Bryan Caplan has made a name for himself with his thoughts of American voters and politics, but if you are looking forward to his thoughts on the 2012 presidential season, you may be a little disappointed. Caplan does have a new book coming out in 2011, but it’s about, well, family planning. Titled Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun than You Think, the book has a planned release date of Mother’s Day.
How did the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter, named the best political book of 2007 by the New York Times, get started writing about behavioral genetics? By blogging.
“Blogging opens more research channels,” says Caplan. “It is great to be able to bypass boring journals where people are just talking to each other and to have an outlet for ideas that don’t fit into a traditional academic format.”
Caplan says he has been interested in behavioral genetics, which is basically the study of twins and adoption, for a number of years. Caplan is also the father of three, including a pair of identical twins who are now seven, which spurred his curiosity.
“People have been arguing about nature versus nurture for centuries,” Caplan says. “Over the past few decades, twin and adoption researchers have finally discovered credible answers, and their punch line surprises people.”
The punch line, according to Caplan, is that in the long run almost all similarities within the family are due to heredity.
“People in this field approach it as pure researchers. They don’t think: What does this mean for the world?” he says. “But as an economist, I look at this and think, ‘Wait a second, this has major implications for behavior.’ What this says is that parents can give themselves a big break without endangering their children’s futures.” The book builds on this “punch line” epiphany, and Caplan has lots of data from which to draw.
Despite his work on the book, Caplan still finds time to blog about political and other topics at Econlog, the blog of the Library of Economics and Liberty.
“Blogging has really helped make economics truly interdisciplinary,” Caplan says. “It is a place where you can really bring together a lot of different ideas and still call it research. I’m very excited about that.”