“Economics” as Push Poll

By James Kwak

Matthew Klein of Alphaville called out the “Council of Economic Education” for a supposed “economic literacy” quiz that wrapped up free market ideology in the trappings of universal economic truth. The quiz is full of questions like this one:

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If you know a little bit of economics, and you know how to answer multiple-choice tests, it’s clear that you’re supposed to choose “C”—the point being that trade helps consumers, and limits on trade help domestic competitors. But, as Klein shows, these types of simple, first-order answers may or may not apply to the real world. For question 7, for example, you would have to know why the United States stopped importing automobiles from Country X.

What the Council of Economic Education really came up with here is a push poll: a set of questions intended to convey a certain message. The message is that complicated policy issues can be reduced to multiple choice questions which, in turn, can be answered using a handful of simple models from an Economics 101 class. But you can only answer the questions “correctly” if you assume that those models accurately depict the behavior of individuals and firms in the real world. Then everything becomes easy: trade is always good for all parties, taxes and regulations (like rent ceilings) are always bad, and competition is always good for consumers.

This idea that all questions can be answered using a few diagrams from introductory economics has been pushed by business organizations since World War II. That was the principle behind the Foundation for Economic Education, which helped sponsor Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek; behind 1950s’ economic education programs in the sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers and large corporations (often to captive audiences of employees); and behind business-sponsored teaching kits distributed to thousands of schools. (For the full story, see Selling Free Enterprise, by Elizabeth Fones-Wolf.) In each case, the motivation was the same: teach people a streamlined, fact-free version of the competitive market model, and they will understand why free markets are always good and government intervention is always bad.

The problem, of course, is that the real world is rarely so simple. But if you can get lots of people to learn a little bit of economics, you can convince them that trade agreements are always good (comparative advantage!) and that the minimum wage is always bad (price floor!). I’m all in favor of education—I’m in the business, after all. A lot of what the Council for Economic Education does may be valuable. But multiple choice is not the right answer to real problems.

15 responses to ““Economics” as Push Poll

  1. Education has lost it’s way, as has politics and a whole host of other industries, including manufacturing cars, they don’t last the test of time and you can NEVER talk to Mr. Big about today’s problems because he believes anything that does not agree with his opinions simply has no merit.

    Humans have been, and will continue to be doomed because of all the arrogant, hypocritical, greedy self interest group think tanks which dominate American society. The world is a mess and no one sees or is prepared for the looming disaster which awaits all of us.

    I won’t be there to help anyone either, it will be hit the road sucker you already did enough damage, your day was due and now it’s here. The great shakedown coming to your town, without warning and no where to hide. Don’t blame me, I’m the only one giving heads up, regrettably, the sole survivor. At least I tried, which is more than I can say for you all.

  2. I agree that economic literacy should entail more nuance and diversity of viewpoints. However, the question that you selected as an example actually presented a scenario in which the “correct” answer does provide some nuance. Answer c requires automobile manufacturers to be harmed from free trade. This is counter to your inference that they are suggesting that “trade is always good for all parties”.

  3. Once this unsustainable current human nightmare ends (as it must), the only thoughts running through my mind are how best to reform it next time. [For the same actors w/ the same mind set are scheduled to arrive to replace today’s failed actors] Draconian measures are the only answer, stop promoting making baby factories, hospital baby switching. Demand truth in education, design, advertising, and politics. And should these measures not be accepted, refuse the discipline of a gold standard answer as is today’s fiat world, and take the solution and move it to private hands who can make the RIGHT decisions at the right time. Unfortunately today’s humans are so irresponsible that they can set back the future with today’s current behavior, reducing the odds of universal success in the future, but that is precisely how and why we are in such a bad situation currently. And since human memory spans about the length of a gnat, and with “that is the way it’s always been done” mentality, it’s no surprise the debt burden is as great as it is, what is a surprise is that this all seems normal and sustainable. Talking in political circles half the political cycle without reasonable answers or real solutions is like the blind leading the blind. When the majority is wrong yet still in control because they are the “majority”, the definition of insanity goes out the window. Which is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Even Einstein would be appalled at how pitiful humans have become at recognizing their own problems and the solutions they chose to overcome them. It’s hideous, a joke, not even a good laugh anymore to say the least.

    So enjoy it while it lasts, for it will not last. If it is the will of satan, it shall be done is the motto that brought humans to this point in time, his greatest trick was convincing the world he did not exist, but he could not fool all the people all the time, was his demise.

  4. Tigger NItro

    Try making arguments without superlatives like free markets are always good and government intervention is always bad.

  5. “I’m all in favor of education—I’m in the business, after all.”
    There’s your problem, right there.

    And here’s just one example of what it leads to:
    “The University of California has been admitting thousands of students from out of state with lower grades and test scores than state residents as a way to raise cash, a state audit released Tuesday reveals.”

  6. All you Shamans of Gizmology are the most radicalized, and satanic, priest class to ever walk the planet in a million years!

    You have invented a fiat money god based on your philosophical belief system of Nihilism, Hedonism, and Anarchy (98% of the murders in Mexico go unsolved – “free trade” anyone?).

    Everything in REALITY is based on double entry bookkeeping – the man to land ratio.

    How can there be “economic education” when there are no FACTS?

    How “complicated” are FACTS?!

    thousands of bullcrap years – what is the definition of INSANITY….?


  7. Lets talk about the consequences of bad behavior or even bad decisions of all types, i’m not above holding anyone to consequences, even the time police (for it is after midnight mind you, and time is an illusion of the strangest order, just take a close look at the jugglers and clowns and the tricks they do for the proof of this.). Place to many demands on an individual and he might wise up and take action in the future. Once i’ve proved a mistake has been made, it won’t be made against me on my watch again, fool me once and all, and i’ll be certain i’m set for anything and everything before aiding humanity over myself.

    We’ve already proved that as people age they care more about themselves than anything or anyone else. So even if people could do something now to benefit themselves in the next time life cycle, the odds are extremely low that they would, [they don’t think or care that way]. And that’s okay by me, i’ll get my revenge without answering questions knowing the direction one would have chosen if they had a chance to do it all again, (because of the treatment I received on their watch prior, simple enough). They might not understand in the future but that won’t be my problem, it will be theirs, and I won’t care and for good reason, experience.

    Now if failure is the name of the game, and ignorance is bliss just the same, why should I not participate if my future house is not in order, I should participate, if for nothing else than self preservation. So when considering the consequences of behavior and decisions, just be prepared to die for your beliefs, then it will all be good. They and the consequences to be paid are all that is left of this life time, and most of you will be unprepared and under rehearsed once the day of judgement arrives, trust me on that, it’s not my first rodeo with this satanic gvt and the consequences of dealing with it.

  8. The unholy trinity of the shamans of gizmology – the Federal Reserve Board, IRS and Homeland Security – is evil incarnate. The power mad creatures inhabiting those institutions have a permanent and “secret” job – to take away the right of every human being to make their life less miserable through honest work (man to land ratio) and to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

    “Bad decisions”? I think not. Clearly an “engineered” schtick – this “cycle” of economic stealing. Clearly iniquity. Talk about the need for a gene pool cleanse….and the ones using birth rates to take over the place (I dubbed it the Cockroach Plan) are so far behind in having the mental and cultural capacity to even know what a philosophy for living IS, that the only thing their wave of overpopulation will do is hurl the planet back a MILLION years….google math exponentiality….you heard me – a MILLION years.

    We the People have the ONLY “revolution” ism/schism/schmism ideology we will ever need – The Declaration of Independence.

    We will resurrect the “institutions” of peace and prosperity that were shangheid by the Shamans of Gizmology – the WORST priest class ever.

    Not giving in without a fight – NEVER bending my knee to the global war drug and slave lords – and I am also running for President of the USA, again :-). Oh, need the name….? LOL

  9. The Federal Reserve Board, the IRS (now even in the “health care business”!!) and Homeland Security



    to put the hurt on people – to take it ALL.

    This isn’t their psychotic first rodeo, is it?

    Declaration of Independence stated JUST THE FACTS – ” he has erected a multitude of agencies to EAT OUT OUR SUBSTANCE”.

    Prove me wrong. You can’t.

    Then get your “students” to prove that FACT wrong. Is it the majik politically correct words that are shielding the full horror of the madness?

    It is not what you DO – but what you say!?

    Shamans of Gizmology – WORST priest class yet.

  10. Lets examine technology-vs-the technology of man and the conflicts that lay in between. When technology advances beyond the technology of man, bad things will happen. The reasons are clear once studied extensively. Every country has a stake in the technology of man pie, albeit a small one for some, and slightly larger for others, yet all (should) have a desire to see a successful outcome, once a country comes to conclusion that their slice stands in jeopardy of extinction, all sorts of action are taken as a consequence of this failure, we see this on a broader scale each and every day.
    Once the technology of man becomes an object to be controlled rather than grown and care for, the seeds of disaster have been sown. This is where we currently stand today, we already proved who the satanic partys are within this dilemma. Gvts, the courts, and financial institutionals are most to blame here, they tilted the scales of injustice, they used technology to further their own ideals and self interest, which trumps the technology of man with their deep pain and their shallow minds. Since we all know about checks and balances, it only stands to reason if the technology of man does not overwhelm technology so technology can be used to benefit general humanity, technology must be returned to a prior state in order that an equal playing field can once again be achieved, and so the process begins anew.
    The largest problem with the technology of man is that it is evolutionary, a step by step process where each successive step is not understood by the previous step, so the previous step actually becomes a part of the problem because they believe in order to succeed you must do things the same way they did them. So with 4 steps being need to complete the process, you have the beginning steps retaining control at the same time that they are part of the problem for the latter steps, creating a catch 22 of failure which has yet to be overcome, an extinction of usefulness of some these steps surely must occur before a final chance of future success can be achieved, and if the final outcome is not successful, the initial steps are born again to create another ladder, or stairway to heaven. The beginning steps having unlimited #’s, time, and resources, and the latter steps having very few #’s, very few resources, and very limited time or virtually no time at all, further reducing the chances of success.
    Really if this is the best that can be done, I can fully understand why we have not “created success” with this unfortunate formula of self interest, it’s a natural win/win for the former, and a natural lose/lose for the latter, literally, as if the words were designed for this sole intention or place in time. Now we already proved the universal utopia of the technology of man has yet to occur, just take a look around at the global turmoil for proof of this, and the since the bad actors control technology it once again only stands to reason that an equal playing field must once again occur. But when? This is also a good question, to be addressed at a later date.

  11. “Technology” is nothing more than who has the better weapon.

    It completely ignores the man to land ratio, the contribution of women to the role REAL intelligence plays in sustainable life maintenance, and plants authoritative shamans as self serving trickster mediators (compounded interest on fiat $$$$) between God the Father and his children. It’s a hell hole of a day care center.

    After a brief discussion with a female physicist in town for training on a new medical device that is the darling of oncologists about the role all this wifi is having on children’s brain development – the autism outbreak – she laid down the official word that “we can’t live without our wifi” – a dogma every bit of an illogical, reality ignoring “belief” as any “religion” has ever put forward.

    Can’t “live” without wifi??!!

    She was from Turkey, so looks like a global “culture” IS developing – complete with a whole new Unholy Book of SOPs.

    The Federal Reserve Board, the IRS and Homeland Security EXIST to put the hurt on people. Yeah, they have the latest and greatest “technology”. Plenty of dead bodies who INVENTED the technology and then challenged their claims on it and their use of it….

    Get your selfie going…

  12. That must explain why she is as illusive as the proverbial “pot of gold”, or the great “Spontaneous Combustion” caper. All of which have yet to be found, or occur.

  13. csarichardo

    A car and final assembly – major car components and sub assembly – parts and manufacture – materials and refinement – raw materials and mining … etc. You can build a model, change some cost element (based upon tariffs, transportation distance, wages, etc) and come up with any answer you want or at least see the shift of the living economy ?!

  14. https://panamapapers.icij.org/

    Hmmm…didn’t we “invade” Panama in 1989….?

    This is gonna be fun entertainment – break out the popcorn….

    Once you start making deals as a Presidential candidate about who you will NOT prosecute for “crimes against humanity”, like Obambi did, what kind of nation are you leading, and for whom are you “leading” it?

    Enter Pauly Ryany…

  15. Waiting until after the end of the world to make your move provides for strange bed fellows, simply because their is no logical formula for how or when it is to occur, where you will be during its arrival, or who besides yourself can survive it, depending on your feet to walk away offers very little chance of success, if any at all, taking action yourself now, is the better part of valor at this late hour.

    For the Federal Reserve is about to reach it’s troubling conclusion. The failed experiment, after an early retirement still could not reach a deep sleep for some reason, (perhaps too many days of dry powder superioress), found its self with a couple hours sleep each night, then did it’s best thinking, then a couple more moments of sleep, then time to wake and start it’s day all over again. But like a weight lifter who eventually realizes as he strengthens one muscle, he weakens another, and quits the sport at 40 years or so. The Fed has tired to the point of forcing it’s self into a deep sleep, and after awakening the years of wound up DNA, suddenly finds the monster inside has now taken control outside its ability to manage it, confused, but as always wrong, but never in doubt, it has unknowingly, unwillingly, become it’s own worst enemy. The gravity of the situation now placed in the hands of an expert rookie who has all the degrees but still does not understand the true gravity of it’s value or expertise. The end is near, and once reached, behind the scenes, the fed will be held accountable for it’s past failed formulas, it’s lack of body mechanics knowledge and sympathy of it, its lack of linear communication but still insisting on holding the people (its enemy’s), accountable financially, the arrogance, hypocrisy, and selfishness of its ideals will come to the fore.

    Against their will, probate administrators will back down from the threat of being drug tested, a story which they can stomach no further, once audited, the ending of the Fed will be discussed, but probably not occur due to the lack of a responsible enough replacement in the congress. Instead, integrity can be restored to the institution quitely, the same actors with a different approach, possibly not even noticed among the chaos of the worst political election cycle known to mankind. A perfect storm of calm within the hurricane of disaster awaits us all, possibly very soon, stay tuned, it’s promises to be a really big and, bumpy, show.