Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Which famous economist are you most similar to?

That's the heading of an article that appeared yesterday in the Moneybox business and economics blog at Slate magazine, which is written by the consistently interesting Matthew Yglesias. In turn it leads you to this interactive multiple-choice quiz where, by answering the questions, you appear on a graph showing which famous economist's views are most similar to yours.

It may be the most awful time-waster, but it's too fascinating to avoid - do it anyway. You'll need to answer at least 20 questions to get a reliable result, and yes, I did indeed do all 105 of them. There's my morning shot to pieces.

I won't spoil anything for you, but I'll just say this: pause for a moment when you come to the paired 'Question A' and 'Question B' ones.

The name of the economist you're most like will show up under the graph. You might appear to be close to someone else on the graph, but that's only a 2-D representation of who you're closest to. Across all dimensions of your answers, you're closest to the person named under the graph.

You have the option (see on the right hand side of the quiz screen) to 'Highlight [your] past responses that strongly deviate from expert consensus'. It's worth doing. I found that virtually all (100) of my answers were somewhere near the consensus, with only five different - the likely effects of a minimum wage, whether CPI indexation of social security benefits overcompensates recipients, the impact of cutting tax rates on US GDP, the main adverse effect of school vouchers, and the impact of raising marginal tax rates on the tax take. With hindsight, I could well be wrong on two of those, I think two of the questions are entirely empirical issues that could go either way though again I could just be plain wrong, and I think the expert consensus is itself flat out wrong on one of them. But that's for another day.

Who did I most resemble? Kenneth Judd, at Stanford and the Hoover Institution. I was somewhat surprised: Hoover, on Wikipedia, is described as "a conservative American public policy think tank located at Stanford University in California", which is not normally where I'd expect to find myself. But then (still with Wikipedia here), "Its mission statement outlines its basic tenets: representative government, private enterprise, peace, personal freedom, and the safeguards of the American system". Not sure I'm on the same hymn sheet as "the safeguards of the American system", whatever that means, but yes, I can sign up for the rest of it, especially the private enterprise bit.

And I note that Hoover had appointed the late Christopher Hitchens as one of its Media Fellows, in which case I'm pleased, however remotely, to be in good company.

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