Majority Rule

“If all the economists were laid end to end, they'd never reach a conclusion.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Shaw’s quip is a good summary of how most people look at economists and the economics field in general. But while professional economists often do disagree with one another, on some matters there are surprising levels of agreement. In one of the largest surveys of economists, Harvard professor Dr. N. Gregory Mankiw identified the areas economists agree on most. These are listed below with the percent of those surveyed who agree; links are to relevant Mackinac Center articles.

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  • Rent control limits quantity/quality of housing (93 percent)
  • Tariffs and quotas reduce economic welfare (93 percent)
  • The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries (90 percent)
  • Floating exchange rates are effective international monetary policy (90 percent)
  • The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies  (85 percent)
  • The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged (85 percent)
  • Large federal deficits adversely affect the economy (83 percent)
  • Welfare should be administered as a negative income tax (79 percent)
  • A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers (79 percent)
  • Taxes and permits are a better way to control pollution than pollution ceilings (78 percent)

No matter what the issue, reporters can usually find two economists with opposing views. On these issues, however, the ones who favor greater government intrusion are outliers even within their own profession.