Liberal Economics

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting opinion piece on basic economic principles and peoples ability to understand them. As you might expect from a WSJ article, the author found that self-identified liberals failed to understand basic tenants of economics.

Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: “Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable.” People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.

Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of “somewhat disagree” and “strongly disagree.” This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer “not sure,” which we do not count as incorrect.

In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.Ann Althouse finds the strength of the conclusions suspect.

What do you think?

Update: Ed Morrissey has discovered the same article and has posted his comments. He has similar doubts on the veracity of the work but still considers it an interesting read.

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