The new issue of Econ Journal Watch

The link is here, the table of contents is described as follows: 

Economic enlightenment is not correlated with going to college, at least among the 4835 Americans who completed a Zogby International online survey. Economic enlightenment is highest among those self-identifying “conservative” and “libertarian,” and descends through “moderate,” “liberal,” and “progressive.” Other variables include party affiliation, religious participation, union membership, NASCAR fandom, and Wal-Mart patronage. Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and Daniel Klein report.

When the White House changes party, do economists change their tune on budget deficits? Brett Barkley does a systematic investigation. Six economists are found to change their tune – Paul Krugman in a significant way, Alan Blinder in a moderate way, and Martin Feldstein, Murray Weidenbaum, Paul Samuelson, and Robert Solow in a minor way – while eleven are found to be fairly consistent.

44 economists answer the questionnaire about a market-failure rationale for pre-market approval of drugs and devices:
The questionnaire posed reform questions and tested responses. The 44 interviews provide a rich set of discourse that help one decide: Is there a sensible market-failure rationale?
Supporters of pre-market approval include Kenneth Arrow, John E. Brazier, William Comanor, Randall P. Ellis, John Hutton, Naoki Ikegami, Jonathan Karnon, Gérard de Pouvourville, F.M. Scherer, and 14 others.
The supporters of liberalization are James F. Burgess, Jr., Noel Campbell, J. Jaime Caro, Thomas DeLeire, David Dranove, Dale Gieringer, Paul Grootendorst, David Henderson, Randall Holcombe, Charles Hooper, Sam Peltzman, Paul Rubin, Shirley Svorny, Robert Tollison, and Michael R. Ward.
The Euro symposium response: Lars Jonung and Eoin Drea respond to commentators on their study of what US economists were saying about the prospect of the euro, and comment on recent events and debates.
Econometric errors in an Applied Economics article. Dimitris Hatzinikolaou reports on the article and his efforts to get his critique heard.
A 1903 letter against protectionism in Britain endorsed by 16 economists including Bastable, Bowley, Cannan, Edgeworth, Marshall, Pigou, Scott, and Smart.

The first one is sure to cause some controversy and I view it in part as an attempt to revise the portrait of the elites put forward by Bryan Caplan; I await his response.  My own view is that "who in the general public understands economics best" is very sensitive to which questions we ask.  Libertarian-leaning voters have a better understanding of government failure, but left-leaning voters are more likely to understand adverse selection or aggregate demand management.  Which is a more important topic?  That may depend on the researcher's own point of view.  What's the closest we can come to a value-neutral test of whether elites or the "common man" understand economic reasoning better?  In the meantime, Bram Cohen understands economics pretty well.


This "enlightenment" survey is actually quite blatant "do you agree with right-wing positions" survey. Nearly all of its questions are highly dubious when applied to the real world.

I'm inclined to believe that the liberal left would score higher in an economic enlightenment survey than illiberal leftists (who are more traditionally associated with labour and protectionism). The nature of the US system means that they must coexist in one party, and that, in turn, colors the results. Even so, the results do not particularly surprise me: some aspects of the progressive movement during the Cold War were tethered to socialism and to promoting the idea of false equivalence between the United States and the USSR, and such elements persist in our two-party system. Such a tether was never a major hindrance for conservatives or libertarians in the US, both of whom held up either an idealized version of the US, or some not-yet-materialized iteration of the liberal democratic model, as their model.

If there's one thing I learned from following the 2008 election way too closely, it's that Zogby International is worthless. Here they asked people to agree or disagree with statements like:

(1) "Third-world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited."
(2) "Minimum wage laws raise unemployment."

I would have expected liberals to agree with the first statement and disagree with the second, and conservatives the other way around. But now that Zogby International confirms this result, I grow suspicious. After all, it's more likely that the conventional wisdom is wrong than that Zogby International could survey its way out of a wet paper bag.

In any case, I could imagine a serious study that correlated economic knowledge and misconceptions with political leanings. This ain't it.

The White House changed hands the last two times when
(a) the US was running a surplus
(b) the US needed a huge stimulus to keep from going under.

So I'm not sure that
When the White House changes party, do economists change their tune on budget deficits?

means much.

Interesting question: is it good if one supports right idea for wrong reason?

The Bush to Clinton handoff was in the thick of a recession, if I remember correctly.

Perhaps the correct thing to look at is the economists' position on deficits when the economy is in recession versus when the economy is growing. Then you'll find Keynesians' tune changes, and to be hardly surprising.

As mentioned, one of the 8 questions was;
(1) "Third-world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited."

This is supposed to be a question that doesn't "challenge typical conservative or libertarian policy positions"? Almost any very liberal person is going to disagree with this, even if they understand the economics of it.

"Almost any very liberal person is going to disagree with this, even if they understand the economics of it."

I don't understand your comment.
It is the liberal groups who preach that we exploit third world workers. It is because they don't understand the economics of free trade.

I like how Dan Klein's picture crops out some blond haired woman leaning up against him.

oooooooooh boyee, does anyone have any links to any progressive websites discussing this? I love seeing progressives in their natural state of holier-than-thou bloodlust and anger.

Can't wait till this hits Metafilter.

It'll be the snarkpocalpyse.

It looks, from the post, that the question design had the purpose of tilting respondents in one direction.

Take these two questions, without attaching the subject matter of the question to it, and ask how you would respond:

1. Do you favor the status quo.
2. Do you favor changing the status quo.

Now, look at the question from the post:

1. Do you support pre-market approval (no change position).

2. Do you support liberalization. (Doesn's say how much, doesn't say how far, doesn't say if premarket approval remains in effect.)

So, the mechanism design is pin one side down to the status quo, and let the other side get the space from a small delta away from the status quo to an infinity away from the status quo, and count the number of persons favoring the status quo and those who have opinions from small delta to infinite delta away from the status quo.

Guess who always wins.

I disagree that it's a nice set of questions. There are plenty of questions that test economic intuitions that don't have the same political dimensions and of the questions selected none of them were questions broke left. They could have stuck in a question about congestion pricing, parking mandates, overfishing, or carbon taxes or scores of the other questions where economic consensus is more in line with liberals and left leaning libertarians. Hell the efficacy of fiscal stimulus doesn't seem more contentious than some of these.

Is Krugman an outlier, or a liar?

indiana jim,

the guy can outlie just about anybody.


What you say is no lie.

Sebastian writes "Econ Journal Watch has always tended towards the pathetic in their own articles, but initially they at least had some cool summaries of research published in real journal. Now it's just the ravings of 3rd rate right-wing economists. too bad.
And what's up with GMU "econ" "professors" and their unfounded ad-hominem attacks against much better economists. "

Here we have someone making accusations of "ad hominem" via referring to the best faculty in the nation in quotations: "econ" "professors", not to mention referring to their insightful works as "ravings of 3rd rate right-wing economists."

Whoever Sabastian is he/she does not understand that it is not credible to decry ad hominem while engaging in it.

Does that deficits paper ask how the economists feel about deficits under different economic conditions? I'm pretty sure Krugman feels differently about them when the economy's growing and the deficits fund a war in Iraq and a giveaway to drug companies, vs. when there's a recession and the deficits fund a stimulus program.

Die-hard consistency in the face of changing conditions isn't a virtue, it's the sort of stupidity that characterized Shrub's presidency and caused so many of our problems.

TracyW wrote:

"Increasing the minimum wage means less money either for business owners (if profits go down) or consumers (if prices go up), or some combination thereof. So a rise in the minimum wage transfers wealth to affected workers (who aren't laid off) from some other people. Affect on aggregate demand should be at best zero - ignoring deadweight costs and adjustment time. So why should such feedback be taken into account? Am I missing something?

Hey, Tracy, I'm no economist but as I read your question my guess was that the thinking is probably that an additional dollar in wage to a minimum wage worker is a dollar at the margin that almost certainly will be spent (affect aggregate demand), while that same dollar is not nearly as likely to be marginal to the business owner and, thus, more likely to be saved than spent. How much difference there is would be (and I am sure is) open to debate. However, my intuition says it wouldn't be "at best zero". It might be a very small number, but zero or below just seems unlikely given the above. Or maybe now I am the one missing something?

One of the questions that they didn't throw out:
"Third world workers working overseas for American companies are being exploited"

I don't see how a statement like this has anything to do with economics. It is strictly a value judgment.

Tomasz writes "This "enlightenment" survey is actually quite blatant "do you agree with right-wing positions" survey. Nearly all of its questions are highly dubious when applied to the real world."

Well, no; consider the survey's questions:

1) Restrictions on housing development makes housing less affordable.
2) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services.
3) Overall, the standard of living is higher than 30 years ago.

4)Rent controls lead to housing shortages.
5) Third world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited.
6) The company with the largest market share is a monopoly.
7) Free trade leads to unemployment.
8) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment.

These questions get right at the issue of whether a person is enlightened about basic economics or not. Basic economics belongs to no "wing", neither right, nor left. The principles are like those of any field of study; would it be "right-wing" to characterize a person "enlightened" who strongly agreed that Winter follows Fall, or to classify as "unenlightened" a person who strongly agreed with a statement like this: Dropped objects rise to the ceiling rather than falling to the floor?

Economic enlightenment defined by the study authors as adherence to freshwater doctrine, so of course it correlates with the left-right axis. This just in, liberals are liberal!

Someone publishes this crap?

The problem with these questions is that they're politically charged. I wonder what would happen if the questions included things like, "Tax cuts always leads to increased revenue".

Most likely liberals would be so "unenlightened" as to disagree, driving their score further down (in the evaluation of the study authors).

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