James Kwak suggests that a deeper exposure to economic thinking leads to a more accurate perception of reality-meaning a less free market political orientation:

on some issues people who study undergraduate economics are more doctrinaire free marketers than professional economists. Table 5 compares the undergraduates responses to those of a survey of people with a Ph.D. in economics. The Ph.D. economists were more likely than economics majors to hold the textbook position on tariffs or the minimum wage. However, they were also more likely than economics majors (or, frankly, any majors) to think that income inequality should be reduced and that government spending should not be reduced, and they were somewhat less worried about federal budget deficits.

To sum up:

– undergraduate economics = a little bit of knowledge → free marketer

– Ph.D. economists = knowledge → interventionist

Some remarks:

– Kwak is talking about the US. I know the French academy. In France, everyone – both undergraduates and Ph.Ds – are interventionists.

– Manuals read by undergraduates (free marketers) are written by Ph.Ds (interventionists). Does not compute.

In the US, Libertarians perform better than Democrats and Republicans when answering a survey of eight questions about basic economics. The study makes Arnold Kling say that “Liberals are confident that they are smarter and better educated than conservatives. That may be the case in some sense. But they are overconfident in their beliefs. They may think of themselves as an elite, but they are just a ruling class.”

I think that the understanding of basic economics (and basic economic principles don’t change when you obtain your Ph.D.) leads to classical liberal political positions unless if you study economics with a political goal. When you see economic policies as a way to achieve political goals, you are likely to be an interventionist. When you see economic policies as a way to eradicate poverty, you are likely to be a free marketer.

What do you think?


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