Are You Smarter Than a George Mason University Economics Professor?

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Covertibility, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. Are You Smarter Than a George Mason University Economics Professor?

    Here's what Klein and Buturovic did. They took a survey using one of Zogby's internet panels, which is by far the worst polling instrument that they could have selected. The panel was not weighted and was not in balance. For example, McCain led Obama 49-43 among respondents to the survey, even though roughly the opposite outcome was observed in the actual election -- and only about 4 percent of the respondents were Hispanic and only 39 percent were female. Then they asked 16 "questions of basic economics", as the Journal's sub-head describes them, and arbitrarily included eight of them in their analysis but threw the other eight out.

    If you were expecting fifth grade questions about supply and demand, you'd be wrong. Let me just say: I come at this as a University of Chicago economics graduate who indeed disagrees with the liberal orthodoxy on many economic matters. But questions such as "[Does] poverty cause crime?", which was one of the questions that Klein and Buturovic excluded without explanation, are more like Zen meditations than matters of basic economics.

    Others were poorly phrased, for instance: "A company that has the largest market share is a monopoly?". This is confusing; having the largest market share is a necessary, though hardly sufficient, condition for being a monopoly, and no alternative definitions were presented. Is this question really an objective basis for determining whether someone is more or less "enlightened" (that's actually the term that Klein uses!) about economics?

    Some come closer to having a technically correct answer, but are more within the realm of trivia. For instance, "In the USA, more often than not, rich people were born rich?". Notwithstanding that the definition of "rich" is ambiguous, you could probably develop an empirical answer for this question based around studies of social mobility. But unless you'd spent a great deal of time reading the academic literature on mobility -- something that few laypeople will do -- there's really no way that you'd know it.

    Finally, there are some questions about which there is considerable disagreement even within circles of academic economists -- as Klein should know, since he's commissioned several surveys of them. Economists are about evenly split, for instance, when it comes to the minimum wage. There is much closer to being a consensus on free trade, but there are an ample number of heterodox views. And in other cases -- like the Rand Paulian view that "More often than not, employers who discriminate in employee hiring will be punished by the market?" -- there is very little in the way of recent academic research at all.

    So basically, what you're left with a number of questions in which people respond out of their ideological reference points because the questions are ambiguous, substanceless, or confusing. Klein is blaming the victims, as it were.

    There would have been much better ways to construct a study like this one. For instance, questions could have been developed from standardized tests of high school students, like the AP Economics exam, or from surveys of academic economists. Such studies might well support Klein's thesis. But between the poorly-considered questions and the poor choice of survey partner, this amounts to junk science.


    It should be a requirement that academic economists venture out into the real world and compare how and why their theories and viewpoints are wrong. For example, the minimum wage. It does not cause unemployment and in fact according to work done by Robert Reich, states with higher minimum wages had higher growth rates than states with a lower set minimum wage.

    I know there is a similar thread in the Religion section but that thread has republicans illustrating their mentally defective brains.
  2. Sure man, divert attention away from Obama. Look around you moron, the US is in dire straits. Of course, for you leftists, the European socialist Greek economic model the THE standard.
  3. TGregg


    What is ambiguous about:

    "2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago. "


    Over 60% of self identified liberals said no.
  4. It depends on how you define the standard of living. 30 years ago both parents in the household didn't live paycheck to paycheck and still wind up in brankruptcy.

    30 years ago your wages actually kept pace with inflation unlike the past 10; in addition for the first time in history, wages flatlined while productivity was increasing year over year.

    30 years ago you didn't pay for healthcare insurance only to see your provider look for any excuse to deny paying for a procedure that had been included in your coverage.

    This list can go on and on. But unless you like bullshit trinkets, like iPads, then hell, forget everything else, you're in shiny object heaven.
  5. Excellent thread.