Tag: Bryan Caplan

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Bryan Caplan is an economics professor at George Mason University and a Libertarian’s Libertarian. In fact, he’s an anarcho-capitalist, which makes him a member of one of America’s most elite hyperminorities. Caplan is consequently unafraid to tell people where he stands, being as this is where he sits. Consequently, he is in favor of radically […]

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Contra Caplan on Physical Illness, Too


In 2006, insouciant economic imperialist Bryan Caplan published a paper outlining a consumer-choice model of mental illness designed to rehabilitate the anti-psychiatry of Thomas Szasz. Caplan claimed this model shows that mental illness should not to be understood as a “real illness” (and therefore as a matter for medical rather than moral treatment) at all, but that mental illness should be understood as a weird preference rational actors persist in despite their preference being a poor match for functioning in society.

From the perspective of Caplan’s model, mental-health treatment is a form of rent-seeking designed to paper over the interpersonal conflicts that arise when somebody won’t relinquish a preference grievously at odds with society, rent-seeking that, on the one hand, provides the “mentally ill” with official-sounding excuses for their weird preferences while, on the other hand, providing the families of the “mentally ill” with medical justification for treating sufficiently “ill” family members against their will. In October 2015, the blogger Scott Alexander, himself a psychiatrist, published “Contra Caplan on Mental Illness”, an essay pointing out why, from his perspective, it seems so strange to call mental illness merely a weird preference. Given Caplan’s framework, I would like to point out how strange it is to call physical illness not a “weird preference”, albeit a weird preference most of us take pity on out of belief that it arises from physical derangement that we don’t expect sufferers to be able to compensate for completely.

Against the UBI


In last week’s Ricochet Podcast, John Podhoretz brought up the Universal Basic Income. I’ve been a proponent of the idea for at least a decade, and I’ve been in good company with the likes of Charles Murray and Milton Friedman, but I was recently convinced it would be a terrible idea.

First the arguments in its favor. In its best construction, the UBI would eliminate all other welfare and tax breaks. Leaving aside whether any deal to eliminate all or most other welfare and tax breaks is politically feasible (it isn’t), it has an alluring elegance. Everyone gets the same tax break, and ideally, the tax rate is completely flat, meaning there’s no tax cliffs destroying incentives. Those who can’t work can still survive. And no one is making any decisions about what they can do with “their” money.

This seemed like a slam dunk to me for a long time, but then I had the moral hazard spelled out for me. As bad as the welfare state is, one currently has to be at least ostencibly in real need in order to take advantage of it. You have to be disabled, or have children and no income, or seemingly unable to afford healthcare.

Is Western Civ Strong Or Fragile?



There is an odd inconsistency between how virtuous we see our culture and how fragile many believe it to be. How can Western Civilization be the historic apex of human existence and finds itself under a dozen Swords of Damocles – from threats inside and out? I believe the reasoning behind this view is that, in a vacuum, human nature appears to be pretty awful. But when reminiscing on a debate with Stephen Balch from Texas Tech’s Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, Bryan Caplan points out the popular notion of dire circumstances conflicts with the evidence.

First, from the Institute’s website:

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Why was I such a misanthrope? If you asked me at the time, I probably would have said, “Because almost everyone is terrible.” If you asked me, “Well, why is it so terrible to be any of these things?,” I guess I would have simply added “People who challenge my misanthropy” to my list of […]

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