The IGM Economic
Experts Panel published 24 polls on important public policy issues this
year. All of the returns reflected at least some dissent, but in these five
instances, most of the experts agreed.
Shapiro said it best: “Diversification
rocks!” Only one panelist (Stanford’s
Liran Einav) disagreed with the “diversify, diversify, diversify” mantra.
The rest concurred that, absent inside information, an
equity investor can expect to do better with a well-diversified, low-cost index
fund than with a select few stocks.
Employers can “nudge” their employees into better
savings habits with payroll-based
savings plans, the panelists agreed. “Finally, a question which I am
qualified to answer,” said Chicago Booth’s Richard
Thaler, coauthor of the New York
Times bestseller Nudge.
“There is such a thing as morality, and morality
is higher than economics,” said the late
Robert W. Fogel of Chicago Booth. The panelists agreed, as Fogel’s
work with Stanley Engerman argued, that slavery
in the US was eradicated because of social and political events, not
because it was an unprofitable institution for slaveholders.
“OBVIOUSly,” said Chicago Booth’s Austan
Goolsbee, of the proposition that we’d
all be better off without the “debt ceiling.” Chicago Booth’s Luigi
Zingales was the lone panelist to disagree: “It can also lead to better
potential outcomes,” he said. The panelists also mostly agreed that
it would be disastrous for the US to default on its debt.
The US has an opportunity to increase
average incomes by investing in infrastructure, the panelists agreed. “Borrowing
at negative interest rates and high unemployment rates to stop bridges from
collapsing is as close as we get to a no-brainer,” said Thaler.
There is one issue that this distinguished group of
economists couldn’t make heads or tails of: your
internet bill. More than half of the panelists were either uncertain
(meaning they saw the existing evidence as ambiguous) or had no opinion
(meaning they felt unqualified to vote) on the issue of net neutrality. In 2014
they may have a chance to see how a less-neutral internet works in practice, depending
on how a US District Court rules on Verizon v. the FCC.
Finally, in case you missed it, 10
new economic experts joined the panel in November. They answered a sampling
of previous polls, which can be found on their individual voting history pages.