Friday, June 11, 2010

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? 

Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics.

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.

Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents' (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian. 

Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.

Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure. 

Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree." This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer "not sure," which we do not count as incorrect.

In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly...

...The survey also asked about party affiliation. Those responding Democratic averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.

Adam Smith described political economy as "a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator." Governmental power joined with wrongheadedness is something terrible, but all too common. Realizing that many of our leaders and their constituents are economically unenlightened sheds light on the troubles that surround us.

Is this really any surprise?

From my experience in talking with liberal friends, this totally rings true.  The thing I notice is that liberals dwell in theory, not reality.

A great example is Obama's response to the oil spill...He looks incompetent, so he puts a moratorium on deep water drilling.  But that creates less oil supply, loss of jobs, loss of tax revenue, etc.  It doesn't help, but it FEELS like the right thing to do.  

Feelings are great, but you have to look at the real affect it has.

Like the question above, "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable."

It feels great to say limit development, save the forest or whatever.  But it does have an affect.  Less supply equals higher prices.

These are dots that liberals don't seem to be able to connect.

1 Comments:

Blogger Pastorius said...

Clearly, that woman at the chalkboard wants me.

1:49 PM  

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