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Liberals don't know basic economics?



June 08, 2010 – Comments (20)

I'm just excited to read the comments. Please leave them!

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...[and] has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.

Read more in The WSJ.

20 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On June 08, 2010 at 3:20 PM, TMFMmbop (28.03) wrote:

Incidentally, you can read the entire academic journal article here.

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#2) On June 08, 2010 at 3:49 PM, chk999 (99.96) wrote:

In other news, water is wet, fire burns and we have an interview with a bear out in the woods.

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#3) On June 08, 2010 at 4:20 PM, vitrified (94.98) wrote:

Interesting--I am surprised the differences based on political leanings were so pronounced.  I never studied economics at all in school (I was an engineer).  It wasn't required, and I didn't appreciate its value at the time.  Now, I read books on economics incessantly, as I find the subject fascinating and critically important toward understanding how the world works.

Why is there seemingly so little push in our schools to study economics?  I will definitely encourage my son to study economics, and I will make sure he learns basic principles of personal finance, as well, which are likewise neglected in American schools.

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#4) On June 08, 2010 at 4:28 PM, ChrisGraley (28.48) wrote:

Those that don't understand manipulation can't see manipulation vitrified.

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#5) On June 08, 2010 at 4:31 PM, outoffocus (22.84) wrote:

Could it be a simple as business majors are required to study economics, all others are not?

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#6) On June 08, 2010 at 4:36 PM, TMFMuse (96.49) wrote:

Those are some pretty heavy caveats:

"A number of controversial interpretive issues attend our measure, including: (1) our designation of enlightened answers; (2) an asymmetry in sometimes challenging leftist mentalities without ever specifically challenging conservative and libertarian mentalities; (3) our simple eight-question test is merely a baseline and does not gauge the heights of economic enlightenment; and (4) a concern about response bias"

#2 is especially troublesome, implying that they were creating a study with an intent to prove a preconcieved notion, rather than gather unbiased data to see where it leads. That's begging the question, aka bad science.

(Personally I think there are smart/educated folks on both sides, but each is working with different assumptions and aspiring towards differnt goals. And of course, there's also a bunch of idiots and idealogues on both sides. Not me, of course.)

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#7) On June 08, 2010 at 4:42 PM, SockMarket (34.31) wrote:

I suspect that it correlates more strongly with income than with political party and that this is a massive lurking variable they ignored.

after all when was the last time you met a rich democrat?

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#8) On June 08, 2010 at 4:45 PM, SkepticalOx (98.36) wrote:

#7, not sure if that was sarcasm... but aren't many if not a majority of the rich folks in the blue states mainly democrats, while a majority of the poorer folks in the red states conservatives (socially mainly)?

Fool favorite Warren Buffett is a democrat for example :P 

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#9) On June 08, 2010 at 5:03 PM, brickcityman (< 20) wrote:

see my answer here

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#10) On June 08, 2010 at 5:08 PM, ChrisGraley (28.48) wrote:

#7) On June 08, 2010 at 4:42 PM, danielthebear (87.72) wrote:

after all when was the last time you met a rich democrat?

Trial Lawyers,

Union Bosses,

Politicians (After they are elected)

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#11) On June 08, 2010 at 5:24 PM, amoldov (30.27) wrote:

The questions in the survey don't seem linked to policy choices or economics, but rather to logic. Perhaps the conservatives are simply more intelligent, or at least take more time to think before answering and it has nothing to do with being informed or having economic knowledge.

The idea that people on the "left" are less economically savvy is interesting. I remember that in my early years under communism the political leaders displayed little economic knowledge - but then communism wasn't on the "left", it was completely off the charts. I also remember the political science teacher quoting from Karl Marx (alias the Scripture for material dialectism) that "democracy and capitalism are incompatible", because as people realize they have a say in the decision making process they will also want to participate in the economic decisions and everybody will end up voting the money to themselves, to the detriment of the community. I hope he isn't right, for here I am, in the democracy, trying to become a capitalist ... Let's see how China is doing, after all they aren't hindered by democracy.

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#12) On June 08, 2010 at 5:52 PM, eldemonio (97.55) wrote:

Conservatives don't know basic research principles?

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#13) On June 08, 2010 at 5:54 PM, vitrified (94.98) wrote:

ChrisGraley, so economic ignorance on behalf of the public (or at least a large segment of the public) is a useful tool for those in power?  I.e., people cannot follow the logical outcome of certain policies and are unable to fairly assess whether policies will actually help them or not.  Interesting thoughts.  Then again, our tax laws are filled with distorted, irrational policies that can be manipulated for economic advantage (by those who are savvy), though that probably are not well understood or appreciated by the public at large.  Are differences in "economic enlightenment" a significant factor toward increasing wealth disparity?

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#14) On June 08, 2010 at 6:06 PM, djbtudobem (79.33) wrote:

That study had gaping flaws.

For starters, they used a Zogby internet panel whose respondents were only 39% female. Many of the survey questions (like "More often than not, employers who discriminate in employee hiring will be punished by the market?") do not have agreed upon answers between economists...

Nate Silver, political polling analyst, wrote a whole post about it: click to read the rest.

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#15) On June 08, 2010 at 6:56 PM, MegaEurope (< 20) wrote:

"Free trade leads to unemployment" and "Third world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited" also are not generally agreed upon by economists.

Free trade can accelerate structural unemployment - i.e. workers at companies that lose their competitive advantage will lose their jobs and search for new ones.  I think the majority of economists would agree with that.

I don't know what definition they are using for "exploitation" (obviously not the Marxist) but apparently it involves something that corporations are incapable of.  In the real world there is harassment, coercion, and discrimination every day.

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#16) On June 08, 2010 at 7:13 PM, XMFRoyal (94.29) wrote:

That survey seems to be a lot of (mere) validation of conventional wisdom. I "love" the following one:

 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree).

So if you think workers are being exploited, then you're simply wrong (and presumably liberal)? Is it even possible to demonstrably "prove" this statement one way or other? And isn't that a pretty huge category (all Third World workers) to base a generalization on?

There are serious methodological problems in this study, as others have pointed out. However, it's of little surprise to see the results trumpeted on the Journal's editorial page, right where they belongs. 



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#17) On June 09, 2010 at 2:59 PM, XMFHelical (< 20) wrote:

While the results were disapointing, this sure reads as a study designed to get the result it did.  Questions all seemed to be caged in issues.  For example ""Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." could have read "Restrictions on goods, services, or matreials, drive up costs of those items".  The latter would have been a better general economic question whereas the former seems written to evoke an inherent bias.  Some of the other questions do read as more general.

So, disapointing result, more disapointing study.


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#18) On June 10, 2010 at 11:36 AM, SockMarket (34.31) wrote:


just saw this. that is a VERY small % of the population.

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#19) On June 11, 2010 at 1:56 PM, FleaBagger (27.52) wrote:

danielthebear - I just now found this. I have to say, almost all rich people (by American standards of wealth) are either Democrats, or are operating inside the GOP to make it more like the Democratic party - RINO's, as they're known to the middle-income base of the Republican party. As far as anyone knows, there are no rich conservatives, other than Rush Limbaugh.

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#20) On June 17, 2010 at 4:27 PM, thormat (< 20) wrote:

Why this would surprise anyone is beyond me.  This is also the reason that the transition from liberal to conservative is practically a one-way-street.

Leftist policies almost universally accomplish the exact opposite goal that the left tries to solve.  A good example is setting a minimum wage.  The wages that an employer can afford to pay is based on the profitabiliy of the employee.  Once the employee costs too much there is no longer a reason to hire them.  This is why you no longer see gas station attendants, for example.  At some point consumers say forget this price I'll pump my own gas.

If a given person understood economics then that person would cease to be a liberal, unless of course their goal was actually to do the most harm possible to the most people.

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