Bryan Caplan

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Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan, 2007
Born (1971-04-08) April 8, 1971 (age 49)
School or
Public choice
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Princeton University
InfluencesBen Bernanke,[1] James M. Buchanan, Michael Huemer, Ludwig von Mises,[2] Philip Tetlock[3]
ContributionsRational irrationality
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Bryan Douglas Caplan (born April 8, 1971) is an American behavioral 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;[4] he also publishes his own blog, EconLog. He is a self-described "economic libertarian".[5][6] The bulk of Caplan's academic work is in behavioral economics and public economics, especially public choice theory.[7]


Caplan holds a B.A. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley (1993) and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University (1997).[8] His thesis is titled "Three essays on the economics of government behavior".[9]


The Myth of the Rational Voter[edit]

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.[10] The book was reviewed in the popular press, including The Wall Street Journal,[11] The New York Times,[12] and The New Yorker,[7] as well as in academic publications such as the Journal of Libertarian Studies,[13] Public Choice,[14] Libertarian Papers,[15] and The Independent Review.[16] It received a disparaging critique by Rupert Read in the European Review.[17]

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids[edit]

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.[18] The book was reviewed in The Wall Street Journal,[19] The Guardian,[20] RealClearMarkets,[21] and The Washington Times.[22] It also led to debates sponsored by The Wall Street Journal[23] and The Guardian.[24] The Guardian had Caplan debating "Tiger Mom" Amy Chua on the merits of strict parenting style.[24] The book was also featured in a story on National Public Radio.[25] Kirkus Reviews described it as "inconsistent and unpersuasive."[26]

The Case Against Education[edit]

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.

Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration[edit]

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.[27]

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".[28]

Kevin D. Williamson concluded a review of the book with "But 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".[29]


Open borders[edit]

Caplan was cited as one of the leading proponents of the open borders position in articles in The Atlantic and Vox.[30][31] He has also been quoted on the topic of immigration in outlets such as the Huffington Post[32] and Time magazine.[33]

Caplan published a paper in Cato Journal titled "Why Should We Restrict Immigration?", where he made the moral and economic case for open borders while addressing various objections to his stance with practical solutions.[34] His views are more fully developed in the graphic non-fiction book, Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration.[35]


Caplan's anarcho-capitalist views were discussed by Brian Doherty in his book Radicals for Capitalism and in Reason magazine.[36] Caplan has claimed that anarcho-capitalists have a better claim on the history of anarchist thought than mainstream anarchists, or "left-anarchists", as he refers to them.[37][38] Because of this, Caplan has criticized one of the most notable examples of an anarchist-inspired society, Revolutionary Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, in an essay entitled "The Anarcho-Statists of Spain."[39]

Ayn Rand and Objectivism[edit]

After having shed a youthful infatuation with the works of Russian American writer Ayn Rand and her philosophical system of Objectivism, in 2004, Caplan wrote in his essay "An Intellectual Biography", "I rejected Christianity because I determined that it was, to be blunt, idiotic. I rejected Objectivism and Austrianism, in contrast, as mixtures of deep truths and unfortunate mistakes. Let me begin with the deep truths. The Objectivists were right to insist that reality is objective, human reason able to grasp it, and scepticism without merit. They correctly hold that humans have free will, morality is objective, and the pursuit of self-interest typically morally right". He lists Michael Huemer as an influence in steering him away from Objectivism.[40]

In his essay "Atlas Shrugged and Public Choice: The Obvious Parallels", Caplan lauds Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged as making "an important contribution to social science."[41]

Personal life[edit]

Caplan is married to Corina Caplan, with four children, and resides in Oakton, Virginia.[42][43]




  1. ^ Crittenden, Michael R. (June 26, 2009). "Bernanke Blasted in House". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 20, 2019. Bryan Caplan, a George Mason University economics professor and a former Ph.D student of Mr. Bernanke's.
  2. ^ "Why I Am Not an Austrian Economist". Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  3. ^ "Bryan Caplan on the Case Against Education". EconTalk (Podcast). February 12, 2018. 33:50 minutes in.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Block, Walter (2010). I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. Ludwig von Mises Institute. p. 429. ISBN 9781610162708.:73
  6. ^ Hatlestad, Luc (August 19, 2016). "Is Anarchy the Solution to Our Political Problems?". 5280. Archived from the original on September 27, 2016. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Menand, Louis (July 9, 2007). "Fractured Franchise". The New Yorker. Conde Nast. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  8. ^ "Bryan Caplan". Retrieved May 28, 2018.
  9. ^ Caplan, Bryan Douglas (1997). Three essays on the economics of government behavior (Thesis).
  10. ^ Block, Walter (December 25, 2011). "Review of "The Myth of the Rational Voter"". Psychology Today. Sussex. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  11. ^ Casse, Daniel (July 10, 2007). "Casting a Ballot With A Certain Cast of Mind". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  12. ^ Bass, Gary J. (May 27, 2007). "Clueless". The New York Times. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  13. ^ Block, Walter. "The Myth of the Rational Voter (book review)" (PDF). Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 22 (2011), Page 689-718. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  14. ^ Lomasky, Loren (June 2008). "Swing and a myth: a review of Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter". Public Choice. 135 (3–4): 469–484. doi:10.1007/s11127-007-9273-7. S2CID 153330363.
  15. ^ Farrand, Stuart (2010). "Critique of Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter" (PDF). Libertarian Papers, Vol. 2, Article No. 28. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  16. ^ Callahan, Gene (Winter 2009). "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (book review)". The Independent Review. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  17. ^ Read, Rupert (December 14, 2010). "Economist-kings? A Critical Notice on Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies". European Review. Cambridge University Press. 19 (1): 119–129. doi:10.1017/S1062798710000426. 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.
  18. ^ Davis, Tanika (October 15, 2015). "Are parents making parenting harder than it has to be?". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  19. ^ Last, Jonathan (April 16, 2011). "Go Ahead, Have Another". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  20. ^ McVeigh, Tracy (May 15, 2011). "Parenting guru Bryan Caplan prescribes less fuss – and more fun". The Guardian. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  21. ^ Tamny, John (August 4, 2011). "Book Review: Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids". RealClearMarkets. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  22. ^ Russell, Nicole (May 4, 2011). "Go and Multiply, Without Guilt". The Washington Times. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  23. ^ "Live Chat: Should You Have More Kids?". The Guardian. April 14, 2011. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  24. ^ a b Saner, Emine (June 11, 2011). "Is strict parenting better for children?". The Guardian. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
  25. ^ Inskeep, Steve; David Greene; Renee Montagne (April 22, 2011). "'Selfish Reasons' For Parents To Enjoy Having Kids". Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  26. ^ "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids by Bryan Caplan". Kirkus Reviews. March 1, 2011.
  27. ^ Foxe, Steve (March 21, 2019). "Cover Reveal: Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration". Paste.
  28. ^ "The case for migration—in pictures". The Economist. December 14, 2019.
  29. ^ "More Is More: Caplan and 'Open Borders'". National Review. November 6, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  30. ^ Raviv, Shaun (April 26, 2013). "If People Could Immigrate Anywhere, Would Poverty Be Eliminated?". The Atlantic. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  31. ^ Matthews, Dylan (December 15, 2014). "The case for open borders". Vox. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  32. ^ Roberson, Steve (March 8, 2013). "Immigrants – The Once, and Future, Story of Jobs". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  33. ^ Matthews, Chris (January 30, 2013). "The Economics of Immigration: Who Wins, Who Loses and Why". Time Magazine. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  34. ^ Caplan, Bryan (2012). "Why Should We Restrict Immigration?" (PDF). Cato Journal, Vol. 32, Article No. 1 (Winter 2012).
  35. ^ Caplan, Bryan; Weinersmith, Zach (October 29, 2019). Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. First Second. ISBN 978-1250316967.
  36. ^ Doherty, Brian (April 3, 2013). "Anarcho-Capitalism: So Crazy, It Just Might Work!". Reason. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  37. ^ "Replies to Some Errors and Distortions in Bryan Caplan's "Anarchist Theory FAQ" version 5.2". Spunk Library. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  38. ^ "Appendix : Anarchism and "anarcho"-capitalism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 2, 2013.
  39. ^ Caplan, Bryan. "The Anarcho-Statists of Spain". Econ Faculty. GMU. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  40. ^ Block, Walter (2010). I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. Ludwig von Mises Institute. pp. 73–77. ISBN 978-1-61016-270-8.
  41. ^ Edward W. Younkins (October 1, 2012). Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 303. ISBN 978-1-4094-8528-5.
  42. ^ Rich, Motoko (April 16, 2011). "Who Really Cares How Yuppies Raise Their Kids?". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  43. ^

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