It's Confirmation Bias All the Way Down*

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Says it all.

Last year, George Mason University economist Daniel Klein and Zogby survey researcher Zeljka Buturovic did a study that concluded that progressives were deeply ignorant of economic facts. They ballyhooed their results in a Wall Street Journal op/ed which tendentiously asked, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? The conclusion was that most leftists weren't. The op/ed reported:

The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.

Not too surprisingly, they got some push back from progressives who claimed that their survey questions were biased against left-leaners. So they decided to run the survey again adding some new questions. Klein now ruefully writes over at The Atlantic that the original survey actually showed his bias, not the economic stupidity of leftists. The new survey added some new questions to the original ones:

Here's what we came up with, again with the incorrect response in parentheses: a dollar means more to a poor person than it does to a rich person (disagree); making abortion illegal would increase the number of black-market abortions (disagree); legalizing drugs would give more wealth and power to street gangs and organized crime (agree); drug prohibition fails to reduce people's access to drugs (agree); gun-control laws fail to reduce people's access to guns (agree); by participating in the marketplace in the United States, immigrants reduce the economic well-being of American citizens (agree); when a country goes to war, its citizens experience an improvement in economic well-being (agree); when two people complete a voluntary transaction, they both necessarily come away better off (agree); when two people complete a voluntary transaction, it is necessarily the case that everyone else is unaffected by their transaction (agree).

Once the new questions were added, their new study [download PDF] finds that there's not much difference in the level of ignorance that various ideological tendencies have:

On the second set of questions, the new nine, the left groups do much better than the other groups. [Our result] shows that, on the new nine, the number incorrect, on average, is as follows: Progressives 2.00, Liberals 2.35, Conservatives 4.00, Very Conservatives 4.57, and Libertarians 3.82.

Klein and Buturovic now conclude:

As tempting as it might be to think that folks of your own persuasion are, on the whole, especially scrupulous in their judgments, the results of our surveys certainly do not authorize any such conclusions, regardless of what your persuasion happens to be. At this point the reasonable conclusion is that the various groups do equally badly.

Klein and Buturovic end with an important and sobering insight about the role that public ignorance plays in policy:

Adam Smith suggested that most people are "unfit to judge" of public policy issues. Our new results might perhaps be useful in bolstering a presumption against the governmentalization of social affairs, because governmentalization tends on balance to inject expressive politics, foolishness, and worse into the ways those affairs are organized and conducted.

Of course, as a libertarian I would agree with that sentiment. After all, everyone who knows what they are talking about agrees with me.

*"It's turtles all the way down."

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  1. Joe would be so proud.

      1. Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago

        OVERALL — on the average — there are no poor in the US, right?

        The bottom 80% of America has been slipping in wage-earning capacity.

        Thank god for words like “overall” so the WarStreet Journal can make things sound better.

        What a bunch of capitalist/communist/Warstreet bullshit.

        1. Pick a fucking handle and stick with it, asshole.

            1. WI – Consistently stupid by any handle!

          1. Don’t respond to it.

      2. Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago

        OVERALL — on the average — there are no poor in the US, right?

        The bottom 80% of America has been slipping in wage-earning capacity.

        Thank god for words like “overall” so the WarStreet Journal can make things sound better.

        What a bunch of capitalist/communist/Warstreet bullshit.

  2. That guy was picketing the premier of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids but got the star’s name wrong.

    1. No, the guy is clearly insulting Jim Moran, which is perfectly understandable, but there’s no need to bring Moran’s family into it.

      1. Sure there is.

        Brian Moran (younger brother, current Virginia Dem Party Chair) also needs a brain.

        1. So does Erin. I mean, Joanie loves Chachi? What was she thinking?

  3. What’s “right” is what I say is “right”. What’s “wrong” is what I say is “wrong”.

    DUH! Idiots…

  4. How is it that in the original study the the progressives averaged 5.26 wrong answers, but in the second study with the original questions and a bunch more they averaged only 2 wrong answers?

    1. Ah nevermind. When Bailey says “added some new questions” he meant they replaced the original questions entirely.

      1. MS: Actually that’s not right either — they get 2 out of the new 9 wrong.

        1. NOW I understand (I say for third time).

    2. Because that’s not 2 wrong answers on the whole set, it’s 2 wrong answers on the nine new questions.

      The funny thing is, when you combine the results into a total out of sixteen, the liberals/progressives STILL score significantly worse than the conservatives/libertarians, even though the majority of questions (9 out of 16) now cater to their biases.

      1. It seems that everyone did poorly, so I’m grading on a curve.

        Libertarians: B
        Conservatives: C+
        Very Conservatives: C
        Liberals: D+
        Progressives: D
        Moderates: Incomplete

  5. We’re also against women’s suffrage.

  6. As always, these questionnaires are stupid as fuck. The fact that some changes radically alter the results show how fucking stupid they are. How fucking stupid do you have to be to put any stock in them whatsoever? They are so clearly the most obvious blank slate for people to project their own biases on that it’s fucking retarded.

    1. project their own biases

      Classic!

      Encore!

      1. Are you catheterized, rectal? Because clearly you have no time for peeing when you stalk H&R this hard.

        1. No dummy, I drink my urine!

        2. Not enough fucks|11.9.11 @ 2:48PM
          Encore!

          Episiarch|11.9.11 @ 2:53PM
          Are you catheterized, rectal? Because clearly you have no time for peeing when you stalk H&R this hard.

          Excellent! Dude!

  7. a dollar means more to a poor person than it does to a rich person (disagree);

    Isn’t this completely unverifiable and unfalsifiable, since it asks about subjectivity?

    drug prohibition fails to reduce people’s access to drugs (agree);

    Why is thinking that drug prohibition fails to reduce access wrong? Aren’t there studies out there showing that drug use (showing access that is actually taken advantage of) doesn’t increase as drug prohibitions are eased?

    gun-control laws fail to reduce people’s access to guns (agree);

    What kind of gun control laws? It kind of matters, doesn’t it, since some don’t even purport to reduce “access to guns” (whatever that means).

    when two people complete a voluntary transaction, they both necessarily come away better off (agree);

    Well, sure, let’s load the question with “necessarily”, rendering it pretty much invalid.

    I think all that we can learn from this is that leftists are perfectly capable of coming up with a set of loaded/invalid questions that “demonstrate” their intelleckchul superiority.

    1. drug prohibition fails to reduce people’s access to drugs (agree);

      What does that even mean? I think it is saying drugs are just as accessible whether they are prohibited or not. One, that is a back asswards way of writing it. Why not just say it in a simpler more straight forward form like

      Drugs are just as accessible under prohibition as they would be if they were legal.

      And two, it is hardly clear either way. I think in the extreme that is true. If they were legal, straights like me could get them easily where we can’t now.

      1. It’s a trick question. Prohibition does reduce access, but it does not eliminate it.
        If the question was instead “drug prohibition fails to eliminate people’s access to drugs”, then the incorrect answer would be (disagree).

        1. Exactly. It doesn’t eliminate access and never will. But it does reduce access. I think a lot of people read reduce to mean eliminate.

          1. That is very debatable. I know when I was in high school my friend and I had a much easier time scoring weed than liquor. With liquor we needed someone who was over 21 to buy it for us…with MJ we could but it from any of the multitude of people who sold it that we went to school with.

            I suppose that’s only for high schoolers and not overall, but I think the question is much more complicated than that.

            1. It all depends on which drug you are looking for. It took me a decade to complete my bucket list. If drugs were legal I could’ve done them all in a week

            2. Studies in the late eighties and early nineties showed that drug use had reached a near saturation point, so I doubt if the surveys have even adequately looked at the available literature. While the first set of questions came directly out of long established micro-econ these new questions are only designed to boost the stats of progressives.

            3. That’s because weed is smaller and much easier to conceal and thus is much easier for small scale dealers to move to market. Can you imagine a bootlegger trying to do business in your school hallways?

              1. You mean by pouring it in a water/soda/juice bottle?

        2. How about Does gun control work? No. Does drug prohibition work? No.

      2. Also it fails to specify who has reduced access. I would argue that prohibition increases access for minors, since drug dealers don’t have to worry about losing their license.

          1. I was stoned almost every day in high school, and I doubt that would have been the case if weed were legal and treated like alcohol.

            1. Totally. I avoided getting stoned in high school because I knew my parents would slap me on the wrist for drinking but would have killed me for smoking. Foraging for booze at 16 is much harder than buying pot.

              1. True. I always used to laugh at how cash money could get a bag o’ weed in under 20 minutes, but booze in quantity to get drunk took planning and work.

              2. Not if you live in a dry county. Bootleggers don’t card either.

            2. Did you smoke (illegal for minors just like alcohol) cigarettes in high school too?

        1. Uh, no. Minors have easier access to alcohol and cigarettes than they do to illegal drugs.

          1. Not at high school.

            1. Two places where one is guaranteed to have easy access to drugs: high school and restaurants.

              1. Hole in the wall bars, especially ones with pool tables will usually do it too.

          2. Where the fuck did you go to school? (and how long ago). I was pretty straight laced in high school but if I had wanted I could get MJ, ectasy or even coke far easier than alcohol. As said above getting enough booze to party took a shit ton of work.

            1. Agreed. I didnt drink or take drugs in HS, but I knew which car in the parking lot to go to if I wanted pot. Im guessing he could have gotten me booze too, but it probably would have been a special request.

            2. None of you people have older brothers? I was able to get booze from age 16 onwards with a phone call.

            3. LSD went for five bucks a hit in high school. available weekdays between the hours of 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM. It would take me at least a few days to find a source now if I wanted it.

          3. Where did you go to high school?

          4. I sure had easier access to drugs, (mostly MJ, LSD, and ecstacy) in high shool than I did to alcohol.

      3. Simple. Drug and gun access is eliminated for law abiding citizens. Since many people are law abiding citizens, their access is inherently reduced. The answer is not wrong, but it doesn’t tell us much of anything. Drug abuse and gun violence are very arguably worse due to prohibition.

      4. prohibition doesn’t not unfail to encourage abstinence of drug use (don’t disagree).

    2. The last one is a very tricky question. If it were “they both think they came away better off” then the correct answer would definitely be yes.

      The “fails to reduce” questions are also a bit tricky, but I don’t think you can plausibly disagree making something illegal makes it harder to get, even if it doesn’t appreciably reduce the use of the item.

      1. I think the questions are deliberately worded to confuse people and let people who are ignorant of economics to get lucky.

      2. That they think they are better off means that they are better off, as no one outside can accurately judge that.

      3. It’s damn near a double negative. Who makes polls with double negatives?!

    3. when two people complete a voluntary transaction, they both necessarily come away better off (agree);

      Well, sure, let’s load the question with “necessarily”, rendering it pretty much invalid.

      Actually, I think they are still wrong. All voluntary transactions NECESSARILY make both better off, by definition.

  8. IF you compare the two sets of questions, the first one is about straight economics and the second one concerns more social issues. Progressives are total ignoramouses when it comes to economics and conservatives are the same on social issues. Luckily for America, the progressives run the economy and the conservatives run the laws on social issues.

    One small point. It is not unenlightened to think that legalizing drugs would increase their availability. Right now I have no idea how I would obtain drugs if I wanted to. If they were legal, I certainly would. I would imagine most law abiding main street citizens are like me.

    1. Note also that conservatives didn’t do nearly as bad on this survey as leftists did on the previous one.

      The fifth question is also bullshit, as RC pointed out.

    2. Indeed, the new set is also 9 questions, so comparing raw “wrong answer counts” is misleading.

      “very conservative” still got about half of the questions right on average, while “very liberal” got only 1.7/7 ~ 25% right on the first one.

    3. Right now I have no idea how I would obtain drugs if I wanted to.

      And if you wanted to I am sure you could find a way. Likely if you used drugs, or sought to use drugs, you would find a friend or two who used drugs. Through them you would find the drugs.

      If drugs were legal I assume you would still not use them, am I correct?

      So the reason you do not have access to drugs is because you do not want to, not because they are illegal.

      1. If drugs were legal I assume you would still not use them, am I correct?

        No. If they were legal I would probably use them some. The reason why I don’t use them is the hassal associated with getting them and the people you have to associate with and the risks you have to take getting them.

        If I could go to a drug store and buy a joint or a pain pill with no hassle? I probably would once in a while. But there is no way in hell I would seek out a drug dealer or risk forging a presciption. I would imagine I am not alone in this.

        1. I have never worked in a restaurant that did not have at least one drug dealer. So if you have any friends who work in restaurants, chances are you have access to drugs.

          1. This I did not know. But again, I really don’t want to be trolling restaurants for drug dealers.

            1. That’s not what I meant. I meant that if you have an existing friend who works in a restaurant, chances are that they could hook you up.

              1. that’s hardly regular access and it involves a more convoluted system of checks (to make sure John is not a Narc or psychotic or something) compared to walking into a liquor store and picking out your favorite bev.

                1. Which is exactly why there is no liquor violence in the same exact way they mean drug violence.

            2. As a lawyer you must deal with bike messengers at least once in a while…just ask any one of them next time you need to send something. Of course, weed in DC leaves a lot to be desired.

              Not that I know any of this from personal experience.

              1. When you put a tax on something, you “reduce access” to it by increasing the cost to you.

                Likewise when you put a regulation on something, you “reduce access” by increasing the cost, in time or money, of compliance.

                Drugs are no different. I think a lot of libertarians would liek to argue that prohibition does NOTHING to “decrease access” but that can’t be true. There will be people who will make the extra effort, to acquire or do whatever it is the government doesn’t want you to do, but that doesn’t mean you won’t make it harder for people to do it.

              2. “”Kristen|11.9.11 @ 3:14PM|#
                As a lawyer you must deal with bike messengers at least once in a while…just ask any one of them next time you need to send something. Of course, weed in DC leaves a lot to be desired.””

                I suppose you mean its tax-evading properties.

                Someone clearly needs to experiment with their value-added bike-messenger services.

      2. Nicely put, sarcasmic.

        Raw or potential “access” to anything is meaningless. All that counts is access that is used, as evidence by acquisition.

        And on that metric, drug prohibition doesn’t seem to reduce access. Anyone who wants drugs can get them now. Ergo, access to drugs now is exactly the same as it would be if they were legal, with perhaps some trivial increase on the margins.

        1. “Ergo, access to drugs now is exactly the same as it would be if they were legal, with perhaps some trivial increase on the margins.”

          Right now to get drugs, I either have to forge a perscription, lie to my doctor or find a drug dealer. If they were legal, I could go to CVS and buy them. I don’t see how you can say that for me at least they are less accessible. Are they accessible? Sure. Just like Bangkok is accessible. I could go there on the night flight tommorow if I wanted to. But it would cost a fortune and I would have to leave my job, which means I am very unlikely to go to Bangkok anytime soon. There are degrees of accessibility.

          1. Fair enough. I just don’t think the degree to which prohibition reduces accessibility is enough to matter. Its trivial.

            And, its not hard to argue that you can better control access to disfavored groups (children, felons, whatever) through legal channels. And that access by abusers is not limited even to a trivial degree.

          2. The problem here is we’re mixing up ease of access with availability.

            Drugs might be trivially harder to get (if you’re not a current user of one drug or another – because if you are, drugs are generally one simple phone call away), but that doesn’t lessen their availability or acquirability.

        2. So I take it you don’t oppose gun control anymore? Since the laws don’t restrict access to guns, there’s no second amendment issue there.

          1. Nice, Tulpa.

            Yes, I do still oppose gun control. Even if it doesn’t reduce access to guns in any meaningful way, it still imposes burdens that are wrong.

            1. So I take it you don’t oppose gun control anymore? Since the laws don’t restrict access to guns, there’s no second amendment issue there.

              You love being a contrarian. It’s charming. You know it’s not just an issue of access. Get caught with that gun in a place like NYC and you’re going to prison.

          2. I’d like for everyone else who are more strigently law abiding to have the access to guns that I have. No matter what the content of the law may say, I will never be without access.

      3. The results of the vote on when life begins in Mississippi shows the right isn’t nearly as intolerant as the left likes to characterize, but the left are complete doofuses on economics.

        Also like to note Diane Sawyer mentioned the immigration vote in Arizona, the abortion vote in Mississippi, and the collective bargaining vote in Ohio but neglected to mention the vote on Obamacare in Ohio.

    4. Rent control “CAN” lead to housing shortages

      Third world workers overseas are “SOMETIMES” being exploited.

      Drug prohibition fails to reduce “ALL” people’s access to drugs

      Gun control fails to reduce people’s access to “SOME” guns.

      The questions are broad enough that given people’s assumptions, they can be true or false

      And I fucking hate agree or disagree which are opinion answers, not fact answers (true/false).

      1. Third world workers overseas are “SOMETIMES” being exploited.

        Of the first list of questions that was the most loaded. Progressives define ‘exploited’ differently then we do. They include even purely voluntary associations. Less rational, of course, but the word is not so iron clad in definition that they are not permitted to use it in that manner.

  9. Adam Smith suggested that most people are “unfit to judge” of public policy issues.

    Another argument in favor of Skynet.

    1. Robot Adam Smith suggested that People Programmed Robots are “unfit to judge” public policy issues.

  10. How is it that in the original study the the progressives averaged 5.26 wrong answers, but in the second study with the original questions and a bunch more they averaged only 2 wrong answers?

    The “2” is only for the sheepishly added left-tendentious questions.

    B) The best part is buried in the “other” pile at the end of the report. The identikit most-correct respondent is a white, male, married, flag-waving but non-military, non-union NASCAR fan.

    Who do you think that guy’s favorite politician is?

  11. when two people complete a voluntary transaction, they both necessarily come away better off (agree);

    My answer: what exactly do you mean by “better”? And you better have a good answer since there is apparently a black and white “right” and “wrong” answer to your shitty question.

    1. I think their point is that it’s possible to get ripped off even on a voluntary transaction.

      However, the wording is somewhat misleading.

      1. I wasn’t just being an obtuse dick, I really don’t understand this question. If your interpretation is indeed what they are going after, then a better way to phrase the question would be, “People never make mistakes or lie or get lied to (disagree)”. But then the stupid would just be out the open.

      2. I was struggling with how someone could come away worse off from a voluntary transaction. I can’t believe I didn’t think of fraud/deception right off the bat.

        1. But, of course, a fraudulent transaction isn’t even voluntary in the strong sense of the word. Yeah, you weren’t coerced into it, but you also didn’t give fully informed consent.

          1. I agree that if you redefine “voluntary” to mean “with total and perfect knowledge of everything involved in the transaction, including its future value, and no emotional component clouding your decision” then it’s impossible to come away worse off after a voluntary deal.

            Problem is, if we go by that redefinition then no transaction in the history of the human race has been “voluntary”.

            1. I would define voluntary as any transaction that didn’t include force or fraud on the part of any involved parties.

            2. It doesn’t have to be perfect knowledge, just as much as the other party knows.

              1. Not even that, but the outcome was as the parties expected is an acceptable standard. When a gypsie vendor soled Mac the pear, there was always a chance there would be internal bruising that would make it taste like sand. It is an expected risk when you buy fruit because neither parties could be aware of the internal condition before hand.

            3. I agree that if you redefine “voluntary” to mean “with total and perfect knowledge of everything involved in the transaction, including its future value, and no emotional component clouding your decision” then it’s impossible to come away worse off after a voluntary deal.

              Except that’s not what he meant and you know it.

          2. Fraud implies deceit and misrepresentation. In other words, if fraud is involved, then one or both parties did not get the value that the transaction appeared to have. Had they known the true nature of the transaction, they wouldn’t have gone through with it.

            So I still think it holds that in a voluntary transaction, people are better off. If not, why would the transaction move forward?

        2. So, the people who voluntarily sold their silver back when it was $15/oz are better off now?

          Or are you claiming the buyers of that silver were guilty of fraud or deception?

          1. They were better off at the time of the transaction. What happens afterward is immaterial.

            1. That’s kind of a silly POV. In that case, every bank that voluntarily loans money out is made worse off, since they give away the money and get nothing back at the time of the transaction.

              Not to mention the buyers of the silver in the previous case, who now have a closet full of metal that’s hard to exchange for goods and services, rather than the green paper that you can use to buy beer and fleshlights.

              1. No, because the banks have a contract with those to whom they’ve lent money.

                As for the silver buyer, they wanted silver, not liquidity.

              2. You’re being obtuse, Tulpa. As mentioned, banks receive a promise to be paid more over time. The value of a transaction isn’t necessarily the dollar value of what each party receives or how you subjectively value the items. If I pay $5 for a bottle of water, you might think I was ripped off. But if I was really thirsty, that $5 wasn’t going to do anything for me in my pocket, so I traded it for water. In a voluntary transaction people come away with something they value more than what they traded. Even if they are idiots, as long as they value that collectible movie character figurine more than their thousands of dollars, they are made better off.

                1. Tulpa is displaying classical lefty narcissism in assuming that he is a better judge of what is in a person’s self interest than the person himself.

        3. The transaction doesn’t have to be fraudulent or deceptive to be negative. Both people necessarily have the EXPECTATION that they’ll be better off after the trade, but that expectation often turns out to be wrong. Have you ever tried Forex trading? It’s a zero-sum game (actually slightly negative, since the broker cuts a small percentage of each trade), so there’s no way all traders will gain wealth from it – the smartest ones win and the rest lose.

          Of course, you could make the argument that interpersonal utility comparisons are impossible, and that some people might enjoy losing money in currency trading – but that would also make the original question meaningless. For practical purposes, the correct answer is “disagree”.

          1. Both forex traders, at the time of the trade, thought they were improving their net present value.

            Hence, both were better off. The fact that later on, one would be proven wrong, is beside the point. They were RIGHT for a few nanoseconds, at least.

    2. My answer: what exactly do you mean by “better”?

      I assume they are trying to be too clever. In hindsight it is inarguable that Dallas got the better end of the Herschel Walker trade but it is also axiomatic that at the time Minnesota thought it would be better off without the draft picks and with the running back.

      1. Nice move by Teh Vikings to give up an entire team that became a dynasty in exchange for a world-class athlete in his prime so that they could use him as a decoy

  12. It’s not exactly confirmation bias – it’s kneejerking.

    For instance, the abortion question is triggering a non-economic answer…the respondents are not thinking about whether outlawing abortions really produces an increase or decrease in blackmarket abortions. Instead, they are simply thinking, “Are abortions good or bad?” and then they respond so as to support their position on abortions.

    Remove the references to war, abortions, drugs, rich people, and poor people and stick to questions on economics that are sterile and generic, and you will find that people who perform poorly on such a test are more likely to vote for Kucinich/Pelosi/Buchanan/Santorum. People who perform well will be more likely to vote for Paul/DeMint/Coburn.

    Within the American “right” as it is generally defined by the media, there is greater diversity of thought than among the American left (because even an infinitesimally small fraction is greater than absolute zero). So, you can find people on the right who both knowledgeable and completely lost on economics – but your typical leftist is truly an idiot on economics.

    I used to write test questions for professional development and technical courses. It takes some thinking to word questions effectively and to come up with options for the test-taker that are both truly incorrect and not blindingly obvious through implausibility. The questions mentioned in the blurbs that incorporated in this article are horrible questions. Drawing the conclusions claimed by the researchers is downright dishonest.

    1. It’s not exactly confirmation bias

      You stupid fuck! They are so fucking clearly the most obvious fucking blank slate for people to project their own fucking biases on!*

      *Do not be alarmed! I am a parody!

    2. I would tend to disagree with that. I have little patience for leftists who root for Michael Moore or Keith Olbermann for their economically illiterate and unprincipled calls for social justice, but I have even less patience for rightists who are against everything that the leftist is, simply because they hate the left wing. The support for free markets from the right seems to be almost completely incidental and/or cherry-picked. (Hence you have leftists who half-correctly point out how corporations are ruining the world, corrupting politics and exploiting workers, and rightists whose Pavlovian response is “Corporations are good! They provide jobs, goods and services! What’s wrong with that, you commie?”) On the other hand, many leftists, though often obnoxious and biased, are intellectually curious enough to actually study economical data and to look for inconsistencies in their opponents’ views.

      There are conservatives who are economically literate and who I respect, but the right-wing represented by Hannity, Limbaugh and the millions of Americans who listen to them is not part of that group. Most internet debates about politics and economics seem to be between leftists and libertarians (who I don’t consider a part of the right wing), so I wouldn’t lend much credibility to the right wing’s intellectual prowess.

      Just to be clear, I’m not saying the left wing is all roses and butterflies and rightists are all poopyheads – it’s the combination of stupidity, hubris and being wrong that I hate. But as a general observation, the conservative block exemplifies more of those three qualities.

      1. the combination of stupidity, hubris and being wrong that I hate. But as a general observation, the conservative block exemplifies more of those three qualities.

        And there you have it, folks.

        Weapons-grade confirmation bias.

      2. Hence you have leftists who half-correctly point out how corporations are ruining the world, corrupting politics and exploiting workers, and rightists whose Pavlovian response is “Corporations are good! They provide jobs, goods and services! What’s wrong with that, you commie?”

        Corporations aren’t ruining the world, though. Governments are pandering to dishonest people and their organizations, but a corporation cannot ruin the world – it lacks the power to directly apply force in support of its goals. Instead, it must seek to co-opt the power of government. Without government acquiescence, they have access to it. I mean, if Solyndra tried to come physically collect a subsidy from me by force, they’d soon need another element of government – Fire Rescue.

        There are conservatives who are economically literate and who I respect, but the right-wing represented by Hannity, Limbaugh and the millions of Americans who listen to them is not part of that group.

        Quite the opposite. I would guess that talk radio has done more to dispel economic myths among people who wouldn’t otherwise give the subject a passing thought than anything else. You will hear calls for social positions that libertarians disagree with among most talk radio hosts, but the strictly economic positions are generally free-market all the way.

        Most talk radio listeners I’ve known have been pretty smart folks who pay attention to more than just sports and popular culture. I don’t consider leftists intellectual at all, although many of them crave the props and airs of intellect. For instance, a leftist will proudly proclaim their fondness for the published views of Paul Krugman – thinking that makes them look smart. (Go figure.) To me, either you have the right answer or the wrong answer – and no amount of window dressing is going to compensate.

        If anything, leftists live a cocoon of self-congratulatory consensus. If you shop at Whole Foods, read the Atlantic, and attend wine-tastings then you’re a “real” intellectual – but if you drive a pickup truck, display the American flag, shop at Walmart then, why of course, you must be a low-brow, commoner neanderthal or stunted cognitive development. So, the Rush Limbaugh show must be a bunch of rabble-rousing inanity simply because they are told it is that by folks on NPR/Radio Managua, even though they’ve never actually listened to it. The Tea Party must be a bunch of racist hicks because fashionable leftists say they are. If free markets work at all, then it must be in the ways described by Keynesian economics because that’s what professor so-and-so said and he wears elbow patches on his tweed jacket. If it didn’t come from within the leftoid universe, then it wasn’t worth paying attention to.

        B.S.

        There’s plenty of fans of free enterprise who don’t do art museums and have never, ever set foot in a Starbucks.

  13. Here’s another dumb question: “a dollar means more to a poor person than it does to a rich person”. Surely it depends entirely on the people involved?

    1. they have obviously never met a rich Dutchman.

      1. “You’re going down, Dutchman!”
        -Norbert Van Houten

    2. Here’s a true fact: The rich people I know tend to be fairly fanatical about getting pretty small savings from things like their phone and cable bills.

      Apparently, that dollar they save on those bills means enough to them that they will expend some effort on it. And it means more to them, apparently, than it does to the poor people who don’t flyspeck their bills and harass the providers.

      1. More anecdotal facts, yay.

        And of course, it’s quite likely poor people don’t have the time or expertise to track down such miniscule savings in the first place, let alone play the phone tag game necessary to weary the provider into submission.

      2. But the rich people are just rich by pure luck.

      3. You get rich by keeping as much of your money as you can. The habits that engenders tend to stick around.

        1. Exactly. I like to say that people don’t get rich by blowing their entire paycheck. That’s what poor people do.

          1. It’s that easy!

            1. It’s that simple. Simple does not mean easy.

              1. Is it payday yet?

              2. You’ll never go hungry as long as you have enough food to eat!

                1. [and simplistic ? simple. You used the wrong one.]

    3. Yeah, that question is problematic for two reasons:

      1. A dollar means little even to “poor” people in the US.

      2. “means more” is inherently subjective.

      A better question would have been “$1000 makes a bigger difference in the purchasing power of a poor person compared to a rich person.”

    4. Law of diminishing marginal utility. Although it’s hard to compare utility between different people… a better worded question would be “You would value a dollar a more if your income was $10k per year vs if your income was $100k per year.

      1. Law of diminishing marginal utility.

        More like “hypothesis of diminishing marginal utility.”

        You would value a dollar a more if your income was $10k per year vs if your income was $100k per year.

        Even that’s a “maybe”. People who have high-paying jobs often place a higher value on money, and make the kinds of sacrifices and decisions that entails.

        I personally have taken two pay cuts to move to jobs for lifestyle reasons. I work in-house and make less money than many law firm lawyers precisely because I value that marginal dollar less than they do.

    5. And then there’s reversing the causative process, might someone be rich precisely because they treat a single dollar as a more precious thing than someone less well off.

      They might not be as _happy_ as someone who doesn’t obsess over such things, but that could be the cause of their wealth.

  14. drug prohibition fails to reduce people’s access to drugs (agree); gun-control laws fail to reduce people’s access to guns (agree)

    I suppose there might be some shuffling around of the access points, but is access really reduced in any meaningful way?

    when two people complete a voluntary transaction, they both necessarily come away better off (agree)

    If that includes breaking even, it is definitionally impossible to voluntarily make yourself worse off, if you include all factors, such as emotional state. Because you could altruistically give up something because it makes you feel like a better person.

    when a country goes to war, its citizens experience an improvement in economic well-being (agree)

    Uh oh, better not ask Paulie Krugnuts that one!

  15. My favorite leftists are the ones that maliciously harass and assault people asking them ideological questions at 99% protests. Those guys are great! They couldn’t tell their assholes from holes in the ground, but they’re just awesome anyway! Go 99%!

  16. To be fair, the first set of questions should have big doses of “all other things being equal” or some similar verbage applied to them.

    as in : “all other things being equal, rent control tends toward housing shortages, if they have any effect at all”.

  17. Here’s a more basic question. As a Virginia taxpayer, did I involuntarily help fund this crap study (either version)?

    1. You sure did.

  18. Surveys are less beneficial to society than giant papier mache puppet heads.

    () True

    () False

    1. I’m not going to play.

    2. Are the puppet heads on fire? Because that affects my answer.

  19. Who knew that if you come up with questions that are worded in a deliberately misleading way, that you can get different results than if the questions were honest and straight forward?

    I mean, who’d have thunk it?

    1. Is that a trick question?

  20. Oh, and at 5.2 total, libertarians have the best combined score. Booyah!

  21. Poll question I want to see some time:

    The Correct answer is “C” :

    (A) wrong
    (B) wrong
    (C) pick me
    (D) wrong

    whatever % of people get that wrong should always and forevermore after that be assumed to not really give a crap about answering poll questions seriously. It’ll be non-zero too, I think. I myself would have a hard time resisting (A). Or maybe (D).

    1. I’m writing in f for all of the above.

    2. Another poll question

      If you chose to answer this question at random, what is the chance you will be correct?

      A) 25%
      B) 50%
      C) 60%
      D) 25%

      Stolen from Greg Mankiw’s blog.

      1. I posted it first! First!

        1. It’s Blue. Blue is the correct answer.

  22. So, what I learned: libertarians rule and progressives drool. But I already knew that.

  23. Hey, my edit to the Wikipedia article for “Turtles all the way down” is still in there! Huzzah! It’s my all time favorite joke.

  24. (C) pick me

    It’s a TRAP!

  25. Has anyone seen this question? I found it quite interesting to consider.

    1. Ok. that is a good one.

      1. If there is actually sensible answer, it’s good. I can’t tell yet.

      2. Now I don’t think it’s so cool any more. I’m leaning toward an an outside-the-box gordian-knot-cutting answer of 0%.

    2. I lol’ed

    3. There are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those who understand binary, and those who do not.

      1. I thought there were three kinds: those who can count, and those who can’t.

        1. or how about:
          There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who only know decimal, those who think this is a binary joke and those who use ternary numbers.

    4. As someone who did surveys for a living for a while, and got sick of it because I realized so much of the data was bullshit… is the point of that question that the *purely logical answer* is 25%, but because there are 2 of them providing that answer, it *could* be 50%, but then that would be *assuming*, and you’re left with something of a paradox? *3* correct answers?

      I never was good at math. Which is why I work in finance. It’s *art*, baby!

      1. Ah forget it. I looked it up. “Russell’s Paradox is just the liar paradox adapted for set theory”

        So if you pick 25%…it’s actually 50%…but if you pick 50%, its self-evidently 25%, and the conundrum circles back around…

        At least I knows me some Paradoxes when i see ’em. (spits) Damn paradoxes… My ex-wife was like that…

  26. OT, a good blurb of anti-ED in last week’s news…

    There’s also the fear that the city will exercise eminent domain to take the boat club’s property for public use. After Banks, the city attorney, raised the prospect of that option in the summer, an outcry caused him to back off. Local weeklies still carry letters objecting to the idea.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..ory_2.html

    It wasn’t even going to be handed over to another private entity! And this is in a communist DC-suburb. #WINNING

  27. “Everyone who knows what they are talking about agrees with me.”

    — P Krugman

  28. 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

    It’s not clearly evident that minimum wage laws, as enacted in the real world, do raise unemployment. Thing is, such laws typically set the minimum wage close to what the market is paying anyway, so you end up with a bunch of economic studies trying to exhibit statistical “proof” based on a bunch of noisy data.

    I’m sure that more extreme “living wage” laws would cause clear unemployment, but living wage laws aren’t commonplace.

    The greatest beneficiaries of minimum wages laws are pandering politicians.

    1. My friend got his thesis showing that minimum wage raises were raising unemployment rates for black youth in the state.

      1. And folks who promote minimum wage laws can give you a huge list of economic studies that support their point of view.

  29. Anyone else a little insulted that Ron Bailey didn’t think we’d understand the turtles reference?

    1. H&R threaded comments are insults all the way down.

      And I like how the versions of the anecdote in the Wikipedia article involved an elderly lady, a “negro preacher,” and an “eastern guru.”

  30. Nerver mind that many of the “new” questions have nothing to do with economics.

    They’re just poorly phrased and show the authors’ OWN confirmation biases.

  31. “when two people complete a voluntary transaction, they both necessarily come away better off ”

    Since the only two people on the FUCKING planet who can determine if they are better off are the two people, the correct answer here is “agree”.

    The presumption that a third party knows when you are better off from a transaction is part of the fatal conceit.

    1. I’d be happier with the dollar

    2. You’ve never engaged in some economic transaction personally that you wished you hadn’t afterwards? You’ve never met anyone in your entire life that expressed buyer’s remorse?

      1. So when you exhibit buyer’s remorse, what makes your current evaluation of the situation more correct then your evaluation at the time of the purchase?

        Indeed we run into this a lot in baseball where people evaluate trades a year after they were made. Trades need to be evaluated on the basis of the information available at the time of the trade. This is a _hugely_ important point because it places the emphasis back where it should be: the process one goes through in preparation prior to making a trade.

        Evaluating a transaction based _solely_ on what happened afterward is foolishness. Because that’s information you’ll never have in future transactions. The focus needs to be on what happened prior to the transaction.

        And as such the term “better off” is indeed very vague as to the many things it could mean.

        1. Not sure what you’re going on about. Why do I have to put all these constraints ruling out subsequent gains in knowledge when looking back on a financial transaction?

          “I shouldn’t have bought that used car. Turned out it was a lemon. I sure didn’t come out better on that transaction.”

          1. Because you’re doing so from a state in time absent from the original transaction.

            Are both parties better off? Yes, at the time of the transaction they are, provided it was truly consensual. That the answer might become “no” at some later date doesn’t make the evaluation of the transaction at that later date any more the “correct” interpretation as to whether someone is “better off” than the earlier one. Unless you narrowly define what “better off” means.

            1. When a corporation revises its financial statement based on newly-gained information, the revised version is considered the more correct.

  32. making abortion illegal would increase the number of black-market abortions (disagree)

    What about black market milk, drugs, light bulbs, patio installation, health care, energy, food, shelter, water, cigarettes, prostitution, labor, trade, etc?

    The left seems to forget about black markets and their negative effects when it comes to everything else in the economy outside of abortions.

  33. Interestingly…. Libertarians averaged more right answers than any other group… There’s a Reason this magazine is called “Reason”.

  34. YOU drink!

    1. I’m not exactly an expert, but I thought that the point of a drinking game was to pick something likely to be *frequent.* In other words, a socially-acceptable way to drink a great deal on a single occasion.

      How often do people use any variant of the “magazine called Reason” quote? Or any of the other “triggers” of the game?

  35. Okay, I was wrong: Newt is Droopy, Perry is Quickdraw McGraw

  36. So drug prohibition gives power to organized criminals (true) and lifting prohibition will give more power to them? Did I read that correctly?

    Also I want to hear Stephen Fry say turtles all the way down. Screw Wikipedia.

  37. They ballyhooed their results in a Wall Street Journal op/ed which tendentiously asked, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? The conclusion was that most leftists weren’t.

    Yup. I’ve been stuck with a Canadian (ei, progressive) coworker for two weeks now, and he is dumber than a sack of dead kittens when it comes to economics. When I mentioned that the Federal Reserve did not come into existence until 1913, he asked “what did you use for money before then?” When I patiently tried to explain the then asked “but what kept the banks from keeping all the gold from the people?”

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