Because the last one got such a response, here's another Caplan blog post.
As a matter of sincere discourse, I found the most stimulating, interesting, probably-most-true-as-I-see-it critiques are to tenets 1, 2, 5, and 8. The hyperlinks are all dead, but point to corresponding sections of the syllabus for his labor economics class.
Critique: High worker productivity plus competition between employers is the real reason today’s workers have a decent standard of living. In fact, “pro-worker” laws have dire negative side effects for workers, especially unemployment.
Tenet #2: Strict regulation of immigration, especially low-skilled immigration, prevents poverty and inequality.
Critique: Immigration restrictions massively increase the poverty and inequality of the world – and make the average American poorer in the process. Specialization and trade are fountains of wealth, and immigration is just specialization and trade in labor.
[. . .]
Tenet #5: Increasing education levels is good for society.
Critique: Education is mostly signaling; increasing education is a recipe for credential inflation, not prosperity.
[. . .]
Tenet #8: Overpopulation is a terrible social problem.
Critique: The positive externalities of population – especially idea externalities – far outweigh the negative. Reducing population to help the environment is using a sword to kill a mosquito.
Okay, I'm going to sit and try to unpack this for a second. At first, reading Caplan's points made me think he was just oversimplifying. But dude, the things he says are downright offensive. I'm not sure if he's just being lazy or if he's genuinely such an amoralist that he can't anticipate what tf these things are going to sound like on the other end.
Let's not forget about minimum wage laws here. Not to mention publicly-financed tuition at colleges in countries other than 'murica. And wages aside, labour laws exist to protect people from having to work 80+ hours a week, or do dangerous and illegal things. Pure compensation isn't the only factor here. Naturally, the standard of living in terms of pure $ doesn't come from government regulation but it's not the only factor at play here. Not dying in a workplace accident is pretty high on my list of priorities.
I haven't seen many people other than the GOP seriously argue this. Most lefty-liberal types are pro-immigration. "They're taking urr jobs" has been beated to death and shown to be wrong a million different ways.
Assuming education is nothing but social signalling, it still confers value to its holder. The problem is education will always be social signalling unless you have a specific trade program teaching students individual tasks a), b), and c) required by your job. Which doesn't exist for most jobs because there are a million things required to do in the economy and not enough resources to design individual programs tailored to each. The signalling functions as both a sign of conformity and having enough intelligence to plow through a bachelor's degree. Learning terms of art is easier after that, because companies are lazy and would rather outsource competency. That being said, I don't necessarily disagree about credential inflation. But so many things we do are irrational.
Okay, but raising the wages of the absolute poor isn't the issue here. The issue is i'm unemployed and might starve to death because I have no money. That's why unemployment insurance exists. And of course social security.
Okay, but the question is why do those differences in productivity exist. Because black people are lazy? Frankly this statement borders on offensive because the wage gap is only one facet of "racial and gender discrimination". Are we forgetting that 60 years ago there was no right to vote?
Political, social, discrimination don't exist. This is why Caplan has his head in his arse. He thinks by distilling everything down to a number he's solved every problem inherent in social organization.
Sooo... women's lives got better because their husbands started going straight to the bank. Again, the issue here is not absolute wages. This is what happens when you're so bone-headed you think the only metric that matters is income. Excuse me, the right to vote, second wave feminism (read The Feminine Mystique), not having your ass grabbed by your boss? Like maybe the violation of our most basic human rights might be important here? This is worse than Rev. Peterson.
Again, Economic growth > depleting all the Earth's available resources in Caplan's eyes, and assigning value to these things is not "rational".
Hopefully when those kids successfully solve the extensive-form continuous game with imperfect information for their $9.95 they can go to a concert or something. In labour economics vs. the world, I'm putting my money on the world.