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No Wizard is Oz … or Obama

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Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

So Dr. Mehmet Oz isn’t really a wizard: he and other media medics often peddle, not sound advice, but entertaining quackery (“Half of Dr. Oz’s medical advice is baseless or wrong, study says [2],” Dec. 19).  No surprise.  People are gullible, especially when credentialed ‘experts’ promise easy ‘solutions’ to problems that skeptical minds understand to be inherently complex and either unsolvable or solvable only at significant costs.

My own field of economics is crowded with such ‘experts.’  Pandering politicians and pundits are forever recommending snake-oil policy concoctions that appeal to people’s primitive superstitions and childish hopes about the way economies work.  The result is an endless stream of endorsements of quack economic remedies such as minimum wages, export subsidies, stimulus spending, income redistribution, and command-and-control regulation.

Just as the popularity of advice issued by the likes of Dr. Oz does not testify to the medical soundness of that advice, the popularity of the advice issued by the likes of Dr. Obama does not testify to the economic soundness of that advice.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

There are, though, two important differences between quackery peddled by media medics and quackery peddled by politicians.  First, people are likely to be even more gullible about political matters than about personal health matters because the costs and benefits of the latter fall in a more sure and concentrated way upon each individual decision-maker than do the costs and benefits of the former.  Second, and relatedly, a person who makes an irresponsible decision about his or her personal health care damages only himself or herself, while a person who makes an irresponsible decision about public policy damages multitudes of people.  Collective decision-making is the ultimate mare’s nests of externalities.

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