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The Society of Real Economists

Some have suggested to me that it would be a good idea to have a counter-petition to the one advocating an increase in the minimum wage. I’m not so keen on it for a variety of reasons. We could get more signatures. We could get more Nobel Laureates. But so what? We’d just encourage the world to think that economists don’t agree on anything, even the minimum wage, which used to be the dividing line between economists and everyone else.

Here’s a different idea. Let’s start a new society of economists—not the American Economic Association but the Society of Real Economists (SORE). When people ask you what you do for a living, instead of saying "economist," you’d say you’re a "real economist."

It’s a big tent kind of group. Here’s my first cut at a list of principles that makes you a real economist:

1. Demand slopes downward–people do less of something when it gets more expensive
2. Prices respond to market forces
3. Motives and intentions do not matter. Results and actions do.

Maybe that’s it. The beauty of these principles is that there’s room for people on the left and the right. You can be an interventionist or a free-marketer. You can be a member of SORE and be in favor of the minimum wage because you think the benefits of helping some people get a higher wage outweighs the costs of some people losing their job or having a hard time finding a job because there are fewer opportunities.

But if you support the minimum wage because it’s important as a symbol of our desire to help people or because the minimum wage doesn’t effect employment, you can’t be a member of SORE.

I’m in. It’s somewhat exclusive, though. Here are a list of 650 people who are out.

If you agree with the three principles I’ve listed, just send me an email with your affiliation and you’re in.