What do economists really think?

By Paul Walker 11/09/2012

In a new paper Daniel B. Klein gives us an answer. His paper is The Forsaken-Liberty Syndrome: Looking at Published Judgments to Say Whether Economists Reach a Conclusion.

The abstract reads,

Do economists reach a conclusion on a given policy issue? One way to answer the question is to survey economists at large. Another is to look at the published judgments of economists who have gone on the record. Relative to an anonymous survey, going on the record makes for much greater accountability, and presumably more personal responsibility. I discuss eleven studies of economists’ published judgments. Several of them show greater support for liberalization than found among economists at large. This is offered as evidence of what I call the forsaken-liberty syndrome. I discuss the nature of this test of such syndrome and point to some of the larger questions to which it relates.

At one point Klein writes,

But, first, we look at three cases on which the on-record support for liberalization is high but about the same as for at-large economists. On the governmental subsidization of sports franchises, stadiums, and mega-events, Coates and Humphreys (2008) find a strong consensus among on-record economists. Meanwhile, a sample of at-large economists were asked by Whaples (2006) about whether “Local and state governments in the U.S. should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises.” Eighty-five percent either agreed (strongly or simply), and only five percent disagreed. It is fair to say that on-record and at-large economists are about the same on this issue. In my humble judgment, sports subsidies are an exemplary case of corporate welfare and public foolishness. On this matter, the Journal of Economic Perspectives has taken care to educate economists at large, publishing a fine analysis by Siegfried and Zimbalist (2000).

But what influence will this consensus have on local or national politicians? I’m guessing very little. :-(.

  • Coates, Dennis and Brad R. Humphreys. 2008. “Do Economists Reach a Conclusion on Subsidies for Sports Franchises, Stadiums, and Mega-Events?” Econ Journal Watch 5(3): 294-315. Here.
  • Whaples, Robert. (2006). “Do Economists Agree on Anything? Yes!” Economists’ Voice 3(9), art 1. Here

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