Jon Chait’s Tenuous Commitment to Empiricism

The New Republic’s Jon Chait has an annoying habit of characterizing those he disagrees with as anti-empiricist. He says critics of cap-and-trade policies, for example, reject the science of climate change and that the conservative movement is wallowing in economic illiteracy. One reason Chait has turned into such a predictable apologist for the Obama administration is because he believes “Obama’s policy-making process take[s] science and empiricism seriously.”

I bring this up because the Kauffman survey of economics bloggers came out this week and one finding in particular jumps out.


Support for free trade is overwhelming among economists. That support is rooted in theory and facts. Indeed, there is far less debate about the merits of free trade among economists than there is among scientists about climate change. And yet Obama leads a political movement that rejects this economic reality. Jon’s nothing if not scrupulous, so I look forward to his multi-part blog series on the anti-empiricism of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and other anti-trade Democrats holding up free trade agreements.

UPDATE: One reader makes an excellent point: “If someone is a real empiricist, they should be a devoted Federalist. Similar states with differing policies offer far better controls to test the effectiveness of programs than the Federal government.”

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