Pandering to economists


Greg Mankiw has a piece in the New York Times about what policies politicians should pursue if they wished to chase that all important economists' vote. Well, perhaps not all that important in terms of the number of votes to be gained, but still interesting in outlining what he sees as uniting the profession (to a large extent at least).

Number one is free trade (or we can be picky and say "freer" trade) which is, at least around here, entirely uncontroversial. Similarly the legalisation of drugs and opposition to farm subsidies. They're really aspects of the same point, after all, as is leaving oil companies and speculators alone. While markets aren't perfect, they are usually better than what politicians try to put in their place.

Inviting more skilled immigrants is a little more controversial: it's a planning of the jobs market. Better perhaps to simply remove restrictions and allow that market to be free as we argue the others should be. Taxing the use of energy does indeed make sense if you've bought into the concerns over carbon emissions.

The one that might most surprise those outside the hallowed halls where economists tread is to raise the retirement age. When 65 was set as the age for the state pension (social security over there) that was about the average lifespan: it was indeed thus a reasonable form of social insurance, insurance against the idea that you would outlive your rational level of savings. Now that lifespans are well over a decade longer (and prospective lifespans for those who have already reached 65 much longer again) raising this age makes great sense: even if not to most politicians.

Unfortunately, there aren't enough economists to make up an important voting block so we're unlikely to see them pandered to in this manner: might I suggest though that given that economists are the experts on these matters, that politicians at least start to listen to them?

The last suggestion is a little different: that spending upon economic research should be increased. Yes, it's special interest group time again, when talking to politicians make sure to mention that your own group, your own interests, should have more of other peoples' money.

But then that just proves that economists are human, right?