Economists Versus the Public on Economic Policy

  • Bryan Caplan

Abstract

Most economists know from personal experience that their perspective on the economy is unpopular. When they teach introductory students or write a basic textbook, one of their main goals is to correct students’ misconceptions. What makes this task easier is that students usually share the same misconceptions. They resist the standard critique of price controls, doubt the benefits of free trade, and believe the economy is in secular decline. What makes this task harder, though, is that students usually resist efforts to correct their misconceptions. Even if they learn the material to pass the final exam, only a fraction are genuinely convinced. The position of the modern economic educator is, moreover, far from novel. The 19th-century experiences of Frederic Bastiat in France (1964) and Newcomb (1893) in the United States mirror those of Jeffrey Sachs (1994) in 20th-century Russia.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alston, Richard, Kearl, J.R., and Michael Vaughan (1992). “Is there a consensus among economists in the 1990s?” American Economic Review, 82: 203–209.Google Scholar
  2. Bastiat, Frederic (1964). Economic Sophisms. Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education.Google Scholar
  3. Blendon, Robert, John Benson, Mollyann Brodie, Richard Morin, Drew Altman, Daniel Gitterman, Mario Brossard, and Matt James (1997). “Bridging the gap between the public’s and economists’ views of the economy.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 11: 105–188.Google Scholar
  4. Caplan, Bryan (2003). “The logic of collective belief.” Rationality and Society.Google Scholar
  5. Caplan, Bryan (2002). “Systematically biased beliefs about economics: robust evidence of judgmental anomalies from the survey of Americans and economists on the economy.” Economic Journal, 112: 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caplan, Bryan (2001). “What makes people think like economists? evidence from the survey of americans and economists on the economy.” Journal of Law and Economics, 44(2): 395–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coate, Stephen, and Stephen Morris (1995). “On the form of transfers to special interests.” Journal of Political Economy, 103: 1210–1235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fuchs, Victor, Alan Krueger, and James Poterba (1998). “Economists’ views about parameters, values, and policies: survey results in labor and public economics.” Journal of Economic Literature, 36: 1387–1425.Google Scholar
  9. Greider, William (1997). One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism. NY: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  10. Nasar, Silvia (1995). “Hard act to follow?” New York Times, March 14, C1, C8.Google Scholar
  11. Newcomb, Simon (1893). “The problem of economic education.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 7: 375–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Sachs, Jeffrey (1994). “Life in the economic emergency room,” in Williamson, John (ed.) The Political Economy of Policy Reform. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics, pp. 503–523.Google Scholar
  13. Shiller, Robert, Maxim Boycko, and Vladimir Korobov (1991). “Popular attitudes toward free markets: the Soviet Union and the United States compared.” American Economic Review, 81: 385–400.Google Scholar
  14. Soros, George (1998). The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered. NY: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  15. Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy (1996). The Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, October 16, #1199. Webbed version at: http://www2.kff.org/content/archive/1199/econgen.html.
  16. Walstad, William (1997). “The effect of economic knowledge on public opinion of economic issues.” Journal of Economic Education, 28: 195–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Walstad, William and Larsen, M. (1992). A National Survey of American Economic Literacy. Lincoln, Nebraska: The Gallup Organization.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bryan Caplan

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations