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I often see problems in the world and wonder why someone doesn't fix them. Then I realize that I am someone, and that makes me feel bad because it is all my fault. Obviously I can't fix every problem, but I decided to try and fix one in particular.


The majority of voters say the ailing economy is the most important problem for the next U.S. president to solve. How does a voter who knows little or nothing about economics decide which candidate has the best economic plan?


As you know, the media is worthless in solving this problem because they like to give equal time to both sides, no matter how ridiculous one of the sides might be. Or worse, some media outlets make no attempt to be unbiased. Realistically, the media has no idea which economic plans are likely to work best, so even if they wanted to be objective and informative they don't have the tools or the incentive to acquire them.


The economy is arguably the most important issue in the world, having a huge impact on everything from global warming, to health care, to defense. And voters have no reliable information upon which to make decisions. Someone needs to fix that. Realizing that I am someone, I decided to take a crack at it.


At substantial personal expense I hired a professional survey company to poll professional economists and find out which presidential candidate's plans have the most support. Obviously there is a limit to how unbiased the survey can be, since economists are human, and most of them presumably belong to a major political party. We'll try to take that into account with the survey design. But no matter what the result, I think it will be useful.


For example, the idea of a gas tax holiday was condemned by economists in both major parties. I expect there are other plans that have virtually no support from economists in either camp. That would be useful to know.


But suppose economists are evenly divided on a particular tax plan. Is that useful to voters? I think it is, because the only rational thing for you to do as a voter in that situation is to support the plan that taxes yourself the least. And you can do that with a clear conscience if there is no agreement among experts that taxing yourself more will help the world in the long run.


I think we would all agree that having better information won't influence most voters. If every economist in the survey somehow miraculously supported the same candidate's positions, it wouldn't change the votes of hardcore Democrats or Republicans. But in a close election such as this one, independent voters, who I call the Rational Few, end up making the decision. I am hopeful that for that influential group, better information will lead to better decisions. If the Rational Few are indeed influenced by a poll of economists, and it tips the election, economists will forever be polled before national elections. Problem solved.


And in this way I plan to fix the economy, end the energy crisis, rationally address global warming, and provide low cost health care to all. In return, I expect the public to call me an idiot. I'm pretty sure that's why "somone" doesn't fix problems more often. But I can take it.

The survey will take several weeks to pull together. I'll give you the results when they are in.

On a separate note, I probably won't post an entry until later this week. I'll tell you what I'm up to later. It's not a vacation, but it is a good thing.

 
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Jul 30, 2008
Another way to spend some money to get a robust consensus on the economic consequences of the election would be to create <a href="http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/07/intrades-condit.html">conditional prediction markets</a> on that.
 
 
Jul 26, 2008
What a neat idea - I now have another reason to continue reading :) Sweet
 
 
Jul 19, 2008
User Name: It's Dave Jul 19, 2008

Agree with Dave on the principle of Gas Tax. Any elected employee of the government, whom we call the Senator, loves the idea of blanket indiscriminatory tax. Don't blame Dilbert "Scott". Poor guy probably pays more than us.

The root of the matter is that Taxation as a principle is considered an inviolate right of the government from ever since the Paris Commune to the migration of aristocracy from Britain to Zimbabwe.

Since the 19th century, when the germ of public democracy crept into the social fabric, the elected members have only found a way of occupying the place of kings & feudal lords. The rest of the structure has never changed. The revolutions have been like twisters with vacuums in their belly.

Karl Marx expected this to be a self-defeating exercise where this new mode of governance would "wither away". Well, it did in the USSR. It is happening in Britain.

And as long as Taxation as an acceptable premise for state oppression remains, it will happen in the US. Perhaps, not in our generation. But the rats will eat through in a few decades.

 
 
Jul 16, 2008
This is highly awesome, Scott. Thank you. I think that voters deserve access to information like this. It's empowering. I think that I would like to make a book or video series someday that teaches people about politics, economics, weird noises in their cars, etc.
 
 
Jul 16, 2008
Scott,
Tell me if I guess right (or if I'm close)...
The "good thing" you are working on that's not a vacation - is it working on a new Dilbert-related movie or TV show? One more guess - a new business venture or restaurant location...ok, ok, last guess....
you are going to run for President.
Jonathan
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
trippy64

You got that one on the head.

Presidents are suckers for economics. The twain shall never meet.
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
You are going to be sooo angry when the survey company you hired gets a Nobel prize in Economics.
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
I reject your premise that we should elect a president based soley on what he can do for the economy. Last i checked, he has as much to do with the economy as fish has to do with bicycles. After 70 years of social tweaking with the tax code, about all the president can hope for is transferring a different percentage of wealth from one groupof working individuals to another non working group.
And while we're at it, you would have to have a complete survey of your economists what they expect the outcome of the goverment poloicy should be, a more hands off market approach, or a more hands on socialist approach.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 15, 2008
I am very interested in what the results of this poll will be. I appreciate your efforts. I am not sure how much you will get back from this, but I imagine there must be at least some economic policies one of the candidates supports that has no economic justification and is pure political pandering (like the gas tax break).

I am not sure how big a project/survey this is, but if you get back some good results you might get some funding to do a larger/more robust survey. Have you discusses the possibility of getting the results published?
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
Being a "Dilbertish" engineer with an MBA, I've taken graduate level economics as part of my finance minor. It was quite interesting. They had to grade on 2 curves, one for the undergraduate engineering majors and one for all he B school folks. Economics is an inexact science, assumptions created to explain the past and using !$%*!$%* to predict the future. These are not the folks you want deciding the economic future, they can only explain the past.
As other posters have suggested, the best economic decisions are done by those who practice the "ART", not paid academics and way overpaid executives, who only serve to exploit the efforts of others. Granted if you can't learn and explain the past you're destined to repeat it but it has NO value in predicting the future.
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
I presume by polling economists you mean US economists. If you ask the wrong people you'll get the wrong answer (how many predicted the credit crunch?). You will not solve the world's problems until you realise the US is not the world, just a small bit of it.
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
You are often touting the economist's point of view as a more rational, well-informed and reliable mode of being. I've enjoyed some of the more recent unexpected economics best-sellers like _Freakonomics_, so I can understand that position. However, I'd love to hear your comments on Dan Ariely's _Predictably Irrational_, because he makes some startlingly cogent critiques of classic economics, namely:

1) Economists assume that people will rationally pursue their own self-interest
2) Vast !$%*!$%*!$ of empirical data show that people do NOT rationally pursue their self-interest, even in important economic decisions.

This seems like a real deal-buster to me. If the entire discipline of economics is founded upon poor assumptions of how humans think and make decisions, it seems to me that your broad survey of economists is going to be rather flawed.
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
RE: User Name: Hemantsclone Jul 15, 2008

Why are welfare instituions "Jewish"?

You will find many Jewish people and a lot of Jewish philosophy both for and against most things, including welfare institutions.

And PLEASE don't cite fruitcakes like Noam Chomsky as exemplars of Jewish thought - I and many other Jews feel very ashamed to share a religion / extended family tree with a rabid and malevolent leftist like him. He really isn't my fault! :)

But i fully agree that America should put all it's technological savvy and "can-do" attitiude into getting cheap. non-polluting energy - would cement a world-leadership position for a long time to come, help the whole world's economy so much and cut off lifelines to so many awful regimes ALL AT ONCE!



ammateur

 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 15, 2008

There's plenty of people that speaks a lot and does nothing.
Kudos for putting your money where your mouth is, and for taking matetrs in your hands.

Btw, are you sure that with the votes you may offset with your research, you'll improve your country's economy enough to repay for the survey itself?
It doesn't look very economically convenient for you, would you explain better why are you doing it?

Anyway, again my greatest congratulations.
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
I am genuinely excited to see how this pans out.
 
 
Jul 15, 2008

The media give attention to as many sides as is entertaining. Have you ever seen "Bulls and Bears". My ears literally ring after the show, and I had to turn the volume down four times because they are yelling, and these are people who are not ideological in their politics.

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 15, 2008
I think it's great that you really care!

But jesus! This new site is filled with bugs, and so sloooooow it makes me sick... It really gets to me, because it seems to be a product of the phb and not something dilbert could sign on for.

That being said, I like the idea, and the zillion great features... it's just a shame it's worthless in terms of speed and user-friendliness and basic functionality.
 
 
Jul 15, 2008
This one is from the Middle East:

Great Scott!!!

Scott's back on the rails. We thought we had lost him after the puppy episode. I was almost looking forward to the making of a male version of Oprah W or Michael Moore :P.

Good blog today.

Its perfectly alright for us to examine our place in the business world either through research or experience. Money is a great indicator.

Americans do need a path breaking discovery in human sciences to remain a world leader. The first step would be moving out of the British & Jewish influences of welfare institutions and then step forward into a new territory where the American way of life cannot be undermined by pseudo-intellectual termites like Noam C.

Scott is in the right place at the right time. The potential is practically infinite if he sets his eyes on it.

 
 
Jul 14, 2008
Good idea Scott! You're always complaining about how you never have enough information to decide whom to vote for. Well, then the logical next step is to get that information and find out dude!
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2008
Thanks for this. When you post results, could you also post the survey questions?
 
 
 
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