Zakaj so ekonomisti bolj za državno intervencijo kot “običajni ljudje”?

V javnosti je razširjeno prepričanje, da so ekonomisti brezrezervni pristaši nereguliranega prostega trga oziroma da so bistveno bolj libertarni kot splošna javnost. Vendar to sploh ni res. Noah Smith navaja zadnje študije, pa tudi ankete med top ekonomisti, ki jih izvaja – libertarna! – univerza v Chicagu. Te študije kažejo, da se ekonomisti v večji meri zavezmajo za državno intervencijo kot običajni ljudje. Denimo večji delež ekonomistov (kot pa širše javnosti) je podpiral državno sanacijo avtomobilske trojke iz Detroita, Obamin fiskalni stimulus program iz 2009, večji delež ekonomistov je bil za dvig davkov, več jih podpira javno šolstvo in manj šolske voucher programe, več jih podpira aktivno monetarno politiko, redistribucijo dohodkov prek davkov, minimalno plačo, kontrolo orožja, obdavčitev eksternalij, regulacijo farmacevtske industrije itd.

Zakaj potem v javnosti tako razširjena fama, da so ekonomisti ultra libertarni?

Smith navaja dva razloga. Prvič, večina “običajnih ljudi” je slišala zgolj nekaj simplističnih ekonomskih idej glede “zakonitosti ponudbe in povpraševanja” in “učinkovitosti popolnoma prostegas trga”, ki jih študentje slišijo v prvem letniku. Vendar pa gre pri teh za zelo enostavne in popreproščene floskule, ki bi morda lahko veljale v nekem idealnem svetu, in predstavljajo napačno razmišljanje o ekonomiji. V realnem svetu neenakih možnosti, eksternalij, asimetričnih informacij itd. te floskule ne veljajo. Popolna konkurenca ne obstaja, je zgolj teoretska abstrakcija. In če trg prepstiš “prosti konkurenci”, se v nekaj iteracijah zaradi notranje dinamike tržnih sil izrodi v monopol, ali v najboljšem primeru oligopol. Neregulirani ponudniki bi potrošnika dobesedno oropali in ubili. Zato je potrebna vladna intervencija, da omeji divji trg, da vzpostavi varnostne, tehnične in kakovostne standarde itd. Vendar pa se do teh spoznanj pride šele po napornem (doktorskem) študiju in dolgih letih empiričnih izkušenj.

Drugi razlog pa je, da so zagovorniki “prostega trga”, za katerimi stojijo konzervativni think tanki (Cato, Heritage, American Enterprise Institute) in ki jih bogato subvencionirajo korporacije, v javnosti bili nekaj desetletij zelo glasni. Javna zavajanja Miltona Friedmana in Friedricha Hayeka s simplističnimi floskulami o koristnosti nereguliranega trga in škodljivosti javne intervencije bo kljub večinskemu drugačnemu mnenju med ekonomisti še nekaj časa težko spraviti nazaj v steklenico.

In a 2013 paper, economists Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales compared a survey of the general public to a poll of top academic economists. Both surveys are administered by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. While they found substantial disagreement between economists and the general public, it was definitely not the case that normal folks were more interventionist than the experts.

For example, the economists were more likely than the public to support the U.S. auto bailouts, by 58.6 percent to 52 percent. They were also more likely to support President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill, by 52.8 percent to 43.4 percent. More economists — over 97 percent — were in favor of tax hikes, and fewer supported school-voucher programs.

The Chicago survey of economic experts — which you can browse online — isn’t a representative sample of the econ profession. It relies on the judgment of the survey makers to pick who is a top expert and who is not. But broader measures of economists’ opinions also find widespread support for government intervention.

For example, a 2006 paper by Charlotta Stern and Daniel Klein examined a survey of members of the American Economic Association, which encompasses almost all academic economists in the nation. Stern and Klein found that most economists support regulations to protect air and water quality, workplace safety regulations, activist monetary policy to stabilize the economy, government regulation of pharmaceuticals, public schools, income redistribution through the tax system, gun control, minimum wage laws, as well as other government interventions. On only a few topics — immigration, trade tariffs and state ownership of industry — did most economists take the libertarian position.

So why do many people think of economics as a bastion of libertarianism? Part of it might be due to undergraduate education. Most introductory college econ courses teach a very simple theory of supply and demand in which free markets make the whole world more efficient. Econ 101 courses tend to gloss over more difficult topics, such as externalities, asymmetric information and welfare economics, which often justify government intervention. The free-market stuff is simple and easy, while the market failures, though often important in the real world, are harder to understand. This can give college kids a simplistic, fun, but fundamentally wrong way of thinking about the economy, which I call “101ism.”

Another reason might be marketing. Many of the people who explain economics to the general public, such as the bloggers at Marginal Revolution or the creators of the EconTalk podcast, have libertarian leanings. A number of conservative think tanks, such as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, employ university-trained economists to promote free-market policies to the public. In recent years, this libertarian influence has been balanced out by more left-leaning voices — the New York Times’ Paul Krugman, the University of California-Berkeley’s Brad DeLong, and think tanks like the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Center for Economic and Policy Research and Economic Policy Institute. But libertarians’ head start in marketing — which goes back all the way to Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek in the mid-20th century — will take a while to overcome.

Vir: Noah Smith, Blomberg View

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