Friday, July 13, 2007

"Sadly, the average economist is no Milton Friedman" (amv)

Here is Alex Tabarrok (Marginal Revolution) on a recent New York Times article on the economic profession, which is described to be radically laissez-faire, resting on faith rather then on reason and thus to threat any opposing view by collective action:

It beggars belief when economists at Princeton, Harvard and Berkeley claim that they are lone voices in the wilderness boldly striking heterodox positions against the hegemony of "free market economics." David Card, for example, says “You lose your ticket as a certified economist if you don’t say any kind of price regulation is bad and free trade is good.” Really? Card and Krueger's famous paper on the minimum wage was a 1993 NBER working paper published in the AER in 1994. What happened then in 1995? Was Card decertified, drummed out of the profession, vilified by his peers? Hardly, in 1995 David Card was honored (deservedly imho) by the American Economic Association with the John Bates Clark medal. Dani Rodrik says “I fall into the methods of the mainstream, but not the faith,” which he defines as the belief that more markets and free trade are always good and government regulation is always bad. Give me a break. Let's go to the data. Klein and Stern surveyed members of the AEA on a host of policy questions bearing on markets and government regulation. The result, "Only a small percentage of AEA members ought to be called supporters of free-market principles." Even on the minimum wage, support for which Card says gets you decertified, the mean economist position is in between "support mildly" and "have mixed feelings." Indeed, even Card has mixed feelings about the minimum wage! (See his book with Krueger in which he points out that the minimum wage is not a very effective way to help the poor). On a host of other issues concerning government regulation, like support for OSHA, the FDA, and the EPA, the mean economist is somewhere between strongly and mildly support. Only on free trade is there strong opposition to government regulation in the form of tariffs. Thank goodness for small mercies.

See also Don Boudreaux (Cafe Hayek) on the same topic here.