President Donald Trump does not trust economists. So he is demoting the Council of Economic Advisors, booting out of the Cabinet the Council’s chairperson.
If this were only because economists as economists cannot do what he has been able to do — make a big success in business and trade — we could give him something like a pass.
After all, successful entrepreneurs have a knack for guessing an unpredictable future. Economists, not so much. Why the difference? Maybe because entrepreneurs have “skin in the game.” Governments boards and bureaus — or endowed professorships — don’t risk anything like skin.
Besides, prediction is an art, not a science.
Could Trump be fooled by his knack for working with real risk?
But all this may be irrelevant.
Trump’s problem seems to be that he cannot find enough reputable economists to jump on board his protectionist bandwagon.
Trade barriers, high tariffs and punitive measures to control corporate behavior — among Trump’s most popular policies — aren’t big among economists.
According to Josh Zumbrun, writing in the Wall Street Journal, a “survey of every former living member of the CEA for both Republican and Democratic administrations found that not one member publicly supported Mr. Trump’s campaign.”
Economist Pierre Lemieux, writing in response to Zumbrun’s article, clarified Trump’s particular problem: economists “have methods and theories that prevent them from saying stupidities. They are difficult to turn into parrots. And they believe in the benefits of exchange.”
That latter notion, really basic, is what protectionists like Trump do not understand.
And the kind of predictions economists can successfully make run like this: “Well, that won’t work!”
It’s usually said about protectionism.
But whose skin is on the line now?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.