Dollars and Jens
Thursday, September 14, 2006
What Economists are Good For
Opportunity cost:
We live in an age of rampant populism. As the media have become more commercial and less idealistic they have turned increasingly to reinforcing their audience's prejudices and telling people what they want to hear.

Isn't it shocking about the high price of petrol! Why doesn't the Government do something? What about that terrible Reserve Bank raising interest rates! And why doesn't the greedy Government cut taxes?

The politicians have become more populist, too. With their greater use of focus groups and opinion polls, the art of politics has become more scientific - that is, more efficient at knowing exactly what people want to hear and at aiming policies at the swinging voter, not the party faithful.

Because they're better-informed about what the public's thinking, politicians are more inclined to follow rather than lead and to pander to ignorance rather than educate.

Not so the economists, few of whom ever run for office. Everything about their training makes them want to blurt out dismal truths — and they rarely resist the urge.
þ Mark Thoma, who synopsizes less sparingly.

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