University study finds that self identified leftists don't understand basic economics

Discussion in 'Politics' started by phenomena, Jun 8, 2010.

  1. Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
    Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics.

    Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.

    Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents' (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.

    Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.

    Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.

    Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

    Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree." This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer "not sure," which we do not count as incorrect.

    In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.

    The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

    How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.

    Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well. But the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.

    To be sure, none of the eight questions specifically challenge the political sensibilities of conservatives and libertarians. Still, not all of the eight questions are tied directly to left-wing concerns about inequality and redistribution. In particular, the questions about mandatory licensing, the standard of living, the definition of monopoly, and free trade do not specifically challenge leftist sensibilities.

    Yet on every question the left did much worse. On the monopoly question, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (31%) was more than twice that of conservatives (13%) and more than four times that of libertarians (7%). On the question about living standards, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (61%) was more than four times that of conservatives (13%) and almost three times that of libertarians (21%).

    The survey also asked about party affiliation. Those responding Democratic averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.

    Adam Smith described political economy as "a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator." Governmental power joined with wrongheadedness is something terrible, but all too common. Realizing that many of our leaders and their constituents are economically unenlightened sheds light on the troubles that surround us.

    Mr. Klein is a professor of economics at George Mason University. This op-ed is based on an article published in the May 2010 issue of the journal he edits, Econ Journal Watch, a project sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research.
  2. None of this matters.

    Policy makers are lucky to be experts in two fields and even at that rate they would be an expert in only related subjects, this is all they care about in their narrow minded pursuit and basic economics.

    What we are left with is conflicting economics interests and the resulting current mess we are in.
  3. Cry and whine all you like, this isn't about politicians, it's about people. And this academic study of individuals yeilded these results. You don't have to like them, but kicking and screaming wont change it.

  4. Why would anyone even expect economic literacy from a party whose basic appeal is the free lunch? A party which thinks raising taxes and inceasing the burden of government is the ideal way to create prosperity? A party whose leaders admire Castro and Hugo Chavez and openly seek to emulate them?

    The basis of a free society is protection of private property. Without that, nothing else matters. Democrats are deeply conflicted about the whole notion of private property. They see it as unfair and oppressive and incompatible with their redistributional schemes.
  5. Hello


    My thoughts were almost identical, what the hell should we expect from the party, whose holy messiah, thinks the way to solve a 1.7 trillion dollar yearly deficit, and over 12 trillion dollar debt is to add another trillion dollar bill for an entitlement program, and expand government during the worst recession in history.

    The same guy who decides to throw down the biggest corporate tax increase in history, during one of the worst recessions in history, they have no common sense, to them corporations and rich people are evil, period, anything which can be stolen from them to hand out to people who dont work is fair game in their opinion.

    Liberals never think of the consequences when no one wants to open a business here anymore, im sure in their screwed up minds they actually think the quality of life would be better for everyone if they managed to clear every single corporation out of america, except Ford and GM, then we could all work for the government and everyone could be rich!

    What would you expect from the party who is in full support of hugo chavez, and think that it would be wonderful to live under his rule even though they are a third world shithole?
  6. Obama has put us in more debt in the last 18 months than every president from Washington to Bush Sr. COMBINED! More debt in 18 months than in our first 200+ years.

    How do you like that? Did I just "killthesunshine" for you?
  7. At this rate 1.7 trillion will be a mcdonalds worker salary in 10 years...

  8. Hello


    The funny thing is, I asked Gabfly the following three questions:

    He considers himself a centrist, yet he answered all three questions exactly how i knew he would.....It proves your study 100%, go check the questions, lol these people are living in lala land. I would have thought Gabfly1 would be able to put his game face on for a couple seconds but he is totally incapable of rational thought, it has been proven time, and time again that these guys think the answer to the problem is the expansion of government, which is something that is proven as fallacy time and time again. They cant seem to grasp the concept that every single communist/socialist country in the world is a shithole with a non existent standard of living.

    Government = Good
    Corporation = Bad

  9. jem


    the article was far too charitable.

    economics does not conflict with their emotions... it conflicts with their lack of experience earning income outside of academia or government.
    #10     Jun 8, 2010