Blind Spots on Left and Right


Following up on Tyler Cowen’s post about mistakes he thinks liberal and conservative economists make, David Leonhardt provides a matching pair of lists of economic blind spots among non-economists on left and right. You might agree with his lists or not, but he also has a broader point to make:

I think that liberal economists, by nature, tend to be less economically liberal than your average liberal. That’s not true — or at least it’s not nearly as true — about conservative economists and conservatives generally. As a result, some of the left’s biggest blind spots on economics arise much less often among left-leaning economists.

….The difference, I think, is that conservative economists’ blind spots overlap more with general conservative blind spots than is the case for liberal economists and liberal blind spots. That’s not a value judgment so much as an observation: liberal economists tend to be more economically conservative than average liberals.

Yep. Obviously there are some hardcore lefty economists out there, but for the most part liberal economists still tend to be fairly sober sorts who are wary of maximal arguments and generally in favor of market solutions in a wide variety of contexts. Conservative economists, by contrast, are largely willing — even eager — to trumpet a uniformly hardcore party line on things like regulation, taxes, unions, trade, and incentives in general. Maybe it’s because they still feel like a beleaguered minority, maybe it’s because the incentives work differently on the right. I’m not sure. But Leonhardt does seem to be right about this.

As a side note, I’ll mention that I’ve seen a number of lefty bloggers engage with Tyler’s original list of lefty mistakes, but I haven’t seen anyone on the right engage with his list of righty mistakes. Maybe that’s just because I haven’t been reading the right blogs.  But I have a feeling that’s not it. On the right, an awful lot of economic shibboleths have become almost religious totems, and that’s just not something you’re allowed to express any doubts about.

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