Bryan Caplan offers conventional views on a wide range of issues. Instead of offering my own, I’ll comment on his:

1. Most academics are out of touch with the real world and have little useful to say about it.

The phrases “out of touch,” “real world” and “little useful” are a bit too vague for my taste. Compared to what? I read this as Bryan expressing his disagreement with the views of many of his fellow academics on social/political/economic issues, not real world issues such as, “is continental drift occurring?”

2. American democracy is dysfunctional and will not noticeably improve.

Compared to what? Again, Bryan seems to be expressing frustration with political outcomes. But I’d like a sense of which countries he’s comparing us to, and how far we fall short on a scale where North Korea is zero and Switzerland or Singapore is 100. Are we at 92.7?

3. A U.S. fiscal crisis is coming in a couple of decades due to aging, but we’ll muddle through.

4. The E.U. will muddle through its current and impending problems, too.

Yes, I agree. But then is “crisis” the right word? What will this “crisis” look like? Greece? Japan?

5. Most old movies, poetry, and classic literature are boring.

Yes, but that’s also true for most of the modern stuff. And it’s also true that most non-boring movies, poetry and literature are old.

9. Unemployment of 5% or higher is extremely inefficient and socially dangerous.


10. You should marry someone who agrees with you on all important issues. Life will provide you with all the conflict you need to keep things interesting.

11. You should marry for true love.

I wish Bryan would make up his mind. More seriously, how many lives would you have to lead to find a perfect match?

12. You should not travel to countries with murder rates over 1-in-10,000.

13. Work hard, avoid conflict, and you will be rewarded in the long-run.

14. Teens should be actively discouraged from pursuing long-shot careers in sports, art, music, literature, and space exploration.

15. Raising kids is the most meaningful thing most people will ever do with their lives.

16. Teenage boys should stop taking stupid risks, and teenage girls should stop associating with teenage boys who take stupid risks.

I disagree with pretty much all of this. It’s natural for teenage boys to take lots of risks. If we are trying to maximize aggregate utility, we should take far more risks and lead far more adventuresome lives. We can easily be replaced. We should encourage people to do great things, as there are big positive externalities. Ordinary people like me get lots of utility listening to great music, watching great films, or reading about someone climbing Everest.

Pro-football has such huge positive externalities that preserving it is a no-brainer. 🙂

“Meaningful” is a very hard word to define. But I believe that most men and most successful women do not find raising kids to be the most meaningful thing in their lives.

Hard work is fine, but don’t count on it paying off. Life is not fair.

That 1 in 10,000 murder rate is not very high, just be careful which parts of those countries you visit.

20. Bourgeois is best.

For some people, but it’s not for everyone. Bourgeois is boring. Thank God for bohemians.