This makes me spit with rage. Some economists at (where else) George Mason University conducted this survey and claimed to find that liberals are less “economically enlightened” than conservatives.
What were the questions used to make this determination? Well, here’s my very favorite:
5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree).
That’s right. You count as not understanding economics, in the minds of these “scholars,” if you come up to a different position than they do on a hotly contested moral question of what counts as exploitation.
The only way you can think that that question will give you useful data on whether someone understands economics or not is if you genuinely can’t think of any way that a Pareto-superior transaction might be exploitative. Then, sure, there’s no debate about whether or not developing country labor is exploitative, because, hey, they were willing to take the deal, insert revealed preferences, done! Except that on that theory, hanging out in the desert and selling bottles of water for ten grand a cup is perfectly non-exploitative.
And even under that kind of dessicated theory of exploitation, you’d still have to have a bunch of contestable counterfactual beliefs about what options would be available to those workers without the existence of a multinational labor market.
I’m not saying that this market is uncontestably exploitative. I happen to think it is exploitative, but there’s room for debate. But coming down on the right-wing side on that debate does not economic competence make! One wonders if Joseph Stiglitz counts as “economically unenlightened” on the authors’ theory. Actually, who needs to wonder?
This is absolutely enraging. And totally unpublishable. Beautifully, it seems like it couldn’t get published in a real journal:
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.
Hint: if you have to publish in your own damn journal, maybe you should hesitate before putting it out? And did he bother to send it out for peer review? Somehow I doubt it.
The Wall Street Journal should be condemned for giving column inches to this deceptive “research.”
Paging Andrew Gelman!