On What Do Economists Agree?

As an economist I’ve heard plenty of criticisms about my profession, most of it well-deserved.  For example, “If you lined up all of the world’s economists end to end, it wouldn’t be a bad idea!”  Harry Truman once said, “I’m tired of economists who say, ‘On the one hand … and then on the other hand.’  Send me a one-armed economist.”

It is true that the practitioners of the “dismal science” often disagree, but you will be surprised to discover that there are many important issues on which the most economists agree.

According to a paper written by Alston & Vaughn in the American Economic Review in May, 1992 and an article by Robert Whaples in the November, 2006 Berkeley Press, there are significant areas of agreement by economists on the following propositions:

  • A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available.  (93%)
  • Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare.  (93%)
  • The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
  • The United States should eliminate agriculture subsidies. (85%)
  • A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy.  (83%)
  • A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers.  (79%)

By a large margin, economists support expanding competition and market forces in education.  61.7% of economists believe that parents should be given educational vouchers that can be used at government run or privately run schools, while only 30.5% disagree.

Economists agree (85.3%) that the gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. In addition, economists seem to be a moving toward the view that increasing the normal retirement age is the best way to deal with the Social Security funding gap.

Economists have not reached a consensus on the merits of universal health insurance—
45.8% favor the idea, but almost an equal number (38.7%) oppose it.

Marijuana legalization is favored by a sizeable majority of economists (62.2% favor, 17.0% oppose).

Sixty Three percent of economists favor increased reliance on nuclear energy as the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Only ten percent of economists disagree with this position.

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