Most Economists Have Two Hands
By Arnold Kling
Supporters of free-market principles, we maintain, would score at least a 4.0 on the 18-question policy index presented here, and strong supporters would score at least a 4.5. By contrast, the mean for the 264 AEA members who completed the survey was 2.64.
If I were surveyed, depending on my mood I might not meet the authors’ standard for being a supporter of free-market principles. For example, on minimum wage laws, I might only be “mildly opposed” (4), rather than strongly opposed, because I think they do relatively little harm. I might end up being only mildly opposed (as opposed to strongly opposed) to a lot of the government interventions in their survey, which would not give me many 5’s to work with. For example, my opposition to restrictions on drugs, gambling, and prostitution is tentative, since we do not know what it would be like without those restrictions. It could turn out that eliminating those restrictions would have the horrid consequences feared by those who support those restrictions.
I might “mildly support” air and water regulation, which would give me a 2 on that question.
I’m pretty sure I would wind up with a score over 4.0, but I can see where economists with an “on the one hand, on the other” bent would not. Edmund Phelps, the newest Nobel Laureate, would be a classic example of that.
Thanks to Greg Mankiw for the pointer.