Tuesday, June 08, 2010

No Real Surprise Here - Just Wilful Ignorance

Don Boudreaux points out an amusing op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, reporting on a poll of eight questions about economic issues.  I pretty much agree with what the 'right' answers are, though some of the cases might be subject to some more nuanced argumentation.  The bottom line:
In particular, the questions about mandatory licensing, the standard of living, the definition of monopoly, and free trade do not specifically challenge leftist sensibilities.
Yet on every question the left did much worse. On the monopoly question, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (31%) was more than twice that of conservatives (13%) and more than four times that of libertarians (7%). On the question about living standards, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (61%) was more than four times that of conservatives (13%) and almost three times that of libertarians (21%).
The survey also asked about party affiliation. Those responding Democratic averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.
Adam Smith described political economy as "a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator." Governmental power joined with wrongheadedness is something terrible, but all too common. Realizing that many of our leaders and their constituents are economically unenlightened sheds light on the troubles that surround us.
 And while I agree with this conclusion I did wonder as I read this op-ed how the lefties could be so ignorant or stupid?  Mike Munger helped a little later today, pointing out that economic illiteracy is a choice, with a great quotation from Ludwig von Mises:
 Scarcely anyone interests himself in social problems without being led to do so by the desire to see reforms enacted. In almost all cases, before anyone begins to study the science, he has already decided on definite reforms that he wants to put through. Only a few have the strength to accept the knowledge that these reforms are impracticable and to draw all the inferences from it. Most men endure the sacrifice of the intellect more easily than the sacrifice of their daydreams. They cannot bear that their utopias should run aground on the unalterable necessities of human existence. What they yearn for is another reality different from the one given in this world. They long for the "leap of humanity out of the realm of necessity and into the realm of freedom." They wish to be free of a universe of whose order they do not approve.
The 'sacrifice of the intellect'.  Yup, one sees that a lot.
As Munger himself says:
Lefties want to feel good about regulating housing prices. The fact that rent control actually HURTS the poor...well, that's inconvenient, and they just prefer to put their fingers in their ears and sing folk songs from the 1960s, and congratulate themselves on their INTENTIONS, not the actual impacts of the laws they advocate.
'La-la-la-la. I don't want to hear you!
And by the way those are peace activists. And something that sounds good about international law too!'


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