Oliver Hart

Harvard

Personal Homepage

  • Andrew E. Furer Professor of Economics
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Fellow, British Academy
  • Fellow, Econometric Society
  • President, American Law and Economics Association (2006-2007)
  • Vice President, American Economic Association (2006)

Voting History

High-Skilled Immigrant Visas

Question A: If the US significantly lowers the number of H-1B visas now, expected US tax revenues will rise materially over the next four years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
H-1B visa holders pay taxes and so there seems no direct effect. Wages might rise, raising taxes, but profits will fall, reducing them.
Disagree 7

Question B: If the US significantly lowers the number of H-1B visas now, employment for American workers will rise materially over the next four years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
There aren't that many H-1B visas. Also skilled workers may be complementary to other workers, and so the effect could go the other way.
Disagree 6

Sports Stadiums

Providing state and local subsidies to build stadiums for professional sports teams is likely to cost the relevant taxpayers more than any local economic benefits that are generated.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
The evidence suggests that expenditure by tourists is small and that locals who spend more on this sport spend less on other activities.
Agree 5

Trump and Share Prices

Question A: US share prices have risen since Donald Trump’s election victory at least partly because the policies he seems poised to implement are likely to increase US after-tax corporate profits.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
People, probably correctly, expect lower corporate taxes and fewer regulations. Go figure.
Agree 6

Question B: US share prices have risen since Donald Trump’s election victory at least partly because the policies he seems poised to implement are likely to increase US real GDP growth.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 7
I see no reason to think that growth will be higher because of Trump's policies, which are probably bad for the economy overall.
Disagree 5

Economic Policy Advice

The Council of Economic Advisors is likely to give the US president better policy advice if the Chair and Members of the CEA have published peer-reviewed economics research.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
I would conjecture yes. Your advice will be better if you can understand the latest thinking and this is more likely if you publish.
Agree 7

100-Day Plan

Question A: If all of the “Seven actions to protect American workers” in President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan (see link) are enacted, it will more likely than not improve the economic prospects of middle-class Americans over the next decade.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
Many forces are responsible for middle-class people feeling left behind. These policies may make things worse by raising prices of imports.
Strongly Disagree 6

Question B: If all of the “Seven actions to protect American workers” in President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan are enacted, it will more likely than not improve the economic prospects of low-skilled Americans over the next decade.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
Many forces are responsible for working-class people being left behind, including automation. It is hard to turn the clock back.
Strongly Disagree 6

AT&T and Time Warner

A merger of AT&T and Time Warner would likely increase consumer surplus over the ensuing decade.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 7
Possible but no reason to think it is likely It may not even be good for the two firms. The merged entity may have too much political power.
Disagree 4

Taxes and Mandatory Spending

Long run fiscal sustainability in the US will require some combination of cuts in currently promised Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits and/or tax increases that include higher taxes on households with incomes below $250,000.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
It all depends on how much revenue can be raised by increasing taxes on those earning more than 250K. I don't know the answer to this.
Agree 6

Import Duties

Adding new or higher import duties on products such as air conditioners, cars, and cookies — to encourage producers to make them in the US — would be a good idea.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Disagree 10
Duties lead to dead-weight losses and also retaliation.There can be losers from free trade but there are better ways to compensate them.
Strongly Disagree 7

Science, Technology and Immigration

Question A: Allowing US-based employers to hire many more immigrants with advanced degrees in science or engineering would lower (at least temporarily) the premium earned by current American workers with similar degrees.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
This seems very likely. The immigrants are chiefly substitutes for the US scientists. However, some might be complements, offsetting this.
Agree 6

Question B: Allowing US-based employers to hire many more immigrants with advanced degrees in science or engineering would raise per capita income in the US over time.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
A simple free trade argument suggest that the U.S. would gain overall. The problem is that there may be losers as well as winners.
Agree 7

Brexit II

Question A: Because of the Brexit vote's outcome, the UK's real per-capita income level is likely to be lower a decade from now.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
A post-Brexit agreement between U.K. and E.U. is likely to involve trade barriers. This will reduce gains from trade. The U.K. will suffer.
Agree 5

Question B: Because of the Brexit vote's outcome, the rest of the EU's real per-capita income level is likely to be lower a decade from now.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Both sides gain from trade and so the EU will also suffer. The per capita loss is likely to be smaller simply because the EU is bigger.
Agree 5

Universal Basic Income

Granting every American citizen over 21-years old a universal basic income of $13,000 a year — financed by eliminating all transfer programs (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing subsidies, household welfare payments, and farm and corporate subsidies) — would be a better policy than the status quo.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Disagree 10
Bill Gates would get 13K, which is crazy. Raising taxes is costly and so redistribution should be targeted to those who need help most.
Disagree 6

Inequality and Monetary Policy

The ratio of the 90th to the 10th percentile of the US income distribution has been unaffected by the Federal Reserve's unconventional monetary policies since the financial crisis.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
Quantitative easing has boosted asset prices, reduced interest rates and lowered unemployment. The overall effect on inequality is unclear.
Uncertain 4

Cadillac Tax

The “Cadillac tax” on expensive employer-provided health insurance plans will reduce costly distortions in US health care if it is allowed to take effect as scheduled in 2018.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
I think so. It would be better to count employer-based health insurance as taxable income, but the Cadillac tax is better than nothing.
Agree 7

Breaking Up Banks

Question A: The four largest domestic US banks currently have around 40% of the industry’s domestic assets (an average of 10% each).  In early 1998, before Glass-Steagall ended and before Citicorp merged with Travelers, they held 13.2% (an average of 3.3% each). Thirty years ago, before interstate branching was fully permitted, that combined share was around 8% (an average of 2% each).
Capping US banks’ size so that no single bank could be larger than 4% of the sector's domestic assets would lower systemic risk in the US.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
With banks being smaller no single bank's failure would lead to serious contagion or undermine the confidence of investors and depositors.
Uncertain 5

Question B: The US financial system would contribute more to the average American's welfare if the size of US banks were capped so that none could be larger than 4% of the sector's domestic assets.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
There are benefits of large banks as well as costs. Regulation should include shadow banks and be more flexible than a cap on size.
Uncertain 4

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Question A: By providing important measures of US economic performance — including employment, consumer prices, wages, job openings, time allocation in households, and productivity — the Bureau of Labor Statistics creates social benefits that exceed its annual cost of roughly $610 million.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
The BLS provides data, in an objective and neutral manner, that are essential for policy. Its benefits exceed its costs.
Strongly Agree 8

Question B: Cuts in BLS spending would likely involve net social costs because potential declines in the quality of data, and thus their usefulness to researchers and decision makers, would exceed any budget savings.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
Same answer as before.
Strongly Agree 7

Trade and Toughness

An important reason why many workers in Michigan and Ohio have lost jobs in recent years is because US presidential administrations over the past 30 years have not been tough enough in trade negotiations.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 8
Job losses occur because of automation, energy prices, tastes, as well as trade. A tougher policy could have been worse not better.
Disagree 6

Primary Voting

Question A: There is no perfect voting system. That is, no voting system can ensure that the winner will be the person who best represents voters’ wishes, including how intensely they favor or disfavor each candidate.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
We know from Arrow's impossibility theorem that no voting system can aggregate preferences perfectly even if people vote honestly.
Strongly Agree 8

Question B: One clear defect of a winner-take-all election with 3 or more candidates, and with each voter choosing only one candidate, is that a candidate who is strongly disliked by a majority, but strongly liked by a minority, can beat a candidate who is liked by a majority and disliked by relatively few.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
46% of people rank 3 candidates A,C,B. ( A first, B last.) 44% rank them B,C,A. 10% rank them C,B,A. Then A wins,but C may be better.
Agree 8

Oil Price Speculation

Large movements in monthly oil prices, either up or down, are driven primarily by speculators, as opposed to changes in the current (and planned) supply or demand for oil.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 7
Prices may move frequently as speculators try to anticipate the future, but without speculation the movement would be larger when it occurs.
Disagree 7

Brexit

Question A: If the UK opts to withdraw from the European Union, and assuming Scotland stays in the UK, the level of the UK's real per-capita income a decade later will be lower than if it remains part of the EU.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 7
The EU is Britain's most important trade partner. Trade barriers with the EU would rise and this will hurt Britain's investment and growth.
-see background information here
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Uncertain 5

Question B: If the UK exits the EU, then it substantially increases the chances that some other current region of the EU will also exit within the following decade.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
The value of staying in will fall. Others will also be emboldened to jump for noneconomic,e.g., political and psychological, reasons.
Agree 6

China’s Growth

China’s growth model, specifically the unusually high investment rate and low consumption rate, is unsustainable.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
As China becomes richer it will resemble other rich countries: growth rates will fall;wages and consumption will rise;investment will fall.
Agree 6

Christmas Spending

An annual December spending surge on parties, gift-giving and personal travel delivers net social benefits.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
There seems to be a social need for public celebrations and gifts. But some are forced to participate.The net benefit is unclear.
Agree 6

US Interest Rates

Question A: The Fed should raise its target interest rate when it meets in mid-December.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 5
I don't think so. The recovery is still weak and there are no serious signs of inflation. Also a little inflation may be good.
Uncertain 5

Question B: The Fed should have raised interest rates sooner, rather than leaving them near zero for this long.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 5
See answer to last question.
Disagree 6

Quarterly Earnings

Question A:

Letting publicly traded US firms report earnings annually rather than quarterly would lead their executives to place more weight on long-term issues in their investments and other decisions.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
I am in favor of letting firms do this but only if it is part of their charter or approved by shareholders. It should not be a blanket rule.
Uncertain 5

Question B: A switch from quarterly to annual earnings reports would, on net, benefit shareholders.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 10
For some firms it might be better, for others worse. This is not a case where one size fits all.
Uncertain 5

Standardized Tests

Comparing their students’ average gains on standardized tests over the school year makes it easier to predict which teachers — all else equal — are more likely to improve their student’s long-term life outcomes.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
Research by Chetty et al. suggests this is so and I take that seriously. But this is a complex issue and it is early to reach conclusions.
Agree 5

Poverty and Measurement

Question A: The association between health and economic growth in poor countries primarily involves faster growth generating better health, rather than the other way around.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
Better health can surely increase productivity and hence growth but it is hard to believe that the causation mainly goes this way.
Uncertain 5

Question B: The decline in the fraction of people with incomes under, say, $1 per day is a good measure of whether well-being is improving among low-income populations.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
It is probably not a great measure unless it incorporates the prices of local goods. Also it misses out on non-traded goods and services.
Uncertain 5

Health Insurance Subsidies

Question A:

Expanding health insurance to more people through the ACA’s public subsidies and Medicaid expansion will reduce total healthcare spending in the economy.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
It could fall as people get more preventative care; or rise as people use doctors more. Some evidence suggests the latter but it's early.
Disagree 6

Question B: Expanding health insurance to more people through the ACA’s public subsidies and Medicaid expansion will generate gains in the health and well-being of the newly insured that exceed the costs.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
ACA allows ill people to see doctors and provides peace of mind. Both would be negotiated behind the veil of ignorance. Net benefit>0.
Agree 6

$15 Minimum Wage

Question A: If the federal minimum wage is raised gradually to $15-per-hour by 2020, the employment rate for low-wage US workers will be substantially lower than it would be under the status quo.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
I worry that it will be but we don't know enough. Firms may raise prices and the Fed may accommodate some inflation. But the change is large
Uncertain 5

Question B: Increasing the federal minimum wage gradually to $15-per-hour by 2020 would substantially increase aggregate output in the US economy.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
If employment not much affected and redistribution to workers demand could rise. But if sizable unemployment opposite could occur.
Disagree 5

Greece’s Referendum

The median Greek citizen will be better off if there is a “yes” vote in the July 5 referendum on whether to accept the terms of the bailout package offered by Greece's creditors.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
Yes means more of the same for Greece. No means a very uncertain future. But the Euro was a bad idea and should end as soon as possible.
Uncertain 5

Currency Manipulation

Question A: Economic analysis can identify whether countries are using their exchange rates to benefit their own people at the expense of their trading partners’ welfare.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 5
The answer depends on whether prices are flexible or sticky,the importance of foreign inputs in domestic goods. So hard to assess welfare.
Uncertain 5

Question B: Bank of Japan monetary policies that result in a weaker yen make Americans generally worse off.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
Again it depends on whether prices are flexible or sticky. Also Americans benefit from cheaper Japanese goods. So hard to say.
Disagree 5

Nash Equilibrium

Behavior in many complex and seemingly intractable strategic settings can be understood more clearly by working out what each party in the game will choose to do if they realize that the other parties will be solving the same problem. This insight has helped us understand behavior as diverse as military conflicts, price setting by competing firms and penalty kicking in soccer.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Nash equilibrium is enormously useful. But people can be less rational than the theory supposes and so the predictions may be misleading.
Strongly Agree 8

US Median Income

The 9% cumulative increase in real US median household income since 1980 substantially understates how much better off people in the median American household are now economically, compared with 35 years ago.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
Iphones weren't available then suggesting understatement. But both partners often work, which is stressful. This suggests overstatement.
Agree 7

California’s Drought

Californians would be better off on average if all final users in the state paid the same price for water — adjusted for quality, place and time — even if, as a result, some food prices rose sharply and some farms failed.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
Equal prices imply that all final users will value the last gallon they use the same, which ensures efficiency. Consumer rationing does not.
Agree 7

Raising Interest Rates

The Fed should wait until its preferred measure of inflation (Core PCE) is clearly rising — and not just forecast to rise — before it begins hiking interest rates.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
The recovery is anemic and I am more concerned that it will fizzle than I am worried about inflation. The Fed should not be too cautious.
Uncertain 5

Local Tax Incentives

Question A: Giving tax incentives to specific firms to locate operations in a city or state typically generates local benefits that outweigh the costs to the city and/or state providing the incentives.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
If it's done carefully--the firms can't get the tax benefits and then leave--this can pay off for a city or state.
Uncertain 5

Question B: The US as a whole benefits when cities or states compete with each other by giving tax incentives to firms to locate operations in their jurisdictions.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 7
There is no social benefit to the US as a whole unless the firms would have located abroad. There is a social loss from lower tax receipts.
Disagree 5

Vaccines

Question A:

Declining to be vaccinated against contagious diseases such as measles imposes costs on other people, which is a negative externality.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
The science seems absolutely clear. If you are not vaccincated others are more likely to catch the disease ( as well as you).
Strongly Agree 9

Question B: Considering the costs of restricting free choice, and the share of people in the US who choose not to vaccinate their children for measles, the social benefit of mandating measles vaccines for all Americans (except those with compelling medical reasons) would exceed the social cost.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Another way to internalize the externality is to make those who don't get vaccinated pay a fine. But a mandate is adminstratively easier.
Agree 7

Greece

In 10 years, per capita purchasing power in Greece will be higher if — rather than continuing to service its debts over the next decade and complying with the budget rules currently in place — it refuses to accept a continuation of its current troika program and explicitly defaults on its debt held by the official sector.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
For Greece: default is a plus,exclusion from the EU banking system is a minus- it could lead to bank runs and political chaos. Net unclear.
Uncertain 5

Dynamic Scoring

Question A: Changing federal income tax rates, or the income bases to which those rates apply, can affect federal tax revenues partly by altering people’s behavior, and thus their actual or reported incomes.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Consider an increase of income tax rates to 100%. Reported income would be close to zero after this.
Strongly Agree 9

Question B: To the extent that a given tax change might affect revenues partly by affecting national-income growth, existing research provides enough guidance to generate informative bounds on the size of any growth-driven revenue effect.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
I doubt that we know enough. There are disagreements about the response of labor supply to moderate changes in income tax rates.
Uncertain 6

Question C: For large proposed changes in tax rates or the tax base, official revenue forecasts provided to Congress would probably be more accurate if the CBO and JCT tried to estimate fully how the proposed tax changes would affect growth-driven revenue.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
The estimates would not be perfect but they would be better than assuming no response.
Uncertain 5

Textbook Prices

Question A: Most college professors who assign textbooks would not be able to guess, within 10% of the actual figure, the retail price that their students pay for new copies of those books.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
My guess is that most pick what they think is the best book (or, of course, their own book) without regard to price.
Agree 5

Question B: Since students can resell college textbooks or rent electronic versions, the net burden on students is substantially lower than retail prices for new textbook purchases would suggest.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
This seems rather self-evident, although perhaps not all students can do this. Some people no doubt also photo-copy parts of books.
Agree 7

Question C:
Even though the professors who select textbooks are different form the people who pay for them, the price of new edition college textbooks reflect classic forces of supply and demand.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 5
In some fields there will be a prominent book with few competitors. The author has some monopoly power; the equilibrium price may be high.
Disagree 5

Oil Prices

The recent decline in oil prices will promote higher real GDP in the US over the next couple of years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
There are potentially confounding general equilibrium effects but the US as a net importer of oil should benefit from increased fracking.
Agree 7

Economists and Conventions

A US city hosting a big convention will enjoy a higher boost to incremental spending — holding the number of visitors and their average incomes fixed — if those visitors are auto dealers rather than economists.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
Dealers have high-powered incentives. Winners may celebrate a lot and losers drown their sorrows. Low variance makes economists staid.
Agree 6

Trade Balances

A typical country can increase its citizens’ welfare by enacting policies that would increase its trade surplus (or decrease its trade deficit).

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Disagree 10
A trade surplus means a country is saving, a trade deficit that it is dis-saving. As with people each can make sense at different times.
Disagree 6

Repatriated Profits

Question A: Lowering the effective marginal tax rate on US corporations’ repatriated profits for a year would boost US capital investment significantly.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
The effects are hard to predict. US corporations might simply repatriate the profits and increase dividends or buy back shares.
Disagree 5

Question B: Permanently lowering the effective marginal tax rate on US corporations’ repatriated profits, such as by moving to a territorial-based tax system, would boost US capital investment significantly.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
US corporations might invest more abroad rather than at home. But comanies might issue equity rather than borrowing, which would be good.
Uncertain 5

Fast-Track Authority

Question A: By lowering bargaining costs, fast-track negotiating authority for the president makes it more likely that the U.S. can conclude major trade deals.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
If one party can make a take-it-or- leave-it offer to another party, a deal is often more likely than if bargaining occurs. But not always.
Agree 7

Question B: Past major trade deals have benefited most Americans.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
Trade deals typically reduce barriers to trade which is likely to produce net gains to the U.S. ( although there can be winners and losers).
Agree 7

Amazon and Market Power

Question A: Amazon has monopsony power in the market for books that is significantly reducing the supply of books.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 7
Classic monopsonists reduce supply; final prices rise. This doesn't describe Amazon.I don't know evidence that book supply is lower.
Disagree 5

Question B:
Amazon has sufficient monopsony power that regulatory intervention is likely to make consumers of books better off, taking into account implementation costs and the effect of intervention on incentives.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 7
I don't see evidence that consumers and authors are suffering. The market is fast-moving. Regulators should monitor but be cautious.
Disagree 5

Piketty on Inequality

The most powerful force pushing towards greater wealth inequality in the US since the 1970s is the gap between the after-tax return on capital and the economic growth rate.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
I would imagine there are many factors: labor-saving technology, globalization,the decline of unions,lower tax rates.
Disagree 6

Taxi Competition

Letting car services such as Uber or Lyft compete with taxi firms on equal footing regarding genuine safety and insurance requirements, but without restrictions on prices or routes, raises consumer welfare.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
I don't see any externalities. According to standard economics, competition enhances welfare and I believe that would be true here.
Strongly Agree 8

Scottish Independence

Although there are many issues for Scotland’s voters to consider, one consequence of separating from the rest of the UK would be greater macroeconomic instability for Scotland for many years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
The main uncertainty concerns whether Scotland retains the pound (bad idea) and stays in Europe( good idea). Once resolved things may be OK.
Agree 5

Infrastructure (revisited)

Question A: Because the US has underspent on new projects, maintenance, or both, the federal government has an opportunity to increase average incomes by spending more on roads, railways, bridges and airports. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on May 23, 2013. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 10
I would say increase average welfare rather than income. There are surely many potential projects where the social benefit exceeds cost.
Agree 6

Question B: Past experience of public spending and political economy suggests that if the government spent more on roads, railways, bridges and airports, many of the projects would have low or negative returns. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on May 23, 2013. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
Perhaps sometimes true in the past but I don't think it's inevitable. Projects like the interstate highways are notable exceptions.
Uncertain 5

U.S. State Budgets (revisited)

Question A: By discounting pension liabilities at high interest rates under government accounting standards, many U.S. state and local governments understate their pension liabilities and the costs of providing pensions to public-sector workers. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on October 1, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
Many plans are defined benefit. These promise certain benefits, which should be discounted at the riskless interest rate not a higher rate.
Agree 7

Question B: During the next two decades some U.S. states, unless they substantially increase taxes, cut spending, and/or change public-sector pensions, will require a combination of severe austerity budgets, a federal bailout, and/or default. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on October 1, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
Probably right. They should shift to defined contribution plans.
Agree 6

Fracking (revisited)

New technology for fracking natural gas, by lowering energy costs in the United States, will make US industrial firms more cost competitive and thus significantly stimulate the growth of US merchandise exports. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on May 23, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 2
I agree that energy cost should fall, which will increase U.S. competitiveness. The effects on growth are more subtle, and harder to predict
Uncertain 5

Economic Stimulus (revisited)

Question A: Because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus bill. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on February 15, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 9
Given that wages/prices are sticky Keynesian-type stimulus will increase economic activity if the economy is not at full employment.
Agree 7

Question B: Taking into account all of the ARRA’s economic consequences — including the economic costs of raising taxes to pay for the spending, its effects on future spending, and any other likely future effects — the benefits of the stimulus will end up exceeding its costs. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on February 15, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 9
Given that infrastructure expenditure was needed this was a good time to do it and so the benefits exceeded any costs.
Agree 6

Congress and Monetary Policy

Legislation introduced in Congress would require the Federal Reserve to "submit to the appropriate congressional committees…a Directive Policy Rule", which shall "describe the strategy or rule of the Federal Open Market Committee for the systematic quantitative adjustment of the Policy Instrument Target to respond to a change in the Intermediate Policy Inputs." Should the Fed deviate from the rule, the Fed Chair would have to "testify before the appropriate congressional committees as to why the [rule]…is not in compliance." Enacting this provision would improve monetary policy outcomes in the U.S.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 8
No rules would have allowed the Fed to act appropriately in the recent crisis. Better to choose governors well and give them discretion.
Disagree 7

Patents

Question A: All else equal, Patent Assertion Entities — which specialize in acquiring and asserting patents and are popularly known as “patent trolls" — promote innovation in the U.S.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
If patents are correctly granted trolls can encourage innovation. if patents are incorrectly granted trolls can impede innovation.
Disagree 5

Question B: Within the software industry, the US patent system makes consumers better off than they would be in the absence of patents.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
Patents can encourage innovation. But many trivial software patents seem to be granted, which can discourage innovation and hurt consumers.
Uncertain 6

Liquidity

There is a social value to having institutions that issue liquid liabilities that are backed by illiquid assets.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Consumers want liquid and safe securities. Firms' assets are often illiquid. Both sides can benefit if firms issue shares and senior debt.
Agree 8

Gary Becker

Question A: Employers that discriminate in hiring will be at a competitive disadvantage, if their customers do not care about their mix of employees, compared with firms that do not discriminate.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
They would earm more if they did not discriminate unless their other workers are prejudiced. But they may survive anyway if they earn rents.
Agree 6

Question B: Rising market wages are an important reason — over and above any changes in medical technology, social norms or preferences — why family sizes have fallen over the past century in rich countries.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
Ths substitution effect goes this way, but the income effect can go in the opposite direction: with more income you can afford more children
Agree 6

Net Neutrality II

Considering both distributional effects and changes in efficiency, it is a good idea to let companies that send video or other content to consumers pay more to Internet service providers for the right to send that traffic using faster or higher quality service.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 6
Letting price vary with quality is good if there is enough competition. I don't know if that's true here. If not the answer is less clear.
Uncertain 5

European Debt

The recent oversubscribed debt issues of Greece and Portugal suggest that sovereign default by any euro area country is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 8
These econonomies still in bad shape. Bond yields high, but Investors may be exuberant and overestimating chance of future bailouts.
Uncertain 6

College Athletes

If the NCAA let colleges pay athletes with more than scholarships (which currently may cover tuition, books, room and board), then top colleges in men’s basketball and football would pay most athletes substantial sums beyond full scholarships.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
Since the stakes are high, the incentive to pay top athletes a lot is strong. Preserving equity among students is a small mitigating force.
Agree 7

Russia Sanctions

Past experience suggests that economic sanctions do little to deter the target countries from their course of action.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 4
My sense is that economic sanctions were important in ending apartheid in South Africa, and are leading Iran to negotiate with the West.
Uncertain 5

Supplying Kidneys

A market that allows payment for human kidneys should be established on a trial basis to help extend the lives of patients with kidney disease.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
I'd like to see it but I'm not sure the public is ready. Also would insurance cover this? Would people be able to top up (presumably)?
Uncertain 7

Robots

Question A: Advancing automation has not historically reduced employment in the United States.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
There has been temporary displacement but displaced workers have found jobs elsewhere, as theory might predict
Agree 7

Question B: Information technology and automation are a central reason why median wages have been stagnant in the US over the past decade, despite rising productivity.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Unskilled jobs have been lost which may well be a factor, although not the only one, behind stagant median income and increasing inequality
Uncertain 6

Innovation and Growth

Future innovations worldwide will not be transformational enough to promote sustained per-capita economic growth rates in the U.S. and western Europe over the next century as high as those over the past 150 years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 10
Economists are bad at predicting the far future. Technological advances have been amazing in the last few years and anything is possible.
Uncertain 6

Chairman Bernanke

Informed postmortems of Ben Bernanke’s Fed chairmanship will judge favorably the Fed's creative and aggressive policy initiatives from autumn 2008 through early 2009.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 5
A policy where the Fed let financial institutions go bankrupt or helped home-owners directly might have been better, but we will never know
Agree 7

Surge Pricing

Using surge pricing to allocate transportation services — such as Uber does with its cars — raises consumer welfare through various potential channels, such as increasing the supply of those services, allocating them to people who desire them the most, and reducing search and queuing costs.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 10
Consumer plus producer surplus should rise but in the absence of competition consumer surplus may not. With competition consumers will gain.
Agree 8

Bah, Humbug

Giving specific presents as holiday gifts is inefficient, because recipients could satisfy their preferences much better with cash.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 10
An assistant might prefer cash. For a friend a present that shows that you have thought about what matters to them might mean much more.
Disagree 7

Low-Skilled Immigrants

Question A: The average US citizen would be better off if a larger number of low-skilled foreign workers were legally allowed to enter the US each year.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
On average citizens would be better off--by classical gains from trade . A countervailing effect : welfare payments to unemployed immigrants
Agree 5

Question B: Unless they were compensated by others, many low-skilled American workers would be substantially worse off if a larger number of low-skilled foreign workers were legally allowed to enter the US each year.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
There can be winners and losers. Similarly skilled workers will face greater competition for jobs and their wages may fall.
Agree 6

Diversification

In general, absent any inside information, an equity investor can expect to do better by choosing a well-diversified, low-cost index fund than by picking a few stocks.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
In equilibrium the typical investor cannot beat the market. Thus a well-diversified buy and hold strategy is best for such an investor
Strongly Agree 9

10 New Economic Experts join the IGM Panel


For the past two years, our expert panelists have been informing the public about the extent to which economists agree or disagree on important public policy issues. This week, we are delighted to announce that we are expanding the IGM Economic Experts Panel to add ten new distinguished economists. Like our other experts, these new panelists have impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters, and their names will be familiar to other economists and the media.

To give the public a broad sense of their views on policy issues, each new expert has responded to a selection of 16 statements that our panel had previously addressed. We chose these 16 statements, which cover a wide range of important policy areas, because the original panelists' responses to them were analyzed in a paper comparing the views of our economic experts with those of the American public. You can find that paper, by Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, here. The paper, along with other analyses of the experts' views, was discussed during the American Economic Association annual meetings, and the video can be found here.

The new panelists' responses to these statements can be seen on their individual voting history pages. Our ten new economic experts are:

Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
Markus K. Brunnermeier (Princeton)
Liran Einav (Stanford)
Amy Finkelstein (MIT)
Oliver Hart (Harvard)
Hilary Hoynes (Berkeley)
Steven N. Kaplan (Chicago)
Larry Samuelson (Yale)
Carl Shapiro (Berkeley)
Robert Shimer (Chicago)


Please note that, for the 16 previous topics on which these new panelists have voted, we left the charts showing the distribution of responses unchanged. Those charts reflect the responses that our original panelists gave at the time, and we have not altered them to reflect the views of the new experts.

We have also taken this opportunity to ask our original panelists whether they would vote differently on any of the statements we have asked about in the past. Several experts chose to highlight statements to which they would currently respond differently. In such cases, you will see this "revote" below the panelist's original vote. We think you will enjoy seeing examples of statements on which some experts have reconsidered.

As with the 16 previous statements voted on by new panelists, these "revote" responses are not reflected in the chart that we display showing the distribution of views for that topic: all the charts for previous questions reflect the distribution of views that the experts expressed when the statement was originally posed.

About the IGM Economic Experts Panel

This panel explores the extent to which economists agree or disagree on major public policy issues. To assess such beliefs we assembled this panel of expert economists. Statistics teaches that a sample of (say) 40 opinions will be adequate to reflect a broader population if the sample is representative of that population.

To that end, our panel was chosen to include distinguished experts with a keen interest in public policy from the major areas of economics, to be geographically diverse, and to include Democrats, Republicans and Independents as well as older and younger scholars. The panel members are all senior faculty at the most elite research universities in the United States. The panel includes Nobel Laureates, John Bates Clark Medalists, fellows of the Econometric society, past Presidents of both the American Economics Association and American Finance Association, past Democratic and Republican members of the President's Council of Economics, and past and current editors of the leading journals in the profession. This selection process has the advantage of not only providing a set of panelists whose names will be familiar to other economists and the media, but also delivers a group with impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters.

Finally, it is important to explain one aspect of our voting process. In some instances a panelist may neither agree nor disagree with a statement, and there can be two very different reasons for this. One case occurs when an economist is an expert on a topic and yet sees the evidence on the exact claim at hand as ambiguous. In such cases our panelists vote "uncertain". A second case relates to statements on topics so far removed from the economist's expertise that he or she feels unqualified to vote. In this case, our panelists vote "no opinion".

The Economic Experts Panel questions are emailed individually to the members of the panel, and each responds electronically at his or her convenience. Panelists may consult whatever resources they like before answering.

Members of the public are free to suggest questions (see link below), and the panelists suggest many themselves. Members of the IGM faculty are responsible for deciding the final version of each week’s question. We usually send a draft of the question to the panel in advance, and invite them to point out problems with the wording if they see any. In response, we typically receive a handful of suggested clarifications from individual experts. This process helps us to spot inconsistencies, and to reduce vagueness or problems of interpretation.

The panel data are copyrighted by the Initiative on Global Markets and are being analyzed for an article to appear in a leading peer-reviewed journal.

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