Monday, September 20, 2010

18 = most economists? authoritatively reports this morning on the results from a survey it conducted
With income tax rates set to go up on Dec. 31, Congress is hotly debating what to do next. But most economists agree: Keep them where they are.
No ambiguity whatsoever--most economists agree!

With such an authoritative conclusion, this must be some survey. Surely, started with a wide roster of economists, perhaps the 17,000 or so members of the American Economic Association? Hmm, not exactly.

Okay, then they must have surveyed a large number of economists so that they can precisely infer the policy views of the profession. Only if you think that 31 economists constitutes a large sample.

Okay, the sample is small, but it's representative with overwhelming percentages favoring the tax cuts. Hardly. About two-thirds of the surveyed economists work for large banks, brokerages, or business associations. And of those surveyed, only 18 of 31 supported the tax cuts (and several of those did so with qualified support). later explains that its survey is limited to "leading" economists, though its list of economists includes no Nobel laureates or John Bates Clark medal winners. There are at least a few of those who oppose the tax cuts. The story describes the views of another well-known (but not-leading-enough-to-be-included-in-the-survey) economist, Alan Greenspan, who opposes the tax cuts.

At the end of the story, we really don't know what most economists think about the tax cuts. A comfortable prediction, however, is that most would agree that has conducted a crap survey.