Last night’s Ask Me Anything was a treat.  Main surprise: I was expecting more weird and personal questions.  A few highlights:


Hi Bryan,

There has been a lot of talk online recently on the merits of a Basic
Income Guaranty or Negative Income Tax. I have two questions:

  1. Would you endorse something like a BIG?
  2. Why do you think the idea is so appealing to both libertarians and socialists? Should proponents in each group be worried that the idea appeals to their ideological opponents?


As a replacement for the status quo, maybe. As an addition, no.

Libertarians like it because they think it will be a replacement. Socialists like it because they think it will be an addition.



What do you think about the viability of Bitcoin as money? If Bitcoin,
or some crypto-currency, gets widely adopted as money what do you see as
the most important economic ramifications?


done 10x better than I expected, but I still don’t expect it to be more
than a niche financial instrument. It’s long been noted that people
around the world continue using their national currencies even in the
face of 20 or 30% inflation because national currencies are more
convenient and focal. Also, I expect regulators to crack down if
Bitcoin becomes much of a threat.

But hopefully I’m wrong!



You have written:

Economists’ consensus estimate is that open borders would roughly
double world GDP, enough to virtually eliminate global poverty (Clemens

This was huge news to me and I completely agree with your assessment:

What I can’t understand is indifference to the mind-boggling potential benefits of immigration. The knowledge that we’re sitting on an ocean of talent
should haunt great minds day and night. They should pace around their
offices telling themselves, “There’s got to be a way to unlock these
wasted trillions of dollars of human potential. There’s just got to be a

My question is: Are there other libertarian policies
that would result in similarly-massive benefits as open borders if
implemented? If so, what are they?


open borders, the biggest policy change would be for Third World
countries to fully open their doors to international investment. Work
by van Reenen and many others shows that multinational corps in the 3rd
World are vastly better-run than local firms. If multinationals could
freely compete, they would quickly raise productivity. Back of the
envelope calculate is that if all firms on earth were managed at
multinational levels, global GDP would go up by 25-50%. Most of the
benefit, of course, would be in the Third World.



Thank you for doing this AMA!

Do you believe that philosophy plays an important role in economics? For instance, you have promoted Michael Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority. Do the ethical arguments put forward by Huemer have any bearing on your work in or your views regarding economics?


economist who gives policy advise is implicitly relying on philosophy.
Unfortunately, most economists want to rely on philosophy without
really reflecting on it, so they’re usually just crude utilitarians
(with a heavy bias toward the status quo and democratic fundamentalism).

For my own part, I start with a strong presumption of liberty, but
admit that we should override this presumption when the benefits of
violating liberty heavily outweigh the costs. (See So economics ends up being a vital servant of political philosophy, but nothing more.



the drought in Southern California is it possible the state is over
populated? Meaning we have to halt immigration into the south west?


No. Just raise the price of water!