The Rationalization in Bryan Caplan's Intellectual History

Bryan Caplan's intellectual history is intriguing. When he was in high school he read Ayne Rand, met Murray Rothbard at the Mises Institute, and became an adherent of Austrian Economics. Later, he learned "real" economics and eventually decided that Ayne Rand and the Austrian School of Economics was basically wrong.

Here's the thing; Bryan converted to libertarianism based on Ayne Rand and Austrian Economics. He later threw away his justification for libertarianism but maintained his libertarian conclusions. He found new and genuinely smarter justifications for libertarian doctrine.


This leaves me suspicious. From an outside perspective, the odds that this series of events is the result of open-mindedness is slim. The odds that it is the result of rationalization for libertarian intuitions is impressive.

At the end of the day, we all can only believe what makes the most sense to us. I have no doubt that the version of libertarianism Bryan holds today is genuinely the result of the best arguments he has heard or can come up with. Still, I wonder; if we cloned Bryan but replaced his libertarian intuitions with something else, how would that debate pan out? Would either Bryan change his mind?

Regardless, this would hardly be a knock on Bryan personally. Bryan is one of my favorite people in the world. I'm only saying Bryan might be like everyone else; "intuitions come first, strategic reasons come second".

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