest rate" to which none of the ordinary rules apply.

The ATBC is basic economics, to my mind.

Pete,

You are right that this is probably not the forum to debate this, or at least not in comments. I confess to being about to go out of town again, and thus totally swamped to the point that I have not yet spent the 15 minutes to listen to Steve's FEE speech.

However, the bottom line problem for me is: do we tell students in 101 why or how bubbles happen or even if they do happen?

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