Dan Klein critiques Bryan Caplan

Slugfest of the classical liberals.  Dan stresses he wrote these comments off the top of his head, which is how most criticism of colleagues should be done.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion is whether Bryan has identified the key biases in voter behavior.  Bryan identifies anti-foreigner, make-work, pessimistic, and anti-market biases.  Like Dan, I see pro-conformity biases as essential, and as shaping the form that other biases will take, including the biases of high-status academics.   I also don’t think that voters are pessimistic per se; on many issues (Iraq, global warming) they have seemed quite cavalier and willing to ignore pending problems.  It is fairer to say that voters either ignore or overestimate low probability events, depending on framing, rather than getting it right.

My list of the essential biases in voter (and human) behavior are: feel good about oneself bias, conformity bias, and anti-foreigner bias.  Robin Hanson might cite signaling bias.  The remaining biases are numerous and important, but they will flow from how these initial deeply rooted biases interact with the social environment.  Among other things, this means that people can be too biased toward Bryan’s point of view and that we can’t always trust academics over the common person.

I often joke with Bryan that the time has come for him to accept the consensus of what the experts in moral philosophy (or atonal music) tell us (him) to do.


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