Friday, June 11

Six: Have You Stopped Economically Oppressing Your Feminist Life Partner?

Daniel B. Klein, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics." June 8

OH, great, another Daniels hagiography in the wingnut press, this one in six volumes, so that I spent ten minutes cutting and pasting the thing so I could read it without having George Pataki and an amusing caricature of Barack Obama (he has big ears!) stare at me, before I realized that the little smear there at the top was a printer icon, and it was possible to grab the whole thing at once. This did, sadly, mean an end to the snippets I was catching while doing it page by page, but then even in Indiana we know you don't just tuck into a fancy cruise ship buffet as if it were a communal tureen of boarding house hash. I'll be tasting the damned thing all weekend, at least.

Today let's get to that Daniel B. Klein/ Zeljka Buturovic "study", which promises to answer once and for all the eternal questions 1) "Who is more likely to agree with bald declarations of libertarian economic 'truth': libertarians, or dirty hippies?" and 2) "In a bad economy, how many nickels do you need to get Zogby to add its name to any piece of crap floating by?" Though the second one had pretty much already been answered to most people's satisfaction.

Here, for the record, are the eight "questions" "posed" by the "researchers", coupled with the unenlightened response, and which I considered just making my entire post:

1. Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

2. Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

3. Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

4. Rent control leads to housing shortages.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

5. A company with the largest market share is a monopoly.
• Unenlightened: Agree

6. Third-world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited.
• Unenlightened: Agree

7. Free trade leads to unemployment.
• Unenlightened: Agree

8. Minimum wage laws raise unemployment.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

[mystery bullets in original]

So we all see the game, here, like it wasn't made explicit by that steaming Opinion Journal pile, or by the use of "Unenlightened" to designate "wrong" answers. For that matter, so far as we can tell, Economics is the only academic discipline which regularly spends half its time proving that everybody else is an idiot, including the rest of Academia. Which leads us to conclude that there were a lot more Dirty Hippies swiping a lot more lunch money in the 1980s than previously imagined.

No, I might've just done that little strangled chortle I usually do when reading the Journal's Fluoridation page before moving on, had I not clicked on over to the .pdf file and found what is quite possibly the sloppiest goddam thing anyone with an academic position to maintain ever put his name on, unless that position was "RA" and he'd stayed up all night faking a paper due the next morning. Honest to fucking God:

• The thing is "published" by Klein's own Econ Journal Watch, an "electronic triennial", apparently because all the big electronic fortnightlies are controlled by Big Academia.

• It, and we quote here, was designed by the first author of the paper, Zeljka Buturovic, who holds a PhD in psychology from Columbia University and is currently a Research Associate at Zogby International, and whose "motivation in designing the survey grew out of her dissatisfaction with previous surveys treating economic understanding. She regarded many questions on previous surveys to be either too narrowly factual, too dry in a textbook way, and too removed from policy context, or, alternatively, too general in eliciting policy judgments apart from specific economic consequences."

• The preceding is particularly interesting, not just in that someone with an Ivy League Ph.D in Phrenology--sorry, Psychology--and a job with Zogby can't manage to write survey questions that aren't designed to prove what she already believes, but for this:
We have omitted 8 of the economic questions in that format because they are not as useful in gauging economic enlightenment, either because the question is too vague or too narrowly factual, or because the enlightened answer is too uncertain or arguable.

Eight out of sixteen get tossed for being too vague or too narrow, in a study which grew out of dissatisfaction with the "too narrowly factual" questions of previous surveys? Gentleman's C, then.

• We can't get through the goddam introduction before the authors're forced to list four "Caveats" about the study (which--you're sitting down, right?--they will then use as reason to pat themselves on the back for their brutally honest self-criticism):
Caveat 1 of 4: Some will take exception to our take on the eight questions, particularly the one about minimum wage laws….Some will even say that, because of monoposony or coordination problems, minimum wages increase employment, but we judge such arguments to be of dubious plausibility and significance. We think that the basic logic asked by the question is revealed by carrying it to a minimum wage of, say, $20. Unemployment would go up a lot.

Mind you, if you answer "incorrectly" based on a more complex understanding of the problem" you're still Unenlightened. (Gee, what if it went up to a millionty dollars an hour? There'd be almost no jobs, but if you got one you could retire after twenty minutes! Then again, what do I know? I didn't even rate a fucking self-described category in the thing.)
Caveat 2 of 4: We acknowledge a shortcoming about the set of economic questions used here, and a corresponding reservation. None of the questions challenge the economic foibles specifically of “conservatives,” nor of “libertarians,” as compared to those of “liberals”/“progressives.”

There, there. Don't be so hard on yourselves. You couldn't have known.
Caveat 3 of 4: Even if one accepts that our handling of each of the eight economic questions tracks economic enlightenment, the set represents a baseline rather than the heights of economic wisdom. In other words, the most econ- omically enlightened mind would score no better than a solidly sensible mind on the eight questions, as they would both ace the 8-question exam. Yet presumably almost all of the most economically enlightened minds in the United States have all gone to college.

In other words, all the Idiots your survey found might actually be Super Geniuses, and you have no way of knowing. (By the way, that "1 of 4, 3 of 4" thing is in the original, even though presumably almost all of the most Redundancy-enlightened minds in the United States have all graduated from high school.)
Caveat 4 of 4: In commenting on this paper in draft, Bryan Caplan suggested that there is a strong reason to suspect that, among less schooled people, those more economically enlightened would be more likely to complete the survey.

Well, again, you weren't going to stop at that late point and, I dunno, think about it, or something? Not when a Ph.D in Graphology--I mean Psychology, of course--who fucking works for Zogby had approved the foolproof protocol of inviting randomly selected participants to a one-shot online link where they could answer the questions and self-identify as "Progressive","Liberal", "Conservative", "Very Conservative", "Deluxely Conservative", or "Libertarian".

I mean, really, after you designed the fucking thing there was no more reason to even concern yourself with accuracy, was there?

Y'know, assuming you had actually lifted a finger to assure your results, the thing that would be troubling me now--okay, not much--is that a number of Americans who describe themselves as "Liberal" or "Progressive" didn't fucking catch on to your slanted little survey by Question 2.

• Minor point, but still troubling: how is it that a Professor of Economics and Editor of the premier electronic triennial on the World Wide Web can't come up with a headshot

that doesn't have a blonde, or a blonde wig, or a treasured childhood Wookie doll halfway cropped out of it?

And all just so some loadpants could board the Opinion Journal short bus long enough to say "Liberals are Retarded!" Well, revealing fucking survey, Doc. I'll say that for you.

17 comments:

Sator Arepo said...

Look, I'm no Fountainhead-head, but I've seen more elegant proofs that A = A.

cavjam said...

Note for the authors re Caveat one -

1) It's "monopsony", not "monoposony".
2) Monopsony would address the rational impetus for having a minimum wage, not the results thereof.
3) Where are the graphs and math proofs?
4) Gotta love the precision in "unemployment would go up a lot."

Joe Bauers said...

#3 and #6 are straight up matters of opinion because terms are left undefined. #1 and #4 assume markets in equilibrium. #2 assumes sufficiently inelestic demand that cost increases can be passed on as price increases, and that the cost of licensing is non-trivial. The answer to #7 is "yes, for some, no for others". #8 is not as cut and dried as they think.

But #5? That's a totally fair question, and they are to be commended for it.

Buncha jagoffs.

Bill said...

The answer to every question really is it depends, except for #7 because all workers are exploited.

Probably in #8 the authors are assuming that most jobs between the old minimum wage and the new minimum wage will get eliminated. That's a common (and bad) right wing economics assumption, probably not as bad as equilibrium but not terribly realistic.

But when did reality and conservative econoics ever really have anything to do with each other

Anonymous said...

Let's just say actions speak louder than words. Repub policies have crashed the WORLD economy.let alone the American economy, twice in 90 years--and they also own the Gilded Age, too. And what about all those deficits they left us with? And NOW they'e worried about them?

Just another example of Repub's strenuous attempts to deny that their "economic wisdom" is a failed and dead-end policy. After all, all they have to offer us is more of the same...

scripto said...

"Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable."

You mean like codes that require indoor plumbing? That's absolutely true.

KWillow said...

According to my conservative brother, the Minimum Wage is the cause of Illegal Immigrants because if there was no minimum wage Americans would be out there picking lettuce and digging up power lines buried under freeways for $3 an hour, AND they'd be happy because NO Mexicans!

Or something. I was distracted by the foam.

D. Sidhe said...

What that "Caveat 1 of 4" thing says to me is that here is a person who came of age writing Randian fanfic on Usenet.

And apparently hasn't stopped.

whetstone said...

I'm wondering what the redacted questions are.

9. Deregulation can lead to the complete destruction of the world financial system

*Unenlightened: Agree

Jay B. said...

10. The taste of ground economists tastes like beef.
Unenlightened: Agree (it takes like bullshit)

mb said...

10. Even if tribbles are sentient it"s OK to kill them to keep them from overwhelming the life support system.

*Unenlightened: Unsure

Anonymous said...

I call Randian economists blind squirrels who get paid a fortune when they beg for a nut and get one. Or they get a twig. Or a rubber dildo. Or nothing at all as long as they make the right chattering sounds to the masters they beg to. Calling them whores is a damned insult to a good sex worker.

Scott C. said...

There's been a recent rash of wingnuts recycling vacation and holiday snaps for their Official Portraits, the weirdest example being John Hawkins' latest 20 Hawtest Conservative Hawties Who Are Smart But Hawt online beauty pageant, judged by worthies such as Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg. A couple of the glamour shots are framed in a way that clearly seems to say, "see if we can lose the hurricane glass," while in one photo the model herself is almost cropped out in an effort to elide the Christmas tree she's squatting in front of.

By the way, they're up from 15 contestants last year, so apparently Conservative Women are getting Hawter, or Hawt Women are getting more Conservative, or one of them is Kirk Cameron in a wig.

DPirate said...

No, it's monoposomy. It means 'One Possum'. Stupid liberals dont you know anything about economics?!?!!11!

DPirate said...

Oh, and, if it was an eleventy-billion dollar minimum wage, we'd all be small business owners and/or contractors. There would be no unemployment because there would be no employment. Sounds good to me, actually.

R. Porrofatto said...

12. Corporate slavery would be great for the bottom line, and make the stock price go up a lot.
Enlightened: Ooooooooh....

Anonymous said...

No, no, it's a typo for "monobosomy", which is what one gets wearing certain types of athletic bras. Stupid liberals don't know anything about Sport, either.

Li'l Innocent