Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who will economists vote for?

The title reflects a question that I have been asked several times by friends lately. I was surprised that anyone cared, but nonetheless, here is the answer -- it depends. OK, I know what you're thinking. That is the typical retort you might expect from an economist, but hear me out.

Much ado has been made of various lists of economists supporting Obama (click here) and those supporting McCain (click here). But a recent survey (click here) of over 500 economists drawn from a subset of members of the American Economic Association, indicated that "Not surprisingly, 88 percent of Democratic economists think Democratic Sen. Barack Obama would be best, while 80 percent of Republican economists pick Republican Sen. John McCain." So obviously, there is a strong correlation between favored economic policies and political pursausion.

Why does this matter? Well, for the most part, we need to understand where folks are coming from when we read or listen to them. To me, it is important to know enough to know the difference.

For example, among the plethora of resources I consult each day, I regularly read the column in the NY Times of recent Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman (a very good Princeton economist) who has made no secret of his Democratic leanings. But I also read stuff from Martin Feldstein (another very good economist) who is a professor of economics at Harvard and President Emeritus of the National Bureau for Economic Research. Martin also happened to be Chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, so obviously he has a Republican slant.

So when I read comments from these guys [and others], I can better understand WHY they they hold certain positions because I know from "whence they came," so to speak. The same holds true with mainstream media pundits as well. Unbiased commentary is a rarity, so it behooves us to, again, know enough to know the difference.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste! So read, listen, debate, evaluate, discern -- use your gray matter -- to decide where you stand. Because as the saying goes: "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything!"

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