Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan
Born (1971-04-08) April 8, 1971
Northridge, California, United states
Nationality United States
Field Economics
School or
Public Choice school
Influences David D. Friedman, Michael Huemer, Murray Rothbard, Michael Spence, Julian Simon, Ludwig von Mises[1]
Contributions Rational Irrationality, Ideological Turing Test
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Bryan Douglas Caplan (born April 8, 1971) is an American economist. Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University, research fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and blogger for EconLog. He works in public choice theory and is interested in libertarian subjects.[2][3] The bulk of Caplan's academic work is in public economics, especially public choice theory.[4]


Caplan holds a B.A. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University. His thesis is titled "Three essays on the economics of government behavior."


The Myth of the Rational Voter

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.[5] The book was reviewed in the popular press, including the Wall Street Journal,[6] the New York Times,[7] and the New Yorker,[8] as well as in academic publications such as the Journal of Libertarian Studies,[9] Public Choice,[10] Libertarian Papers,[11] and The Independent Review.[12] It received a scathing critique by Rupert Read in the European Review.[13]

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids is a 2011 book arguing that people often work too hard in child-rearing, and as a result, they are scared of the idea of having kids. 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 kids fell, it made sense to have more kids based on the basic theory of supply and demand.[14] The book was reviewed in Wall Street Journal.[15] The book was also reviewed by The Guardian,[16] RealClearMarkets[17] and the Washington Times.[18] The book also led to debates sponsored by the Wall Street Journal[19] and The Guardian.[20] The The Guardian had Caplan debating "Tiger Mom" Amy Chua on the merits of strict parenting style.[20] The book was also featured in a story on National Public Radio.[21]



Caplan has identified himself as a pacifist on pragmatic grounds and has summarized his "common-sense case for pacifism" using three steps:[22][23]

  1. The immediate costs of war are clearly awful.
  2. The long-run benefits of war are highly uncertain.
  3. For a war to be morally justified, its long-run benefits have to be substantially larger than its short-run costs.

In July 2011, Caplan debated his case for pacifism with Ilya Somin.[24] Sheldon Richman claimed to find Caplan's arguments more convincing in the debate.[25] In a February 2013 LearnLiberty-sponsored debate with Jan Ting at the Students for Liberty conference, Caplan used a slightly different breakdown of the case for pacifism, using four steps instead of three.[26][27]

Caplan's arguments for pacifism have been critiqued by Tyler Cowen on the Marginal Revolution blog[28] and others.[23][29]

Open borders

Caplan is a vocal proponent of open borders and says that immigration restrictions keep the poor locked in a prison of poverty, limiting both freedom and prosperity.[30] A talk titled Immigration restrictions: a solution in search of a problem by Caplan in September 2010 to the GMU Economics Society, sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation was praised by David R. Henderson[31] and Jacob Hornberger.[32] Caplan was cited as one of the leading proponents of the open borders position in an article in The Atlantic by Shaun Raviv.[33] He has also been quoted in other mainstream press pieces on immigration in outlets such as the Huffington Post[34] and Time Magazine.[35]


Caplan's anarcho-capitalist views were discussed by Brian Doherty in his book Radicals for Capitalism and in Reason magazine.[36] One frequent criticism of Caplan is an accusation that he has engaged in historical revisionism by claiming that anarcho-capitalists have a better claim on the history of anarchist thought than mainstream left-anarchists.[37][38]

Ayn Rand and Objectivism

After having long 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."[39]

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."[40]

Personal life

He is married with four children, and resides in Oakton, Virginia.[41]


  1. "Why I Am Not an Austrian Economist". Retrieved 2016-02-04.
  2. Block, Walter (2010). I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. Ludwig von Mises Institute. p. 429. ISBN 9781610162708. :73
  3. Hatlestad, Luc (19 Aug 2016). "Is Anarchy the Solution to Our Political Problems?". 5280. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  4. Menand, Louis (9 Jul 2007). "Fractured Franchise". The New Yorker. Conde Nast. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  5. Block, Walter (Dec 25, 2011). "Review of "The Myth of the Rational Voter"". Psychology Today. Sussex. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  6. Casse, Daniel (2007-07-10). "Casting a Ballot With A Certain Cast of Mind". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  7. Bass, Gary J. (2007-05-27). "Clueless". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  8. Menand, Louis (2007-07-09). "Fractured Franchise: Are the wrong people voting?". New Yorker. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  9. Block, Walter. "The Myth of the Rational Voter (book review)" (PDF). Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 22 (2011), Page 689-718. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  10. Lomasky, Loren (June 2008). "Swing and a myth: a review of Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  11. Farrand, Stuart (2010). "Critique of Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter" (PDF). Libertarian Papers, Vol. 2, Article No. 28. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  12. Callahan, Gene (Winter 2009). "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (book review)". The Independent Review. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  13. Read, Rupert (14 December 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 (01): 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.
  14. Davis, Tanika (15 Oct 2015). "Are parents making parenting harder than it has to be?". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  15. Last, Jonathan (2011-04-16). "Go Ahead, Have Another". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  16. McVeigh, Tracy (2011-05-15). "Parenting guru Bryan Caplan prescribes less fuss – and more fun". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  17. Tamny, John (2011-08-04). "Book Review: Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids". RealClearMarkets. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  18. Russell, Nicole (2011-05-04). "Go and Multiply, Without Guilt". Washington Times. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  19. "Live Chat: Should You Have More Kids?". The Guardian. 2011-04-14. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  20. 1 2 Saner, Emine (2011-06-11). "Is strict parenting better for children?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  21. Inskeep, Steve; David Greene; Renee Montagne (22 Apr 2011). "'Selfish Reasons' For Parents To Enjoy Having Kids". Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  22. Caplan, Bryan (2010-04-05). "The Common-Sense Case for Pacifism". EconLog.
  23. 1 2 Trombly, Daniel (25 Apr 2011). "Against Caplan's Pacifism". Slouching Toward Columbia. Trombly. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  24. "Caplan-Somin "Liberty and Foreign Policy" Debate Page". EconLog. 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  25. Richman, Sheldon (19 Jul 2011). "Bryan Caplan on Pacificm". Free Association. Richman. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  26. Caplan, Bryan (2013-02-17). "Pacifism in 4 Easy Steps". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  27. "Debate: Is War Ever Justified". LearnLiberty. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  28. Cowen, Tyler (2011-04-25). "Bryan Caplan defends pacifism". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  29. Miller, Joshua (26 Apr 2011). "Caplan's Pacifism". Another Panacea. Miller. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  30. Roberts, Russ (4 Oct 2010). "Caplan on Immigration". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  31. Henderson, David (2010-09-18). "Caplan On Immigration". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  32. Hornberger, Jacob (2010-09-17). "The Best Open-Immigration Lecture Ever". Future of Freedom Foundation. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  33. Raviv, Shaun (2013-04-26). "If People Could Immigrate Anywhere, Would Poverty Be Eliminated?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  34. Roberson, Steve (2013-03-08). "Immigrants - The Once, and Future, Story of Jobs". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  35. Matthews, Chris (2013-01-30). "The Economics of Immigration: Who Wins, Who Loses and Why". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  36. Doherty, Brian (2013-04-03). "Anarcho-Capitalism: So Crazy, It Just Might Work!". Hit and Run (Reason blog). Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  37. "Replies to Some Errors and Distortions in Bryan Caplan's "Anarchist Theory FAQ" version 5.2". Spunk Library. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  38. "Appendix : Anarchism and "anarcho"-capitalism" (PDF).
  39. Block, Walter. I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. Ludwig von Mises Institute. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-61016-270-8.
  40. Professor Edward W Younkins (1 October 2012). Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-4094-8528-5.
  41. Rich, Motoko (16 Apr 2011). "Who Really Cares How Yuppies Raise Their Kids?". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 29 September 2016.

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