Breaking news: academic elites are part of an insular clique where any dissent is quickly stamped out of existence by their counterparts in the mainstream media. Oh, is that old news? Well, at least we agree it’s not fake news. The latest performance by this symphony of symbiotic sycophants appeared in The Washington Post on Monday in the smugly titled piece “35 of 37 economists said Trump was wrong. The other two misread the question.”
The article discusses a survey, conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, in which thirty-seven economists responded to the statement “The tax reform plan proposed by President Trump this week would likely pay for itself through higher economic growth.” All but two replied that they disagreed. Of the two that did reply that they agreed, their answers included a disclaimer added by the school that the economist meant to say they disagreed. The people conducting the survey were kind enough to write “Panelist meant to Strongly Disagree (question misread)” in the comments – as if to say that a professor at MIT and a professor at Stanford are so inept that they misread the most important question on a two-question survey. Why not just amend their actual response?
Setting aside the possibility that the survey administrators merely assumed the respondents intended response, what other explanations exist? How about this – is it unreasonable to think that an economist in the ideological minority, when confronted with the fact that nearly 95% of his peers disagree with him, might change his mind while pretending to have made a mistake? The mighty fine folks at the Post contacted both men directly and confirmed, presumably at figurative gunpoint, that the two economists did indeed make an error on the survey.
In a famous quote, economist Edgar Fielder once said: “Ask five economists and you’ll get five different answers – six if one went to Harvard.” Economics is like the weather – notoriously difficult to forecast. If it were not so, there would be one country which stood head and shoulders above the rest of the world in productivity, wealth, and prosperity. The United States comes closer than most to assuming that mantle, so what we have started in this country is likely nearer to the optimal blend of taxation and public spending as anywhere else.
After the Reagan tax cuts in 1986, tax revenues rose in both absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP. The prescription for growth is there, and the doctor just prescribed the order. Unfortunately, the academic community, so comfortably insulated from the real marketplace and so pathetically dependent on public funds for sustenance, has collectively voiced their objection. Here is a fun fact about the thirty-seven respondents – they represent a grand total of seven academic institutions. Six of the professors work at Berkeley. It doesn’t take a mathematician to predict the opinions of this group.
Reagan’s tax cut paid for itself. The historical numbers are publicly available, neatly compiled by the Government Publishing Office. Trump’s tax cut could very well do the same thing. However, peer pressure is a powerful force, and pesky facts and numbers are just too inconvenient when they cause you to go against the herd. It appears that the field of economics now joins the field of climate study as settled science. If anyone steps out of line, The Washington Post and others will be there to shame those wayward fools right back into place. For the next survey, probably best to just kick them off the panel and add two more professors from Berkeley instead.