It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.–Mark Twain
Nobel economist Paul Krugman is the poster boy for Twain’s quote, but it runs in the ideological family as well. Krugman, of course, is a primary leader of the steady drumbeat for more government stimulus spending and regularly laments that the current problem with the economic recovery is not enough spending, to wit: “Both textbook economics and experience say that slashing spending when you’re still suffering from high unemployment is a really bad idea…..” Wrong on both sources, of course, and history is replete with examples which I will spare you. But it was interesting to note the recent reminder of a survey conducted by Zogby International in 2008 which tracked the relationship between economic enlightenment and a number of variables, including presidential vote, party affiliation, race or ethnic group, religious participation, union membership, household income, gender, and marital status, among others. The eight survey questions were those whose answers have long been settled by economic research and empirical results, such as: True or False–”restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable”, and “mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services”. The results were stunning. Using six self-selected classifications along the political ideological spectrum, from very conservative to progressive/very liberal, the number of incorrect answers from the three classifications on the left side ranged from three to six times the number from the three classifications on the right. Clearly the left has a problem with calibrating sound economic thinking with predetermined sensibilities (I’ve always wondered who reads Krugman’s stuff). One other result was also instructive–there was no correlation between economic enlightenment and college attendance. Obviously, common sense makes a big difference, but common sense tells us that without a survey, right?