The Economics of Enlightenment

I have a short piece [here is the pdf download link] in the current issue of Econ Journal Watch, commenting on the recent ‘economic enlightenment’ survey Daniel Klein and Zeljka Buturovic published there a while back (and which Klein wrote about in the Wall Street Journal.) And because today is Tuesday, I think we need some art. If you think that this conclusion does not follow from the premises, you would be right, but I would still call you a philistine.

Here’s Frans van Miereis the Elder’s painting, Brothel Scene.


1658, The Hague

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4 thoughts on “The Economics of Enlightenment

  1. I agree with your take, but it would have been nice to have a more complete overview. After all, most economists, at least those who get air time, are wrong about a lot of things like real estate bubbles, tax rates and free trade. (Most economists are in favor of free trade, but no nation has ever industrialized without trade barriers be they tariff, bureaucratically or militarily based.)

    Remember, the big industrializing nation today is dictatorial, communist China, not a capitalist democracy. What would Adam Smith had to say about that? Were we really that wrong during the Cold War?

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  2. Surveys designed to prove a point aren’t very trustworthy. (The Kos poll designed to show that right-wingers have a tenuous grasp of the real world is another example.) There’s a more general problem with one-shot surveys: until you’ve asked a question in at least a few surveys, you can’t be sure if respondents are hearing the same thing you are asking.

    For example, Buturovic-Klein ask, “Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services” – Agree or Disagree? Maybe some people hear a different question, a question about policy implications: “Would you like cheaper, but unlicensed, doctors?”

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