David Leonhardt On Liberal Economists

On Monday, I posted a quote from Paul Krugman stating that it’s usually conservatives who are less aligned with facts than liberals. Well I dug up a post from David Leonhardt (a well respected liberal), implying the opposite.

He writes:

The difference, I think, is that conservative economists’ blind spots overlap more with general conservative blind spots than is the case for liberal economists and liberal blind spots. That’s not a value judgment so much as an observation: liberal economists tend to be more economically conservative than average liberals. (emphasis added)

This is my main point. The commonality is so strong that if you put three of us in a room: a liberal economist, a liberal non-economist and a conservative NON-economist, my hunch is that the conservative non-economist will have more in common with the liberal economist than the liberal does.

Sure, we will disagree on the importance of income inequality, what side of the phillips curve we should be on, and redistribution among other things – and these are not minor issues to say the least, but our fundamentals will also be drastically more similar. We are predisposed to support free-trade. We understand the trade-offs to the minimum-wage, vacation pay, the benefits of the market economy, the view that regulation should not be the default view, the power of the price system, rent-control is bad, the benefit of Wal-Mart, the limitation of lobbying, the limitation of unions etc Now of course, we may still come down on opposite sides on each of these issues – but the reasons for doing so will be drastically different than what the liberal non-economist gives. It’s much harder to argue against Wal-Mart, or globalization, or to argue for a raise in the minimum wage, within the context of economics than it is outside of it. Also, the arguments for such a case would have to be far more nuanced.

I’m not saying who is right or wrong on any of these issues – my only point is that conservatives tend to be less removed from basic economic principles than liberals are.

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