Are You Smarter Than a Progressive?

The trouble ain't that people are ignorant: it's that they know so much that ain't so.
- Josh Billings

Economics professor Daniel Klein has apparently found a significant blind spot in the progressive intellect. Ignorance of basic economics seems to be a consistent trait in the ultra-liberal mind, a place where ideology trumps reason and logic.

In his June 8 Wall Street Journal article, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”, Klein explains:
Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.
The Zogby survey asked 4,835 American adults to identify their political ideology as either libertarian, very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal, or progressive/very liberal. They were then provided eight fairly basic economic assertions, and asked to respond to each statement.

Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.
The correct response, of course, is to agree with the statement. After all, fewer available houses will naturally make them more expensive. This is simple supply and demand economics. In this survey question, the only incorrect responses counted were “somewhat disagree” and “strongly disagree”. “Not sure” was not an incorrect answer for any of the questions.

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.
Based on party affiliation, Democrats averaged 4.59 incorrect answers, Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect. As Mr. Kline states, “The pattern was not an anomaly.” It is compelling evidence that the further you lean left, the more ignorant you are of basic economics.

This test appears to be a wonderful indicator of political ideology. Ask your friends and family these questions and see where they stand. They may learn something in the process.

While we’re at it, I can think of a few more. Ask if they agree with the following statements:

“We can borrow our way out of debt.”

“Higher taxes on the ‘wealthy’ will revive the economy.”

“Government control of health care will improve quality and reduce costs.”

“Taxing carbon dioxide production will lead to energy independence.”

“Pigs can fly and unicorns are real.”

Andrew Thomas aka Angel
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