Bloomberg reports the following from McCain about economists who criticized his (lunatic) summer gas plan:
He has shown increasing disdain for any economist who questions his policy prescriptions. Earlier this month, he lashed out at critics of his proposal for a summer gas-tax holiday.
“You know the economists?” McCain said June 12 at Federal Hall, near the New York Stock Exchange. “They’re the same ones that didn’t predict this housing crisis we’re in. They’re the same ones that didn’t predict the dot-com meltdown. They’re the same ones that didn’t predict the inflation that’s staring us in the face today.”
Essentially his critique is that economists did not predict the future, and therefore they should not be trusted on the effects of a gas tax. Now, leaving aside more specific rejoinders about whether he has his facts right, I think it is fascinating that McCain wishes to apply the Deuteronomy prophet test to economists:
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
To McCain, and many politicians, the economic advice he gets looks suspiciously like voodoo. Perhaps to him, Marginal Benefits=Marginal Costs, IS/LM, and inelastic supply all make no more sense than a guy staring at goat entrails*. It’s something he, and politicians generally, has to take on faith. Unfortunately for his economic advisors, his faith is shaken. Specifically, his faith is shaken whenever the economists tell him he’s wrong. Which, come to think of it, may often be how people lose their faith in the prophets.
On behalf of all economists, Senator, I’d like to assure you that we’re not prophets and we make lots of mistakes.
But, speaking strictly in terms of probabilities and with all due humility, we are more likely to be right about economics than you.
* Prophets don’t stare at goat entrails. On the other hand, the IS/LM model makes only slightly more sense to me than staring at goat entrails.