Bryan Caplan  

Leveraging Agreement

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Don't miss David Henderson's amiable podcast on disagreement in economics. His tale of disillusion with Krugman alone is worth the price of admission.

This podcast reminds me of an idea I've had for a while: Creating a meta-petition of policies that a broad consensus of economists oppose. Any economist could add a policy to the list, and any economist could express agreement or dissent. Once the number of respondents exceeds, say, 100, and 80%+ favor repeal, the candidate policy gets added to the meta-petition of economic common sense.

For example, Dan Klein might propose legalizing the sale of organs. He'd quickly get 100 yeas; and I doubt that there'd be 20 economists with the gall to say no. A market for organs would then go on the growing list of ideas that people in the know see to be right.

And then the majority of the public would have to admit error, right? Oh well, we work at the margin.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Biomed Tim writes:

"For example, Dan Klein might propose legalizing the sale of organs. He'd quickly get 100 yeas; and I doubt that there'd be 20 economists with the gall to say no."

That wouldn't work Bryan: people who sign either yes or no are "self-selecting." For something as controversial as organ sale, I'd suspect that many economists would simply not sign. Therefore even if you get 80% majority, you wouldn't be able to claim "broad consensus" because it's not a random sample.

Am I missing something?

Jeff Hallman writes:

Or you could just offer to buy the gall bladders of the ones with the gall to say no.

Bob writes:

Biomed Tim - so you set the min to 200. Or 500. I think you'd be surprised in the age of Freakonomics how many economists would be willing to sign.

Jeff - that's the funniest line of the day so far (although I'm on the west coast so don't spend the prize money yet).

On topic (sort of), I'll nitpick Bryan and point out that you're fine with 20 nays, it's 25 that push you down to 80%.

More seriously, what's the credential that gets you a vote? An economics Ph.D.? Does it have to be from a US institution? Accredited? What about my finance Ph.D.? You see where I'm going - for the group to appear valid you need both broad inclusion and strict exclusion. Tricky to pull off.

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