Hey, Economists

An Open Letter to Economists: Do NOT Vote for Ron Paul!


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Remember that South Park episode when the people from the future came back to the present and took our jobs away (therrre taken’ errrr jobs!)?

Well, there’s a new menace afoot. This time, it is a real one. It doesn’t come from the future. No, it emanates from, of all places, Texas, and takes the form of a mild-mannered, seemingly rational, ten-term Republican Congressman, who is also, horrors!, a libertarian.

If Dr. Paul is elected president, it will be curtains for our jobs, for all our jobs.

This appears in the BLS Occupational Handbook:

“Economists held about 15,000 jobs in 2006. Government employed 52 percent of economists, in a wide range of agencies, with 32 percent in Federal Government and 20 percent in State and local government. The remaining jobs were spread throughout private industry, particularly in scientific research and development services and management, scientific, and technical consulting services. A number of economists combine a full-time job in government, academia, or business with part-time or consulting work in another setting.” (I thank Shawn Ritenour for this cite).

Dr. Ron Paul (yes, he is also a doctor) is on record stating that he will cut back government drastically. He has his sights set on the federal government in particular. But 32 percent of 15,000 jobs equals 4,800 employment slots for economists! Now, he might not inaugurate programs that require pink slips for this entire number of economists. But, suppose he retains 100 of our fellow dismal scientists (don’t ask why he might do this; it is greatly to be doubted, except perhaps as a temporary measure, necessary to close down entire departments. In this case, he might not "retain" anyone presently on the payroll, but rather bring in a bunch of libertarian scalawags, ugh, to help with the dismantling job). This means that 4,700 hundred (and they say that Austrian economists can’t do math; pshaw!) of our colleagues will suffer the ignominy of being fired!

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. My colleagues James T. Bennett and Tom DiLorenzo remind me that for every economist directly employed by government, there are perhaps several who work as "consultants" for and with them. If, or, rather, I should say when, a President Paul eliminates most of our jobs in the federal government, an estimated 4,700 of them (and this may well be an underestimate), some multiple of that number will also be consigned to the unemployment lines.

On the other hand, my colleague Roy Cordato indicates that this figure may be an overestimate. To be fair and accurate in our assessment of the menace to our profession in the offing if the evil Ron Paul is elected, we must also take this into account. (We Austrians are nothing if not good empiricists.) Cordato states: "One also needs to be careful in that often what the government classifies as u2018economist’ we definitely would not. We (the John Locke Foundation) have been trying to track down the legitimacy of someone contracted by the state who claims that he is an economist based on the fact that he was hired by the EPA with the title of u2018economist.’ He has an undergraduate degree in engineering and an MBA. What we have discovered is that there are some positions labeled u2018economist’ by the EPA that are little more than clerks, with no credentials in economics required."

What of the 20% of economists who work not for the federales, but at the state and local levels? At first blush, one might think that they would be safe from the Paul Meat Cleaver. After all, President Paul (doesn’t that phrase constitute a horrible grating sound?) is a staunch decentralist and supporter of state and even local authority. However, a large number of these jobs are dependent upon federal employment of economists. When the latter are way more than decimated, the former are sure to follow. Suppose that only half, or 10% of state and local employment is eliminated as a result of the Paul Ax; that still amounts to 1,500 additional jobs. (I told you that we Austrians are math whizzes.)

Nor is the blood-on-the-floor scenario finished. What about the cushy (sorry, I meant important, crucial and necessary) jobs held by our colleagues in international organizations such as the U.N. the World Bank, the WTO? And this is to say nothing of that spate of conferences held to establish, and later on modify ad nauseum, treaties such as NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT and all the rest where we fly to exotic places and dine high off the hog (a thousand pardons; I should have said, work our fingers to the bone under sweatshop conditions). These are not part of the federal establishment, and there must be several thousands of additional job slots for Americans at risk. But why be so nationalistic? The careers of many, many foreign economists are also at stake here. They, too, compete with us (no, no, we are filled with the milk of human kindness; such considerations would never occur to us). We must also protect the jobs of our colleagues across the sea.

How will Ron Paul impact academia, where further thousands of economists earn their daily bread? It is fair to say that he will cut quite a swath here as well. Federal subsidies will become a thing of the past. The entire Department of Education will be deep-sixed! This devastation cannot help but be transmitted to the state and local levels. Has Ron Paul never heard of market failure? Of the great benefits of public and subsidized education due to its external economies and neighborhood effects that we have, lo these many years, tried to inculcate into our students? To borrow the words my good friend David Frum used to describe the Congressman in a different context, he is "too lazy or too arrogant to learn." True, a President Paul would leave private universities strictly alone. But there are many public institutions of higher learning, and even the so called "private" ones are deeply in bed with the government at all levels, directly and indirectly through subsidies.

There are some nattering nabobs of positivism (sorry, I just couldn’t help that one) who will reject my warning. They will dismiss my concerns as those of a weird modern day Paul Revere: "Ron Paul is coming. Ron Paul is coming." They will try to convince you that "Ron Paul can’t win." I googled that phrase, Ron Paul can’t win and found literally scores of pages making this claim. Do not believe these lies. Ron Paul is a clear and present danger to our profession. He is raising money hand over fist. Rather, his cult followers are doing so for him; he just sits back, relaxes, and watches the money pour in (he has shifty eyes; I wouldn’t be surprised if he socked most of these funds in his Swiss bank account; that would be good thing: at least he wouldn’t be elected). True, he is now relatively low in the polls. But he keeps doubling his prospective vote totals, and yet again. Have we learned nothing from the experience of Mike Huckabee? At one time the pollsters were ignoring him, too. Not anymore. Do not be complacent, fellow economists. This can soon be replicated by Ron Paul. Surveys are conducted on Republicans who voted in the last election and use land phones. This demographic ignores all too many of his supporters. Nor do the pollsters measure the degree of support for this charlatan; the willingness of his minions to go out into the sleet-filled winter of some of our northern states. Moreover, he has done well on every straw poll ever conducted.

No, despite the claims of those who would give us comfort since "Ron Paul can’t win," he will win. Unless, that is, we mobilize to STOP HIM. We must do all we can to halt him in his tracks. So, please, I beg of you, write letters, essays, articles, books, even, sign petitions, attesting to his lack of economic sophistication. Why, neither he nor any of his economic advisors hold posts at Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Berkeley. None of them publish in the American Economic Review, or the Journal of Political Economy. Ron Paul and his so-called economic brain trust are a bunch of lazy rotten willfully ignorant red-neck yahoos. Most of them do not know how to order a decent bottle of wine. We must start a new campaign, ABP: anyone but Paul.

Editors note: Walter Block is speaking tongue in cheek in this op ed.