If you follow the economic policy debate in the popular press, you would be excused for missing one of our best-kept secrets: There’s remarkable agreement among economists on most policy questions. Unfortunately, this consensus remains obscured by the two laws of punditry: First, for any issue, there’s always at least one idiot willing to claim the spotlight to argue for it; and second, that idiot may sound more respectable if he calls himself an economist.
How then can the quiet consensus compete with these squawking heads? A wonderful innovation run by Brian Barry and Anil Kashyap at the University of Chicago’s Booth School Initial on Global Markets provides one answer: Data. Their “Economic Experts Panel” involves 40 of the leading economists across the US who have agreed to respond on the economic policy question du jour. The panel involves a geographically and ideologically diverse array of leading economists working across different fields. The main thing that unites them is that they are outstanding economists who care about public policy. The most striking result is just how often even this very diverse group of economists agree, even when there’s stark disagreement in Washington.