Bryan Caplan  

Hail Scott Adams

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Liberal Fascism Watch... Raise Your Standards, Control ...

If you haven't heard, Scott Adams of Dilbert fame has commissioned a survey of professional economists. His explicit hope is to raise the quality of policy:

So how does a voter decide which candidate would be best for the economy?

[...]

Forgive me for not caring what your grandma thinks of NAFTA. I want to know which economic policies seem best according to the majority of economists. I got tired of waiting for someone else to give me some useful information and decided to go get it myself. [I sent him a copy of my book, but I assume it got filtered out. -B.C.]

I woke up this morning with the strange feeling that I might own the most important information in the world. Although 90% of voters have made up their mind, the race is so tight that the remaining 10% will settle things. If the media reports the results of my survey of economists, will it influence independent voters and thus the arrow of history? Probably not. But you can't rule it out.

I'm particularly pleased to see that Adams is trying hard to be more elitist than me:
But if you ignore the opinions of 500 economists you are either a well-informed genius who needs no advice, or an idiot who doesn't realize it would be helpful.
If you know anything about the econ profession, it's clear that Obama will crush McCain. After all, the typical economist is a moderate Democrat; he just happens to be a moderate Democrat who thinks that downsizing has important long-run economic benefits.

The real contribution of an Adams-like survey is the information it provides about economists' specific policy views. NAFTA, for example, enjoys economists' bipartisan support. If the public merely deferred to policies enjoying such support, we'd live in a very different and vastly better world.

The results from Adams' survey aren't yet in, and I've heard some complaints about his questions. Even so, I'm excited to see how his survey of economists turns out.

Stay tuned.

HT: Eric Crampton


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COMMENTS (10 to date)
kebko writes:

On the second quote, you cut it before the best line of the piece:

But if you ignore the opinions of 500 economists you are either a well-informed genius who needs no advice, or an idiot who doesn't realize it would be helpful. (Those two conditions feel exactly the same.)

Pat writes:

Obama's policies might be better than McCain's but divided government stalemate is better than either (even if it an economic dunce like McCain that gets the Oval office prize).

John Thacker writes:

Obama's policies might be better than McCain's but divided government stalemate is better than either (even if it an economic dunce like McCain that gets the Oval office prize).

Pat, what exactly is the reason for calling Sen. McCain an economic dunce? He's at least more like the professional economists in being pro-free trade, anti-ag subsidies, wanting to remove the tariff on Brazilian ethanol, but against subsidizing ethanol in the US. Sen. Obama takes the opposite position on all those those; even if he knows better, he's still pandering to economic dunces.

If you're basing your whole argument on McCain admitting once that he ought to learn more economics-- well, that only puts him above every other politician, since they all just refuse to admit it.

Jonathan W writes:

Economists are allowed to vote?
When did that happen...?
I'm all for sufferage but these things can go too far.

Jason Malloy writes:

Adams strikes me as a bit naive. He didn't even know that most economists were Democrats, when this information was easily available. Commissioning a survey is probably expensive, and such surveys have already been published. And they likely have better sampling and survey methodology.

As David Leonhardt's new article in the New York Times indicates, Obama's "University of Chicago’ Democrat" outlook is probably closest to that of most economists.

Edward writes:

Any economist worth his salt is Austrian. The rest are just court Jesters and Keynesians.

Scott Wentland writes:

I worry about a survey of economists because the questions have to be carefully thought out. For example, something like "Is NAFTA good for America?" is a bad question. An issue like NAFTA can be opposed for completely different reasons by economists on completely opposite ends of the spectrum (some may be opposed by leftist economists who don't think it's 'managed' enough, where other economists believe it's not ‘free trade’ enough).

A survey oriented toward macro could also be dicey. Macro is probably the most controversial (poorly understood?) area in economics. Though, noneconomists like to ask economists about macro more than anything else, even if said economist is not a macroeconomist. Levitt, for example, takes pride in not knowing much about macro.

Let’s hope this is a good, carefully worded survey.

Snark writes:

Scott Adams to Commission a Survey of 500 Economists.

The Top 500 Economists in the World.

500+ Economists Endorse Marijuana Legalization.

500+ Economists Sign Open Letter to Bush.

Is there some special significance to the number 500? Why not 5 or 10? What is about the number 500 that seems to complete the circle for economists? Aren't there diminishing returns beyond, say, 15 or 20 opinions? Does anybody have an opinion (or two, in the event that you happen to be a Keynesian)?

Kurbla writes:

Dilbert doesn't work for me.

Rick Stewart writes:

I filled out the survey. It was pretty sad. Imagining the results might influence any election whatsoever made me even sadder.

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