I often see problems in the world and wonder why someone doesn't fix them. Then I realize that I am someone, and that makes me feel bad because it is all my fault. Obviously I can't fix every problem, but I decided to try and fix one in particular.

The majority of voters say the ailing economy is the most important problem for the next U.S. president to solve. How does a voter who knows little or nothing about economics decide which candidate has the best economic plan?

As you know, the media is worthless in solving this problem because they like to give equal time to both sides, no matter how ridiculous one of the sides might be. Or worse, some media outlets make no attempt to be unbiased. Realistically, the media has no idea which economic plans are likely to work best, so even if they wanted to be objective and informative they don't have the tools or the incentive to acquire them.

The economy is arguably the most important issue in the world, having a huge impact on everything from global warming, to health care, to defense. And voters have no reliable information upon which to make decisions. Someone needs to fix that. Realizing that I am someone, I decided to take a crack at it.

At substantial personal expense I hired a professional survey company to poll professional economists and find out which presidential candidate's plans have the most support. Obviously there is a limit to how unbiased the survey can be, since economists are human, and most of them presumably belong to a major political party. We'll try to take that into account with the survey design. But no matter what the result, I think it will be useful.

For example, the idea of a gas tax holiday was condemned by economists in both major parties. I expect there are other plans that have virtually no support from economists in either camp. That would be useful to know.

But suppose economists are evenly divided on a particular tax plan. Is that useful to voters? I think it is, because the only rational thing for you to do as a voter in that situation is to support the plan that taxes yourself the least. And you can do that with a clear conscience if there is no agreement among experts that taxing yourself more will help the world in the long run.

I think we would all agree that having better information won't influence most voters. If every economist in the survey somehow miraculously supported the same candidate's positions, it wouldn't change the votes of hardcore Democrats or Republicans. But in a close election such as this one, independent voters, who I call the Rational Few, end up making the decision. I am hopeful that for that influential group, better information will lead to better decisions. If the Rational Few are indeed influenced by a poll of economists, and it tips the election, economists will forever be polled before national elections. Problem solved.

And in this way I plan to fix the economy, end the energy crisis, rationally address global warming, and provide low cost health care to all. In return, I expect the public to call me an idiot. I'm pretty sure that's why "somone" doesn't fix problems more often. But I can take it.

The survey will take several weeks to pull together. I'll give you the results when they are in.

On a separate note, I probably won't post an entry until later this week. I'll tell you what I'm up to later. It's not a vacation, but it is a good thing.

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Jul 14, 2008
"At substantial personal expense I hired a professional survey company to poll professional economists " -

As somebody remarked in an earlier post, "A fool and his money are soon parted." Somebody is increasingly looking ike a PHB here.
Jul 14, 2008
The trouble with surveying economists is that much of our financial trouble comes from policies that the Federal Reserve enacted, not the politicians. The Federal Reserve is very much an institution of economists. Thus you'll rarely hear an economist say that the entire institution should be abolished.

A PHD economist is almost always a person who believes in using statistical measures of society to enact government planning of the economy. This is not synonymous with being knowledgeable about to create national wealth. Very few economists have direct business experience and most of them are obsessed with using government to mold society. The PHD economists are only trustworthy sources if you believe central planning is a good idea, if you do not, they will lead you astray.

The other problem with PHD economists is that they are not selected for getting things correct. No professor ever lost his job for making a bad prediction. Getting a PHD means reading a lot of books, and performing some obscure mathematical trick in a small subsection of the field. Bad economists who make erroneous recommendations never get driven out of the field.

Take at Greg Mankiw for example. He's a Harvard Professor, advisor to Mitt Romney, and author of the most popular college econ book. From his papers, I could only find one that had a testable hypothesis ( http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/mankiw/papers_mankiw ). It predicted that housing prices would fall from 1990 to 2005. Oops! Did he get demoted for this bad prediction? Did he lose credibility? Not a chance, he ended up advising a president. The entire history of Keynesian economics has been one abysmal prediction after another. Professors do not get grants and promotions to the World Bank for being right, but for justifying government spending and meddling. Well, at least the economists are better than the politicians.

A better survey would include 1) founders of small business (especially manufacturing and tech ) 2) venture capitalists 3) hedge fund managers. In other words, survey the people who have proven they know how to create wealth ( well, except maybe the hedge fund guys). Survey the people who have proven in the market place that they know how the world works.
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Jul 14, 2008
wow... I almost skipped this post, but I'm glad I didn't.
I hope this survey works out right.
Jul 14, 2008
You are trying to fix the wrong problem, or at least a problem that was fixed by the authors of the constitution.

First of all, we must recognize that all voters are selfish, in that they look after number one first and foremost.

Secondly, we must recognize that all economic measures have winners and losers. And in various degrees of winning and loosing under all different !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ And therefore, there is no economic measure, including do nothing, will be clearly better or worse. However, each individual are quite clear about where he/she will fare in regard to any economic measure proposed. It may not be very clear how, but voters will have a good gut feeling. They won't have a clue about how these measures will do to the nation as a whole, but neither would economists.

Thirdly, if you round up 10,000 economists, there will be at least 20,000 different opinion on any single proposed economic measure. So, even with a group of very knowledgeable economists, you still will not get a definitive or clear answer. It will be a total waste of time and effort.

It is the voting exercise that does what your "survey" of economists will do, by collecting all voters opinions on how each of them think they themselves will be affected as an individual that will decide what the whole nation thinks about these ideas.
Jul 14, 2008
And how will these economists decide whether to support or not support a particular plan? They are unqualified to rate benefits of different infrastructure plans, education plans, international relations plans etc. (remember your gravity battery). Unless someone qualified explains feasibility, benefits and risks, the economists are just as clueless as the rest of the voters.
Jul 14, 2008
the problem is can the economists be unbiased?

In my experience they won't be, there better educated opinions will ultimately be based on opinion although backed up with much more logical reasoning then the average joe who doesn't know crap about the economy.

If you look at the university education in americia, the professors who are supposed to educate students, are very often guilty of bias in there classes in regards to what information they cover and how they cover it. Within particular fields specific political biases in the material covered seem to be more common...
Jul 14, 2008
I"m sure Your Article is very good,I just wanted express my concern about the rising level of vulgarity on the mashups,I mean come on People,they're just jokes after all
Jul 14, 2008
One thing that would help the survey is if your panel of economists not only told us which candidate's eoonomic policy would work, buy why they feel that it would work, and who they've backed in the past.

This sort of thing works well for me when I listen to weathermen, er.... meterologists. They all predict tomorrow, but some have a better track records. And although I am fairly ignorant of the computer models they use, and how those models are built, when they can give be the broad outline of the model, I can compare it to my own experience and judge it's "common sense". It doesn't mean that I don't get caught in the rain w/o an umbrella, or am carrying around one on a sunny day.

But it helps to know HOW they reached their conclusions. ("My Ouija board told me.....")

Let's face it - it's all guesswork, based on key assumptions. Today, the Government backed Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, on the ASSUMPTION that such an action would inspire confidence, and thereby boost the stock (and their much needed borrowing power). The assumption failed in this case, but it worked (briefly) last month with a similar deal with Bear Sterns.

Money Managers (a form of economist) tell me I can be worth $1 million, ASSUMING that I get an 8% return on stocks every year. But in the past 1 year, if I had believed that assumption, I would be down 20%.. Fortunately for me, I didn't believe the assuption of continued growth, and shifted my money of stocks. Score one for my "common sense".

I may not be able to build a computer-based economic model, but I hope that I can judge the validity of the assuptions upon which one is built.
Jul 14, 2008
Scott, I was thinking about this earlier and lo and behold, you post an entry about the economy. How's this for an idea...

Set a nationwide gas price of, say, $4.50 Any excess over the market price would go to the federal government specifically for the purpose of alternative energy research. And if prices rose above that, the price would rise with it. And the nationwide price would increase yearly along with inflation.

My plan has the benefit of giving more money to research when prices are low and people don't normally think about it as well as providing some stabilizing effect. No more of this speculation about how fuel prices are going to affect business or all the constant changes in prices of anything that's transported. We would know plain and simple how things would go.

Hope your little break goes well!
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Jul 14, 2008
Just because one plan is supported
by more economic experts than another plan
doesn't mean it will work.

Survey history professors.
They can tell you where we are
in the economic cycle
and what to expect next,
regardless of what the government does.

Unless, of course,
the government decides to start another war.
That always helps our economy for a few years.
Jul 14, 2008
You're an idiot! This will never work. Besides, it's been done before.
Jul 14, 2008
"Careful...you're treading on Bono territory. People don't like celebrities who take a stand. "

Scott actually has a degree in economics and readily acknoloweges the limits of his understanding on this (or any) subject...

Bono wears shades and sings on key...

not quite comparing apples to apples there...
Jul 14, 2008
Greg Mankiw wrote an article on this very topic in this weekend's New York Times, with his unofficial survey of economists. It's a good start.


Jul 14, 2008
I see two issues with this plan - first the economists may recommend a course of action that is political suicide - maybe both raising taxes and cutting spending, or real reform of medicare and social security. The other problem is that if this works then both political parties will have an incentive to start economic think tanks which agree with them and search out grad students who will toe the party line in return for a paycheck.
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Jul 14, 2008
Perhaps it would make more sense to simply stop treating this like a job interview, stop trying to work out who will be best at the things that both of them want to do, and instead choose based on who wants to run things in a manner we see as subjectively better.

For example, Democrats typically will provide better social services, but increase taxes, thus meaning the typical median family will probably do better, and the poor will benefit greatly. Republicans are more inclined to simply cut taxes.

Neither of these are inherently "better" or "worse". Neither is right or wrong. The voters will typically prefer one over the other. The way we determine which is by voting.

Those with completely unworkable economic plans, or are clearly evil have already been eliminated because it's quite clear that nobody would vote for them, so anyone who actually has a decent shot at President is probably going to do a perfectly reasonable job of just running the country.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2008
Any time I hear economists begin to tell me what I should do with my money, my first instinct is to grab my wallet with one hand and grab a pistol with the other. Economists spawn from the exact same gene pool the rest of the country does, so lets not kid ourselves into thinking these folks understand money any better than Vanilla Ice understood fret boards and treble clefs. Their credit cards are maxed out on tanning beds and John Mayer tickets too. The definition of an economist is anyone who takes the time tell others how to spend money. This list would include Federal Reserve Chairmen, mothers-in-law, and the guy at McDonald's suggesting you up-size. 'Economist' is just a word. It means nothing in and of itself. So it should come as no surprise that a lot of people try to encroach themselves upon a nefarious term to self-promote their own agenda. Anything that involves money involves an agenda. Thats like Rule #1. Look no further than the economic plans of the two major party candidates. And yet they both share one common ground rule: they rob Peter to pay Paul. Whether its wealth redistribution or borrowing from the Chinese or bailing out the variable-adjustable mortgage sycophants, the net affect is all the same: the engine is a giant subsidy with a trap door floor. McCain and Obama deal in catchphrases, one-liners, and photo-ops. Most tragic, neither one has any understanding of the Constitution and the limited powers it holds. And without a proper understanding of those limited powers, wrapping arms around a sound economic policy is nearly impossible because there are no constraints to oppose it.
Jul 14, 2008
While such a survey wouldn't be the "be all end all" of who to vote for, I will be interested to see the results. While I have taken economics classes, I still don't know much about the economy. The classes went over "how the economy works," but when it comes to "how this policy will affect the economy" it's all guessing on my part. I still haven't decided who I will be voting for, either. While I am a registered Republican I have no problem voting for Democrats. For a while I thought I would be voting for Obama, but after reading his policies I'm wondering if he is really the best choice. I want to feel like I voted for whoever would do the best job and that I made a difference with my vote, even if in the big picture it won't affect the election. Anyway, keep us up to date, Scott.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2008
Economist: (noun): A person who will tell you tomorrow exactly why what he told you today was wrong.

Make sure your survey includes some questions to weed out the economists who aren't good at taking all factors into consideration (or at least let you weight their answers in the cases where they disagree). Here are a few samples:

1) When did you predict that the price of oil would go over $125/barrel?

2) When did you warn about the financial sector/mortgage problems?

3) In 2005 what were your estimates for the $/Euro exchange rate for 2006, 2007, 2008?

Jul 14, 2008
are you going to grant us an autobiography some day, that would be cool! Also, glad to see you decided to do that survey it'll be interesting
Jul 14, 2008
"Fixing the world" usually led to disaster. In my country, we call these type of people "social engineers" and they are usually leftist. The best way how to fix the world (and economy) is to let people decide what to do themselves. Maybe, if somebody wants to fix the world, good solution is to educate people - basic of economics (start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frédéric_Bastiat) and math (1 and 1 is two - most people don't know it).
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