Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Most Economists

Some people get the idea that economists are somehow "liberal" or "conservative." Most are really neither. Instead of being ideologues on any particular issue, economists are nerds who think about technical models and behavioural assumptions. And we usually see the world in shades of gray. That's why there's really less political polarization than most people think, as this by the Free Exchange and this by David Colander point out. For the most part economists see the world as one big trade-off. One policy prescripting is appropriate if the conditions support assumptions A, B, and C, but the exact opposite is appropriate if A', B', and C' are true. Hence, Harry Truman's quip about wanting a one-handed economist.

If you do happen to be an ideologue, on either side, you probably won't like what an economist has to tell you about it, because the support you get will be equivocal, at best.

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