A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

When Economists Agree

We’ve been telling you for the last couple of weeks how economists are divided over the virtues of the stimulus bill. But, as former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and current Harvard Professor Greg Mankiw reminds us, we shouldn’t get too carried away with our skepticism of economists. While they might have differing views of macroeconomics, there are still a lot of areas where they agree. Mankiw provides us with a list of principles that most economists accept, with the percentage of economists who agree in parentheses:

  1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
  2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
  3. Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
  4. Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
  5. The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)

Mankiw has several more examples, compiled from various polls of economists and assembled in his best-selling econ text.

We’d note, as Mankiw does, that #4 is slightly misleading, as it lumps economists who think that tax cuts will stimulate the economy in with those who think that increasing spending will stimulate the economy. Separating those two categories would result in significantly less agreement.

Still, 93 percent agreement that rent-control is counterproductive is a pretty impressive consensus. But politicians and economists don’t always see eye-to-eye — hence the New York state Legislature’s recent decision to return several thousand more residences to the rent-controlled roster.