As regular readers know, I funded a survey of over 500 economists to see which candidate for President of the United States has the most support from economic experts. I will publish the results in a press release and in this blog late next week unless something slows me down, such as getting assassinated.

Voters say the economy is the most important issue to them. Foreign affairs will keep dropping down the list of importance now that the current administration supports a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. So how does a voter decide which candidate would be best for the economy?

Yesterday Reuters/Zogby announced a poll that showed, among other things, which candidate the voters think would manage the economy better. This is like asking people who have hemorrhoids the best way to treat a brain tumor. Shouldn't we be asking brain surgeons?

Forgive me for not caring what your grandma thinks of NAFTA. I want to know which economic policies seem best according to the majority of economists. I got tired of waiting for someone else to give me some useful information and decided to go get it myself. Democracy without useful information is random. This isn't a good time in history to be making random decisions.

I woke up this morning with the strange feeling that I might own the most important information in the world. Although 90% of voters have made up their mind, the race is so tight that the remaining 10% will settle things. If the media reports the results of my survey of economists, will it influence independent voters and thus the arrow of history? Probably not. But you can't rule it out.

When I announce the results I will include all the disclaimers about its accuracy and usefulness, and there will be plenty. But if you ignore the opinions of 500 economists you are either a well-informed genius who needs no advice, or an idiot who doesn't realize it would be helpful. (Those two conditions feel exactly the same.) For those in the middle, I would think you'd care what the experts think.
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Aug 29, 2008
There is a simple rhetorical point that I feel a lot of people are missing in Scott's initial post. He says

"When I announce the results I will include all the disclaimers about its accuracy and usefulness, and there will be plenty. But if you ignore the opinions of 500 economists you are either a well-informed genius who needs no advice, or an idiot who doesn't realize it would be helpful. (Those two conditions feel exactly the same.) For those in the middle, I would think you'd care what the experts think."

That is not the same thing as substituting the opinion of the experts for your own. I am looking forward to the results of this survey. I trust that the consensus of economists who didn't consult each other in determining their answers is more likely to be correct in regards to the economic results of each candidate's stated policies than my own guesses would be. But this will have to be added to information on which of their policies would actually be achieved, and to effects of policies which are not solely economic. Economic reactions will obviously be important in my life, but they are not the only results of presidential policies which I think will matter to my life.

I don't get the impression that Scott is saying that economists know better who to pick for President than other people do. I read his position as that economists know better than other people what the economic impacts of stated policy positions would be. While consensus is not enough to protect a view from being incorrect, when the experts in a field are agreed on something directly related to that field, they are right more often than they are wrong. For people who think the economy is one of the most important issues (which appears to be most people in this election cycle), the view of professional economists is valuable information to know. It's not the same as saying that that's the only information on which you should base your decision, though.
Aug 26, 2008
We Americans are pleased when the godless folks leave to live in their socialist nirvanas. I guess when you are not a producer, you don't care about exorbitant taxes, so places like Denmark or Iceland suit liberals well.

Economics is very predictable, in that you have some ironclad principles involving supply and demand. The human component is somewhat more fluid, but still generally predictable.
Aug 24, 2008

You may be interested to know that there was a study done detailing the views of economists and American citizens on the economy. It was called the SAEE (Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy). If you're interested in reading about it the results and an explanation of them (along with responses to a lot of the criticisms being posted here about trusting economists) can be found in Bryan Caplan's book "The Myth of the Rational Voter." I think you can actually take the survey on his website also.
Aug 22, 2008

I think a lot depends on what you think an economists role is. If you think economics is science, then a consensus is worthless.....500 scientists can be wrong. It is sufficient to be wrong to ruin a consensus. Just ask all the flat earth types. Out of your 500 economists, there may be 1 or 2 that are going to end up being right.

Likewise, 500 economists are going to have 32 different views. Are you going to argue that the view compartment that has the biggest support is the right one? Good luck with that one.
Aug 22, 2008
I'll be very interested to see if the majority of the economists favor one candidate, or if it will closer to an even split.
Aug 22, 2008
I hope the survey is more about questions like "Which of the candidates has the better economic plan" instead of "Which of the candidates are you going to vote for." Just because they're economists doesn't mean they don't care about issues like War on Terror, abortion, flag burning, etc.
Aug 22, 2008
Comment deleted.

[Going forward, I will be deleting some comments that hallucinate my opinions and then refute the hallucinations. You are welcome to refute my actual opinions. -- Scott]
Aug 22, 2008
How do you know that what is good for economy is also good for economists. Unless this is established, how can you be certain that economist would give an opinion which is really helpful for economy. :-).

I think there is no alternative to use your own brain.

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Aug 22, 2008
Well, it's good that people feel the economy is more important than pulling out of Iraq. You know, since Iraq is two countries south of Russia, the U.S. has all sorts of troops and infrastructure there (as well as control of the Iraqi oilfields) and is trying to provoke Russia by agreeing with Poland to put defensive Patriot missiles on their borders (don't you think Russia would get kinda pissed off when the States take away the whole M.A.D. thing in the favor of the U.S?).

What I'm saying is, perhaps soon the issue will not be pulling out of Iraq, but pulling out of Russia. Or beating those commie bastards, depending on what colour the state is.

Hey, at least we may just find out what the real culmination of the cold war is, huh?

Just sayin'.
Aug 22, 2008
Friedman said raising taxes is a bad idea, even in the face of reduced spending, because politicians will always spend what they have. That's why, he said, there can never be a surplus for very long. The only way to keep government from spending is to deny them tax money.

He believed gridlock, such as we had in the late 90s is good for the economy because one side keeps the other from getting what it wants and spending to much. But today, it seems, you have Bush AND Congress spending.
Aug 22, 2008
I wonder if your survey takes into account the politicial side of economic policy. In other words, not only will the policy do the most good, but what is the likelihood of the candidate getting his policy implemented.

So if one cadidate's policy will only show a 20% improvment in the economy, but he has a 100% chance of getting it passes, and the other candidate's policy will show a 50% improvements in the economy, but he only has a 5% chance of getting it passed - which is really better.

And sure, you may think the guy with the 50% improvement policy is smart enough to keep that number above 20% and still ge it passed, but economic skill and political skill are two different things. Of course, other factors in this include the party control of the House and Senate, and whether they have enough majority to block fillibusters or override vetoes.

I don't think even economists will have the overall best answer.
Aug 22, 2008
[But if you ignore the opinions of 500 economists you are either a well-informed genius who needs no advice, or an idiot who doesn't realize it would be helpful.]

Or...the economy is not the most important issue to you.

Or...you feel that the president really doesn't have that much affect on the economy anyway.

I am sure there are others, but don't go all high and mighty on us because you spent a few bucks on this.
Aug 22, 2008
"Milton Friedman is the most respected economist of the 20th century. Friedman says in all cases raising taxes and increasing government slows down the economy. This is principle is pretty universally known by now."

Our current situation is that we have been increasing the government and decreasing taxes by borrowing to make up the difference. Is either candidate going to come out for fiscal responsibility? Probably not, since promising a free lunch buys votes - even if it doesn't exist.
Aug 22, 2008
You DID talk to some folks at the Mises Institute, right, Scott....RIGHT??? You didn't just confine yourself to unrepentant Keynesians or the more deluded of the Chicago school, did you??
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Aug 22, 2008
Congratulations, Scott!

You have achieved full celebrity status of ego-centric thinking. You firmly believe you have more power and influence over the world than anyone else would believe you deserve. You can live the rest of your life with an unending knowledge that have financially grown past the need to worry about money. You can concentrate on telling the world how to live.

I liked you a lot better when you were humble. Or at least when you acted humble.

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Aug 22, 2008
[Professional economists tend to skew to the left]

Is it possible that these people first became enomists and then skewed to the left because of their acquired knowledge?
Aug 22, 2008
Heh Scott, Let me predict the survey results. "The candidate who plans to cut taxes will give a benefit for the country in a long run, the one who increases will raise the cach soon, but it will have a negative effect in the future". But I guess you understand that the plan what candidates offer is almost not relevant to actual economical situation at all, right? You need to choose the best executive and leader not the best planner, there are plenty of experts who can do that, including huge financial institutions responsible for that. And what your expert economists could say if the plan to improve the economy would consists of punishing the accountable for wrong solutions at least by downsizing them?

Greetings from Lithuania
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Aug 22, 2008
Scott Scott Scott... When will you listen to the voice of reason? Every day you come on here with some crazy idea, but always (it turns out) it's stupid. Or unfeasible. Or some hick in a trailer has already had it before you!

At what point will you learn that independent action will get you no-where?

Why, why, why did you spend your own money on getting some kind of informed opinion when you don't even vote? Surely you could just give it to some tramps and solve one man's problems? Didn't your mother ever tell you that 'one man can't make a difference'.

Besides, who gave you a qualification in economics, anyway? Or in business? Or in comedy? Frankly it appears to me that you've lucked your way through life and now you're just throwing your weight around without any just cause or motive.

How dare you have an opinion that differs from those of your readers, or the american population. And you're audacity to voice it? Now is not the time, what with elections and the war and the world in the balance.

My Golly, perhaps YOU evolved from the monkeys!

God bless!

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Aug 22, 2008
God shows his contempt for wealth by the kind of person he selects to receive it....
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 21, 2008
... and then he voted. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) :-)

But to be serious, I think it was a great idea; although you cannot base your decision on this information alone, it certainly rises above most of the information available in this election. (Yeah OK, I'm an economist.)
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