The Problem With Partisan Economists

This morning, doing my usual scan of the news, I came across an article with a headline including the name of a prominent economist. A chuckled, because the headline was wholly predictable, given the political leanings of this economists. I will not say who this was, but let's refer to this economist as "Pat." Pat happens to be one of the more partisan economists I can think of. Upon reflection, I realized how unfortunate the response I had was.

The article I spoke of explained that Pat drew an economic conclusion resulting from some political action. One of the points that Pat made in doing so, was misleading, if not intentionally false. Pat, however, is very, very smart. As a result, I know that this economist knows better. Yet, strong political leanings often cloud what Pat says.

That's a shame, because if at least mildly objective, Pat's contribution as an economist would be worth so much more. Instead, so much of what this economist says will not be taken seriously by the political opposition, since Pat always sticks the party line, unless the party isn't staying true to its own platform.

Don't get me wrong: there's no such thing as a perfectly objective economist, or human being for that matter. Economists in particular tend to belong to a school of thought. For example, some are Keynesians and believe that government action is very important. Others belong to the Chicago school and believe that the government generally needs to get out of the way.

The best economist, however, would admit that there is some truth to both theories. For example, it's virtually indisputable that economic stimulus will help in the short-run. When people have more cash, they feel better and can use it to warm up the economy. It's simple logic. That's the Keynesian line. Similarly, it's impossible to dispute that in the long-run, deficit spending will have to be paid by the people. As a result, future growth might be stunted. That's the Chicago School line. The value you place on the short term versus long term is something that sometimes separates the Keynesians from the Chicago school.

And that's fine. It's okay for economists to take a side. What's not okay is when economists become so politically passionate that they lose touch with reality. They begin to cloud the facts to support a political leaning. It causes the public to take all economists analyses less seriously, making the dismal science even more dismal. The sad result is that the partisan economist might eventually have a very important, valid point to make, but only one side of the aisle will be listening.

So why haven't I named this mystery economist? I prefer to refrain from doing so, because I don't like calling people out, or making personal attacks. Besides, this economist is hardly the only one guilty of engaging too heartily in partisan politics. Instead, I'd just prefer to make the general point, because that's what's important.