Did you know that liberals are big dumbs about economics? I’ll bet you didn’t, because you’re too busy reading Paul Krugman talk about how we will solve the recession by hunting leprechauns, ya big dumb!
Well, George Mason professor of economics Daniel Klein surveyed people and found the shocking truth: liberals are really bad at agreeing with poorly worded questions that would otherwise prove how brilliant they are if they weren’t liberals.
Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: “Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable.” People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.
Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.
Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of “somewhat disagree” and “strongly disagree.” This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer “not sure,” which we do not count as incorrect.
So, if you asked me a question that made a broad, sweeping proposition that seemed mainly right, or mostly right, or pretty right with some big caveats, I’d probably say “somewhat disagree”. For instance, a development restriction that said you had to build apartments for rent instead of condos for sale would likely result in cheaper, more accessible housing. A development restriction that said every house had to comply with very strict and expensive building standards would likely make the housing more expensive. This isn’t rocket science, it’s basic analysis of any statement that’s too broad.
(There’s also the question of the difference between “somewhat agree” and “somewhat disagree” – they’re basically the same answer, differentiated solely by where your starting point is in the analysis of the statement.)
Of course, because “regulation bad” is something that pleasurably soils the Dockers of conservatives and libertarians, they’re going to answer overwhelmingly with one of the “agrees” and liberals are more likely to answer with one of the “disagrees”:
In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.
Let’s look at other questions in the survey:
The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).
So, basically, if you make sweeping statements that take complex economic patterns and boil them down to ten words or less, and you then voice any reservations about the contentions they make, you’re a fucking moron.
Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well. But the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.
The main problem here is that this isn’t economic thinking – this is economic catchphrasing. Are some Third World workers working for American companies overseas being exploited? Yes. Unquestionably. This isn’t a matter of accepting broad economic theory or not, this is a matter of starting from a series of assumptions purposely designed to tweak liberals and then calling liberals dumb for voicing the accurate reservations you knew they were going to have.
The odd part is in questions like the living standard question – although our overall standard of living has risen over the past 30 years, the recession has caused that standard to take a huge hit, sending some people back decades. (And yes, that’s an article from the very newspaper Klein’s column was published in. He did not notice this because he is so very dumb.)
If this is the new standard of judging economic literacy, I’m just going to go to a Young Republican rally and ask if tax cuts solve economic downturns. Everyone who agrees will be labeled a total dunce and be recommended for removal from the gene pool. Can I be a professor of economics now, please?