Simon Wren-Lewis has some very smart observations this morning:
mainly macro: Why do European Economists write Letters while US Economists Endorse Candidates?: In February 2010, 20 economists including a number of academics of note signed a letter that endorsed the Conservative Party’s deficit reduction plan for the UK. Although 20 is a small number (I’m sure many more – like me – were asked to sign and did not), they made up in quality what they lacked in quantity. The New Statesman magazine recently had the bright idea of asking them “whether they regretted signing the letter and what they would do to stimulate growth”. It published the results yesterday.
Half of the signatories replied. The headline was that most have changed their mind.
Actually the responses are more varied, but interesting given that they are mostly well known academics. For example Ken Rogoff simply says “I have always favoured investment in high-return infrastructure projects that significantly raise long-term growth” which you can interpret how you want. A few are brave enough to say they have changed their minds. Only Albert Marcet says that he has no regrets.
400 economists have signed up in favour of Romney for President…. Andrew Watt is right when he says that it is “unusual in Europe, at least in the countries I know, for academic economists to ally themselves party-politically in such a clear fashion”…. The 42 French economists who wrote a letter endorsing Hollande’s recovery plan seem more in the UK tradition of supporting particular policies in their own words. In contrast the 400 seem to be signing up to something that could only have been written by a political machine.
So if there is a difference between the US and at least some parts of Europe here, why is this?…
And then Simon gives what I regard as the right answer:
I’m asking the wrong question here…. [T]he issue… is… what drives those who support the Republican Party…. I can see why that would make a Republican candidate particularly keen to be seen to have academic support, but not why so many seem happy to give their blanket support…. Either the prospect of a Romney victory must be so appealing, or the threat of another Obama Presidency so awful, that those signing have been willing to put all their normal critical faculties and sensibilities to one side….
In a world still suffering greatly from the consequences of ineffective financial regulation, is the threat of marginally more effective regulation that dire? In an economy where tax rates on the rich have fallen and inequality has increased massively (whatever John Cochrane may want to believe), is the prospect of that not continuing so appalling? Is the prospect of just a bit less rather than a lot less government so terrifying that you are happy to sign up to obvious distortions like “Obama has offered no plan to reduce federal spending and stop the growth of the debt-to-GDP ratio”? It is this I find hard to understand.
You are not alone, Simon