General Politics

“Maybe good economics, but . . . probably not great politics”??

Andrew Gelman Mar 30 '12

Josh writes that a British government plan of “cutting taxes for the rich while simultaneously raising the prices on the cheapest lunch options” is “maybe good economics, but . . . probably not great politics.”

I don’t know enough about economics or about British politics to evaluate either of these claims on their own, but I’m unhappy with their juxtaposition, which fits in all to well with a familiar narrative of economics being about necessary unpopular tough choices. I’m not saying that Josh believes this particular action is a good idea, but the phrasing, “maybe good economics . . . probably not great politics” fits into that narrative.

As a political scientist, what bothers me is twofold. First, I don’t agree with the idea that whether something is “good economics” is left to be judged by the professionals, whereas whether something is “good politics” can apparently be assessed by a few headlines. Second, political considerations probably did come into play in these government plans! Those people who want their tax rates lowered by five percentage points, they have political power.