Start with a big blatant neglected fact

Friday, November 8th, 2019

How does Bryan Caplan pick book topics?

How do I pick book topics? On reflection, I usually start with what appears to be a big blatant neglected fact. Then I try to discover whether anything in the universe is big enough to explain this alleged fact away. If a laborious search uncovers nothing sufficient, I am left with the seed of a book: One Big Fact that Overawes All Doubts.

Thus, my Myth of the Rational Voter starts with what appears to be a big blatant neglected fact: the typical voter seems highly irrational. He uses deeply flawed intellectual methods, and holds a wide range of absurd views. Twist and turn the issue as you please, and this big blatant neglected fact remains.

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, similarly, begins with a rather different big blatant neglected alleged fact: Modern parenting is obsessed with “investing” in kids’ long-run outcomes, yet twin and adoption researchers consistently conclude that the long-run effect of nurture is grossly overrated. Yes, the latter fact is only “blatant” after you read the research, but once you read it, you can’t unread it.

What’s the One Big Fact that Overawes All Doubts in The Case Against Education? This: education is highly lucrative even though the curriculum is highly irrelevant in the real world. Yes, it takes a book to investigate the many efforts to explain this One Big Fact away (“learning how to learn,” anyone?). But without One Big Fact, there’d be no book.

Finally, the big motivated fact behind Open Borders is that simply letting a foreigner move to the First World vastly multiplies his labor earnings overnight. A Haitian really can make twenty times as much money in Miami the week after he leaves Port-au-Prince – and the reason is clearly that the Haitian is vastly more productive in the U.S. Which really makes you wonder: Why would anyone want to stop another human being from escaping poverty by enriching the world? Giving this starting point, anti-immigration arguments are largely attempts to explain this big blatant neglected fact away. Given what restrictionist arguments are up against, it’s hardly surprising that they don’t measure up.

On reflection, my current book project, Poverty: Who To Blame doesn’t seem to fit this formula. The book will rest on three or four big blatant neglected facts rather than one. Yet perhaps as I write, One Big Fact that Overawes All Doubts will come into focus…


  1. Graham says:


    My reactions started with, “who ever thought there was a “rational voter” and so isn’t that book just explaining away something no one believes in?” A bit like economics and their rational consumer models.

    Then I journeyed into what is or is not rational, by way of noting that literally all we do starts with some set of pre-rational [irrational if you don't like them] impulses or axioms, interests or values, and then rationality is defined solely by what means we adopt to pursue them. With that in mind, maybe many of the irrational voters ARE rational, they just aren’t pursuing the goals or following the axioms Caplan has.

    AS to the immigration question, we already addressed the question of whether or not one can even conceive the idea that a group of people has any right to take a land, declare “sovereignty” over it and then determine who gets in and why. If not, then nothing but open borders is even justifiable, and every polity is purely conditional and basically just an arbitrarily defined geographic/administrative unit engaged in a contest to see whose services attract the most people.

    If yes, then the goal of maximizing the productivity of someone else is not necessarily bad, but its not your goal as such, and enriching “the world” is a sidebar to the point.

    I’m sure Caplan could say all that even better, just as a fundamental insult to his axioms. And, somehow, that his axioms are “rational”.

  2. Graham says:

    He’s a pretty interesting man though, since his take on children is actually pretty counterintuitive to the axioms of our time, in ways his other views are derivative of them.

  3. HCM says:

    Disappointing to see you continuing to fan the balls of this hack.

  4. Graham says:

    Was that for me or Isegoria?

    If me, all I can say is I try to be generous where possible, if only because it was nice to see someone from Caplan’s perspective note that nurture and fad parenting play an ultimately limited role. I assume he is deferring to some combo of genetics and peer dynamics instead. Dunno.

    In the grand scheme of things, I think of him as representing the enemy view. No balls to be fanned.

    Besides, ball fanning is dangerous. You might hit them by, ahem, accident.

  5. Harry Jones says:

    His books sell. Isn’t that the bottom line?

    He’s right about the one thing he absolutely needs to be right about: how to be a successful author. I’ll dispute him without apology on any other topic whatsoever, but if he puts out a book on how to do this one thing, that will be a book worth reading.

  6. Kirk says:

    Answering the wrong question correctly is just as bad as answering the right question incorrectly.

    What Caplan misses is that the question is not properly what effect moving a third-world denizen to the first has on the individual making the move, but what is the effect on the rest of the people in that first-world country you move him to?

    That’s the proper and correct question, and you’ll note that he did not even ask it in the first place. Caplan has taken the insane position of advocating for the non-native, for their benefit against his fellow countrymen. And, he does not even recognize this fact, nor the effect it has.

    The felching idiot is basically wanting to set up the conditions for Yugoslavia here in the United States, and if he gets his way, you’re going to have what amounts to a race war between underclasses. The Hispanics have already ethnically cleansed a lot of California from the blacks, and I suspect we’re going to see out-and-out civil war there the minute that the bennies run out and the two groups get cut off from the government teat. The Hispanics have already infiltrated a lot of the welfare organizations, and you’ll find that if you’re black or Caucasian, you’re gonna have a hard time getting benefits from them.

    These dumbasses are highly intelligent academic morons who have no idea about how the real world works. It won’t be pretty as we go about discovering the nasty, nasty side-effects of their desired policies, which will lead to the Balkanization of the US within the next few generations. Primary victims of this will be black Americans, who’re increasingly going to be marginalized and probably essentially exterminated by the incoming Hispanics, who hate them with a passion which would embarrass the Grand Dragon of the KKK.

    It won’t be pretty, at all.

  7. Sam J. says:

    Port-au-Prince — and the reason is clearly that the Haitian is vastly more productive in the U.S. “…Which really makes you wonder: Why would anyone want to stop another human being from escaping poverty by enriching the world?…”

    Because the reason Port-au-Prince is the way is is the Haitians and if they come here they make the US a little more like Haiti. If you put the question to Americans so directly, “do you want the US to become more like Haiti”, I suspect you would not get too many people in favor of bringing Haitians into the US.

    A decent question to ask is why does all the immigration have to come from the Third World, or most anyways? Why can this not be balanced with White countries? Is this not anti-White?

  8. Dan Kurt says:

    Re: Bryan Caplan

    Bet he has a second passport. The SOB will need it in a few years.

  9. Wang Wei Lin says:

    DK: Plus he dosen’t live in a diverse neighborhood yet is sure importing uneducated illiterates is beneficial.

    Import the 3rd world…become the 3rd world.

  10. Harry Jones says:

    The people who tell us to celebrate diversity have a curious sameness about them. They are a kind of tribe.

    Evolution values diversity, but only temporarily. This is the point of natural selection: give nature a selection and let her take her choice.

    I find it saddening – but not surprising – that people can use empathy to justify antisemitism. More evidence that empathy is vastly overrated.

    Empathy has neurological limits. We can’t relate to more than about fifty other people. Empathy can’t be the foundation of civilization because it doesn’t scale. It’s the foundation of hunter-gatherer groups, and nothing more.

  11. McChuck says:

    You can’t expect pro-American values from non-Americans. And you can’t expect avowed (((tribal))) Leftists to be pro-American either, whether or not they hold citizenship.

    The dirt is not magic, and Epstein didn’t kill himself.

  12. Sam J. says:

    “…Epstein didn’t kill himself…”

    Not only did Epstein not kill himself he’s not even dead. The picture they showed of him being wheeled out is not him. A good resemblance but not him. The ears don’t match. The structure of an ear doesn’t reconfigure itself if you die. I suppose they don;t even care if we know. They’re taunting us with this sort of info.

    He did a great job for MOSSAD and ensnared numerous prominent people. They’re not going to let him be killed when they can blow up major buildings in heart of our cities and get away with it.

    I doubt Maxwell is dead either. Look at the circumstances of his death and where they supposedly made sure it was his body. He filled the coffers of MOSSAD’s pockets with stolen pension money of his employees. They owed him.

    A great amount of coroners in this and other countries are corrupt. It can’t be a surprise when people can be declared a suicide when they shoot themselves several times with a nail gun to kill themselves.

    This sort of behavior. The general and total corruption of society is why Jews keep getting thrown out of every country they go to. They complain about it but no one wants this sort of destruction of the commons but them. No surprise it eventually leads to rage and a feeling that anything that can be done to stop it is permissible and moral.

    Whether they are a tribe of psychopaths or not the behavior is the same and most psychologist agree that the only way to deal with psychopaths is to get rid of them and keep them away from you.

    Most countries that have thrown the Jews out have seen a great increase in the habitability and general well being of their citizens after the Jews are gone.

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