Amazing Dan Klein
By Bryan Caplan
I’m puzzled by Dan Klein’s recent guest post. I trust his empirics. Indeed, I prize them. But what do they show? As far as I can tell, Dan’s empirics show that a sizable minority of economists are small-l libertarians, but most economists aren’t. By that standard, yes, economists don’t enjoy an amazing consensus.
Yet why is that the only relevant benchmark for amazing consensus?
Here’s an alternative: Economists across the political spectrum accept many empirical claims that non-economists habitually deny. They recognize the economic benefits of downsizing. They agree that rent control causes housing shortages. They think a market in human kidneys would save lives. Amazing, I say!
If Dan wants to stick to policy positions, there’s still ample ground for amazement. If Dan gave his survey to the U.S. public, there’s good reason to believe that the typical economist would seem very libertarian by comparison. Suppose the median economist were more libertarian than 90% of the U.S. public. Would that be an amazing consensus in Dan’s book? It sure is in mine.
I’m as disappointed in our profession’s statism as Dan is. Maybe more so. But there’s a big difference between saying, “Economists don’t enjoy an amazing consensus on the issues that most concern me” and “Economists don’t enjoy an amazing consensus at all.”