Economists as Heretics
By Arnold Kling
In this essay, I argue that Congress treats economists the way the Inquisition treated heretics.
Why do the Inquisitors have it in for economists? Ultimately, politicians tell the people what we want to hear. They think that we want to hear that we are too feeble and victimized to cope with global competition. They think we want to hear that we are looking forward to years of dependency on government support for our health care and retirement needs.
On outsourcing, I write,
Each year, tens of millions of Americans change employers, tens of millions more change jobs within a company, and tens of millions more take courses in order to further their careers. Now, in an election year, politicians are claiming that:
- it is possible to identify a slice of the labor force that would have stable jobs if it were not for recent shifts in international trade; and
- bureaucrats in Washington can come up with a way to protect that segment of the work force, so that they do not have to adapt to a dynamic economy.
And the Inquisitors want to say that it is the economics profession that is not being realistic!
On entitlements, I write
Even if President Kerry or Edwards turned the rich people in the country upside down, emptying their pockets of all their financial assets, homes, cars, and everything else, that still could not cover the tab that Congress has run up on our behalf.
See also George Will’s column, in which he writes,
According to Laurence J. Kotlikoff of Boston University, the present value of the gap between promised outlays and projected revenues is $51 trillion — more than four times the nation’s annual GDP. Today the household wealth of Americans — the value of their houses, 401(k)s, cars, refrigerators, toasters, socks, everything — is about $42 trillion.
See also this satirical story about Congress repealing economic laws.
For Discussion. Given that most of the long-term deficit is due to Medicare, has either political party come up with a credible solution?