Archive for the 'Self-Promotion' Category

Book Title

For a book of brain teasers with economic morals, how do we collectively feel about this title?

Rational Explanations: 100+ Puzzles to Make You Smarter About Economics

I’m interested in whether we like it, but more interested in whether we think it will sell books.

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Too Many People?

While most Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, I’ll be in London, giving the annual Hayek Memorial Lecture sponsored by the Institute of Economic Affairs. Topic: Is the World Over or Under Populated, and How Would We Know? Tickets are required but free, and are available here. If you come to the talk, don’t leave without saying hello!

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Readers: I need your help!

More than once, my blog readers have proved themselves to be cleverer, smarter and more insightful than I am about a great many things. I need your cleverness, intelligence and insight now more than ever.

Yesterday, I delivered a manuscript to my editor at Houghton-Mifflin. Sometime in 2018, this manuscript will become a book. What it needs is a title!

The book is a compendium of puzzles and brain teasers designed to teach lessons about economics, statistical inference, and related matters. A recurring theme is that what’s “obvious” is often wrong. Here is a brief excerpt from the introduction.

The title should be catchy, clever, attention-grabbing and indicative of the content. What, specifically, should that title be?

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Which Of the Following Does Not Belong?

Following in the footsteps of Jeb Bush, Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles, James Carville, Mary Matalin, George F. Will, Tony Snow, John Bolton, Tommy Franks, Chris Wallace, Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Morton Kondracke, Christopher Hitchens, Walter Cronkite, Clarence Thomas, Queen Noor of Jordan and Milton Friedman, I will be delivering the Hatton Sumners Distinguished Lecture in Dallas this Friday. Join us if you’re free! Registration is here.

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Cato Unbound: The Political Economy of Recycling

Here’s why recycling poses a policy dilemma: To keep people from dumping their trash on their neighbor’s lawns (or, when they burn it, in their neighbor’s lungs), we have to keep the price of landfill space artificially low. But once you’ve made landfill space cheap, you weaken the incentive to recycle, so arguably we get too little recycling. One solution is to pump up that incentive by casting recycling as a moral imperative. Unfortunately, once people believe recycling is a moral obligation, we’re liable to get too much of it.

This month’s issue of Cato Unbound is titled “The Political Economy of Recycling”, with a lead essay by Michael Munger of Duke University expanding on these and related points, with responses by Edward Humes, Melissa Walsh Innes and myself.

Over the course of the next month or so, we’ll be posting responses and re-responses to each others’ essays, as the mood strikes us. The best of your comments here might well find their way into some of my posted responses there.

Below the fold, a brief teaser from my essay:

Continue reading ‘Cato Unbound: The Political Economy of Recycling’

How Markets Work

A while back, I posted a link to the first of my four talks at the 2012 Cato University. Today, I’m posting the second talk, titled “How Markets Work”, with the others to appear eventually.

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Incidentally, I won’t be at the 2013 Cato U, but other stellar speakers will be. This really is an extraordinarily well run event, and I’ve met many fascinating people every time I’ve been there. It’s not too late to register!

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It’s All About Me

The new issue RegionFocus (the magazine of the Richmond Federal Reserve) is out, including an interview with yours truly.

There are a few things I might wish I’d said a little differently, but Aaron Steelman (the interviewer) did a fantastic editing job.

Continue reading ‘It’s All About Me’

More Sex on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day (i.e. February 14) will find me at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore County campus, speaking about why More Sex is Safer Sex. The lecture is free and open to the public. Join us if you’re in the neighborhood! More details here.

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Henderson on Armchair

David Henderson reviews the new revised Armchair Economist.

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The Greatest Story Ever Told

I gave a series of four talks last week at Cato University; only the first of them was broadcast by C-SPAN, and you can watch it here. (The title was “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, meaning the story of economic growth.)

Much of this material will look familiar to those who have watched other videos recently posted in this space, but I think it comes together a little better in this one. The remaining lectures contained more in the way of new material, and I’m hoping to be able to post at least some video excerpts in the near future.

There were a lot of fabulous talks at this event by such luminaries as Tom Palmer (here and here) and the extraordinary Robert McDonald, who held the audience in thrall with his gripping three-part series on the history of the American revolution (not, unfortunately, online, even in part).

If you missed it, there’s always next year!

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The Long Now

Here is a link to my piece in today’s issue of; and here’s the executive summary:

Deep inside a West Texas mountain, engineers are building a clock designed to click for 10,000 years.’s Jeff Bezos has sunk $43 million into this project and that’s just a start. What’s the purpose? “To foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years”, say the organizers.

Now thinking and responsibility are two different things, but it’s hard to see how this project is likely to encourage either. Re thinking: The question of what we owe to future generations is subtle and difficult and requires close attention to difficult arguments; it’s hard to see how a ticking clock will do to foster that kind of effort. And as for responsiblity — if responsibility means making a better life for our distant descendants, then Bezos’s $43 million would almost surely be better spent on lobbying for lower capital taxes. Whether the goal is thinking or responsibility, a giant clock seems like a giant waste of time.

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Today’s the Day

The new revised edition of The Armchair Economist is now on sale in paperback and electronic versions. Last week’s glitch (where the electronic versions were of the wrong edition) is fixed.

For almost twenty years, Armchair has been widely recognized among economists as the book to give your mother when she wants to understand what you think about all day. In this new version, fully updated for the 21st century, I’ve completely rewritten several chapters to make them even clearer, livelier and more contemporary.

I (and you if you buy the book) am deeply indebted to Lisa Talpey who read every chapter multiple times, insisting that I keep rewriting until everything met her meticulous standards of clarity. Chapters I’d thought were pretty good are vastly improved thanks to Lisa; these include:

  • Why Popcorn Costs More at the Movies (and Why the Obvious Answer is Wrong)
  • Was Einstein Credible? (The Economics of Scientific Method)
  • The Indifference Principle (Who Cares if the Air is Clean?)
  • and

  • Why Taxes Are Bad (The Logic of Efficiency)

Others are almost completely rewritten to focus on issues that are in the news today; these include

  • The Mythology of Deficits
  • and

  • Unsound and Furious: Spurious Wisdom from the Media

By way of general housecleaning, I’ve excised all references to cassette tapes, Polaroid film, and Walter Mondale.

You can read the preface here. You can buy the book here. Here are direct links to the updated Kindle and Nook editions. (These editions are advertised as “published November 2007″, but don’t panic; that’s just the lingering shadow of last week’s glitch. They’re actually the brand-new 2012 edition.)

Dan Seligman at Fortune called the first edition of The Armchair Economist “enormous fun from its opening page”; Alfred Malabre of the Wall Street Journal called it “the most enjoyable and sensible book by an economist about economics that I’ve read in donkey’s years”; Milton Friedman called it “an ingenious and highly original presentation of some central principles of economics for the proverbial Everyman”; George Gilder called it “a crisp, lively, pungent display of the economist’s art”. This second edition is, I believe, all that and more.

The Armchair Economist is indeed the perfect gift for your mother, or for your father, or for the new college grad in your life, or even for yourself. Enjoy it, and come join the discussion right here.

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Hang On There ….

Edited to Add: These problems are fixed now! The electronic versions are correct. They are still advertised as November 2007 editions, but they are in fact the May 2012 edition. You can now trust the links at .


hangToday (May 1) was the official publication date for the all-new revised edition of The Armchair Economist. (Read the preface here.) Unfortunately, we had a major communication screw-up and purchasers of the electronic editions (Kindle, Nook, etc.) are still receiving the 1993 edition (which is labeled the “2007 edition” because that’s when it was converted to an e-book). This will be fixed in a day or so. I’ll post to let you know when it’s safe to buy.

Meanwhile, if you’ve recently purchased an electronic Armchair Economist, I encourage you to return it, wait just a day or two till you see the announcement that all systems are go, and then buy it all over again.

I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am about this. There is at least one very particular head I’d like to see roll.

Thanks for bearing with the glitch, and watch this space for the big announcement that all systems are go.

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Cato University

This is a reminder that I’ll be teaching at this year’s Cato University, where I and a distinguished cast of faculty will lecture on the political, historic, philosophical and economic foundations of liberty. There will also be ample opportunity for informal conversations with the faculty and, even better, with the other students, who I have learned from past experience are always bright and lively and fun.

Come join us, July 29 through August 3, at Cato’s newly expanded headquarters in DC. The insights you’ll gain, and the friends you’ll meet, will last a lifetime.

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The Armchair Economist: Revised, Updated, and Available May 1 — or for pre-order now!


One day in 1991, I walked into a medium sized bookstore and counted over 80 titles on quantum physics and the history of the Universe. A few shelves over I found Richard Dawkins’s bestseller The Selfish Gene along with dozens of others explaining Darwinan evolution and the genetic code.

In the best of these books, I discovered natural wonders, confronted mysteries, learned new ways of thinking, and felt I had shared in a great intellectual adventure, founded on ideas that are dazzling in their scope and their simplicity.

Economics, too, is a great intellectual adventure, but I could find, in 1991, not a single book that proposed to share that adventure with the general public. There was nothing that revealed the economist’s unique way of thinking, using a few simple ideas to illuminate the whole range of human behavior, shake up our preconceptions, and jolt us into new ways of seeing the world.

I resolved to write that book. The Armchair Economist was published in 1993, and attracted much critical praise along with a large and devoted following. But what I take most pride in is that The Armchair Economist is still widely recognized among economists as the book to give your mother when she wants to understand what you do all day.

Continue reading ‘The Armchair Economist: Revised, Updated, and Available May 1 — or for pre-order now!’

Live From Warwick

Apparently my Saturday talk at the Warwick Economics Summit (like several of the others) will be streamed live over the Internet here. I go on at 8:55AM eastern standard time, but don’t feel like you have to set an alarm clock; there will be video available after the fact.

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Where to Find Me

A few upcoming events:

I’ll be at the Warwick Economics Summit February 17-19, speaking on the 18th.

I’ll be speaking at the Adam Smith Institute in London on February 20.

On February 23, I’ll be at the off-Broadway Soho Rep Theater, moderating a panel discussion on “The Economy of Beauty” following a performance of the hot German playwright Marius von Mayenburg‘s new play The Ugly One. My fellow panelists will include the sociologist Ashley Mears, author of Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model and a former fashion model herself.

On March 9, I’ll be speaking at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in beautiful Rochester, New York.

I expect to be speaking at the University of Maryland on a date still to be negotiated in April or May.

And from July 29 through August 3, I’ll be giving four lectures and hobnobbing with the other participants at Cato University. (Yes, I know the link is to last year’s Cato U.; this year’s page seems not to be up yet.)

If you’re in any of those neighborhoods, do join us.

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How the Death Tax Hurts the Poor

Here is my piece on the death tax in this morning’s Wall Street Journal (subscription probably required); viewers of this video will find the arguments eerily familiar.

Here’s the one passage the WSJ didn’t have room for; one day our children will look back in wonder on an age when the length of an argument was constrained by anything so archaic it could be measured in square inches:

I know you’ve heard it said that spending is good for the economy. That might be true during a recession, if you subscribe to a broadly Keynesian view of the world. But the death tax encourages overspending year in and year out, which is not a good thing no matter what your point of view.

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Death And Taxes

Herewith my remarks about the estate tax (with particular reference to its effects on the very rich, and why we should care) to Congressional staffers, presented a couple of days ago under the auspices of the American Family Business Institute. Here is higher quality video. Here is the even higher quality YouTube version. Here is video of the entire event. I particularly recommend the first talk, by Stephen Entin.

Note that all of my remarks apply equally well to all forms of capital taxation. Entin did a better job of focusing on the particular shortcomings of the estate tax.

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Cyclical Fluctuations


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(Larger and more easily viewable version here.)


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Talking in Memphis

Memphis ain’t a bad town, for them that like city life.

And Memphis is where I will be later this month, for the sixth annual Economics Teaching Conference, where I will be one of three keynote speakers, along with Greg Mankiw and KimMarie McGoldrick. The conference runs all day Thursday, October 21 and Friday, October 22. To register, click here.

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Religion on Trial: The Video

At long last, I have video of the “Religion on Trial” debate between me and Dinesh D’Souza, held at FreedomFest 2010:

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(Go here if you’d rather watch this on a bigger screen.)

I was warned in advance that the audience would be hostile and that I had no hope of winning the final vote. This prediction proved entirely accurate.

Overall, I think we provided good entertainment without pretending that this was any kind of serious intellectual exercise. There are, of course, a few things I’d do differently given the chance, but I won’t indulge the temptation to enumerate them here. Enjoy the show.

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Video Arcade

So after futzing around with one clunky inadequate free product after another, I finally plunked down an amazingly reasonable $59 for the AVS4you software suite, which unlike everything else I’ve tried, actually works, and works well. This has allowed me, pretty much painlessly, to re-create much better versions of some of the videos that I’ve posted here in the past. (Better, that is, in terms of quality, and in terms of format, and in terms of file size.)

There is still, of course, the inevitable tradeoff between better quality on the one hand and less bandwidth on the other. I think I’ve found the sweet point, but am still experimenting.

The current batch of experiments is here. If these download too slowly, or are frustrating to watch for other reasons (other than, perhaps, the content, which is another matter) I’d like to know about it. If they work for you, I’ll be glad to know that too.

PS: It seems crystal clear that these work much better (in the sense of not stalling) in .flv format than as, say, .mp4, even when the flv files are much bigger, and I have the vague sense that everybody in the world except me understands exactly why. Do educate me.

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Leavin’ On a Jet Plane

bellI’m off to Las Vegas and FreedomFest, where I’ll be speaking (probably) on why More Sex is Safer Sex, and debating Dinesh D’Souza in a specatacle billed as Religion on Trial. The religion debate will take place Friday July 9 at 5PM at Bally’s Casino and we expect it to be carried on both C-Span and C-Span 2, though I’m unclear on whether the coverage will be live. (Quite possibly it depends on what else that’s newsworthy is going on.)

All of which is my excuse for taking the rest of the week off from blogging. I’ll see you next week, and I’ll let you know how things went.

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How To Fix Everything

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank and gave a talk on “How to Fix Everything”. Here is the video:

(Edited to add: The video I originally posted was hard for several of you to view due to the large file size. I’ve shrunk the filesize by 2/3 and converted from m4v to flash, which I believe should solve the problem.)

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