Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why Jacques and Johann can't grasp supply and demand 

This image, from a new article in Foreign Policy by Stefan Theil, should concern us with attitudes towards trade internationally going forward. But there's plenty more where this came from. I listened to Littlest last night ask Mrs. S a question from her U.S. history text: "What would a white Southerner in 1860 think of the 13th Amendment?" What do you think the answer was that the questioner was looking for? Such examples abound in discussion of economics as well. (And note, Littlest goes to a private school. There will be a discussion of this later with the teacher.)

A survey of attitudes in the US in 1980 and 1989 (discussed here) came to the conclusion that the American public is generally favorably inclined towards capitalism. An interesting paragraph:
An interesting difference exists for an item drawn from the writings of Robert H. Bork, erstwhile Supreme Court nominee: "Capitalism is more than an economic system-it is a complex of institutions, attitudes, and cultures." Eighty-four percent of the general public in 1980 agreed with this statement, compared with 77 percent in 1989. This suggests that perhaps people perceived capitalism somewhat differently in 1989 than they did in 1980. It is possible that the general public viewed capitalism more simplistically in 1989 than in 1980.
The survey also found a sharp increase in the number of males in particular responding positively to the statement, "Capitalism Must Be Altered Before Any Significant Improvements in Human Welfare Can Be Realized."

I think that emphases on "new-school paternalism" or "populism" are part of this continuing process of believing we can alter market outcomes without worrying about the "institutions, attitudes and cultures" that underlie it. David Strom argues that we are "woefully undereducated when it comes to the real roots of our enduring prosperity." But it wasn't always so.

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