Why isn’t there more consensus among economists?

Clive Crook asks that question about the fiscal stimulus (by the way, Paul Krugman responds to the part of the column about him).  I do think there is more of a consensus than the current debates in the media, and the blogosphere, might imply.  I take the general consensus of macroeconomics to be not too far from the position articulated by Alice Rivlin.  That means accelerate the truly stimulative parts of the proposal and ponder the rest at greater length, plus emphasize aid to state and local governments.  I'm not suggesting that you have to bow down and yield to that view, only that the view makes sense to a large number of macroeconomists.

In part the appearance of so much disagreement is driven by the fact that both MSM and the blogosphere select for opinions which deviate from the mainstream.  Many segments of MSM are willing to represent the mainstream opinion, but there is then a sense that some new point of view must be offered, if only to hold the interest of the reader or viewer.  And some parts of MSM are openly partisan and thus they skew toward extreme points of view.  In the blogosphere libertarians are overrepresented, relative to their numbers in the profession.  On the Democratic side, Paul Krugman is the most influential figure, and I would place him to the left of most Democratic economists.  Progressives, like libertarians, are overrepresented on the web, relative to their numbers in the economics profession or elsewhere.

It is good that so many different points of view are being reflected, but we need to keep the biases of our filters in mind.  Repeating a moderate view, again and again and again, isn't always the best way to attract or keep an audience.


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