In yesterday’s Daily Kos, Dean Nut criticizes my book as filtered through the Economist‘s review. It turns out that alleged economic illiteracy is just selfish voting:

The Americans who most believe that “the economy is seriously damaged by sending jobs overseas” come in several varieties, including: former manufacturing workers who lost their high-paying union jobs to overseas companies and are now working in lower-paying, non-union jobs; and Americans who studied computer science and programming on the promise of “the information economy,” only to see programming jobs sent to India. The former category include huge swathes of automobile, steel, and textile workers. The textile workers have only to go to Wal-Mart to see where their jobs went– pick up a shirt and read the label, “made in China”.

This is an interesting objection to my results. It’s also empirically testable. If the reason why economists and the public disagree is that their interests diverge, then we should be able to make the disagreement vanish by statistically controlling for differences in interests.

Chapter 3 of my book reports the results: Controlling for income, job security, income growth, race, and gender diminish the belief gap between economists and the public by less than 20%. And even this exaggerates the role of self-interest, because the signs of the coefficients are often wrong. E.g. Contrary to the self-interest story, economists who share the economic circumstances of the average citizen worry more about the economic harm of welfare – not less.

Bottom line: The theory that economists hold their distinctive views because they are out of touch with the economic realities faced by the average American has been weighed, measured, and found wanting.

If only all my critics’ objections were this specific.