Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Left Flunks Econ 101

The Wall Street Journal has published an article by Daniel Klein, who is co-author of a survey of economics. The results of that survey are astoundingly clear, though not surprising at all to those of us who are conservative Libertarians.

First, the links:
The Wall Street Journal Article.
The author's abstract at Economics Journal Watch.
The PDF of the actual report, including links to the raw data and the survey form itself.
The conclusion is unequivocal: the Left doesn't understand economics. They just. don't. get. it. This isn't just suggested by the data, or implied... the gap in their understanding is deep and wide. Even though the respondents were given every possible break -- "not sure" answers were counted the same as correct ones -- Progressives and Liberals got more than 60% of the questions wrong, on the average.

The text of the PDF clearly discusses the results, as well as caveats in the methodology, but some of what interested me were the results listed in an off-hand way in tables at the end of the report. For instance, out of 8 questions, on the average,
  • Obama voters got 4.61 wrong. Only Nader and McKinney voters scored worse. It was no surprise to me that Obama was chosen by people who have a poor understanding of economics. I think he's seriously challenged in that respect himself. People in the know voted "No."
  • Democrats got 4.59 wrong. Only the Green party scored worse. Libertarians and Republicans scored best, with 1.29 and 1.61 questions wrong, respectively.
  • African Americans scored worse than any other ethnic group, with 4.26 questions wrong on the average. I didn't find this surprising, not because of their race, but because Blacks overwhelmingly tend to be Democrats. I believe the score was bolstered by those Blacks who aren't Democrats. By the way, Asians scored best.
  • Athiests and Protestants scored best of the various religions identified, with 1.91 and 2.4 questions wrong, respectively. "Other/No Affiliation" (i.e. people who are spiritual but non-denominational) scored the worst by far, with 4.09 questions wrong. I don't find this surprising at all... I think it's self-evident that the amorphous "touchy-feelies" aren't very well connected to reality to start with.
  • Of the Protestants, Born-again Christians tended to score better than those who were not born-again (2.03 to 2.72 questions wrong)
  • People who go to church scored better. This is a direct correlation... the more often you attend church, the more likely you are to be economically enlightened.
  • Married people score best of the various marital statuses (2.72 questions wrong). This applies only to traditional marriages: people in "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships" scored worst by a large margin (4.05 questions wrong)
  • People who identified themselves as residents of "America" scored best (2.25 questions wrong), while those who identified themselves as residents of "The Planet Earth" scored worst by a large margin (4.59 questions wrong).
  • Families with members of the Armed Forces score better (2.68 vs. 3.06 questions wrong).
  • NASCAR fans score better than those who aren't (2.43 vs 3.06 questions wrong) Perhaps this puts to lie the stereotype of the NASCAR fans as a bunch of drooling hicks... keep in mind that those stereotypes are propagated by people who don't know as much about economics themselves!
  • People who frequently shop at Wal-Mart scored much better than those who never do (2.24 to 4.24 questions wrong, respectively). This isn't much of a surprise to me... the snoots who won't shop there aren't likely to know a thing about saving a buck. It's pretty clear that the people who shop there aren't stupid about economics... but their detractors may be.
  • Households with union members score worse. Duh. We hate unions here in the South. Maybe that has to do with us being NASCAR-lovin' churchgoers who respect the military. Or maybe we just recognize it when a group is trying to subvert economic realities to their own benefit, and we don't like the injustice of it.
  • In direct proportion, the results are correlated to income. The less you make, the less you're likely to know about economics. Again, not surprising.
Keep in mind that all of these results are true for the people who are likely to respond to the survey. The authors surmise that this self-selection may skew respondents to the higher end of the IQ scale. One might conclude that these results come from the smartest of those people polled. That thought should scare you to death if you're a Democrat.

For what it's worth, I personally am a Libertarian Protestant who voted for McCain. I am traditionally married; an ex-USAF staff-sergeant who frequently shops at Wal-Mart, likes NASCAR, and makes a decent living. By all rights, I should have scored 100%... and I did.

1 comment:

  1. As someone with a familiarity of both economics and Robert Whaples survey of professional economists, I am not in the least surprised by the results published by Klein. Professional economists, including those of the overwhelmingly leftist world of academia, reached broad consensus long ago on these questions.

    These economic positions are not matters of opinion, these are matters of fact, supported both in theory and with dozens, if not hundreds, of case studies. If the progressive left thinks that these are subjective matters, then the results are even more worrying to thinking people.