A survey of Australian economic opinions

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The Economic Society of Australia is conducting a survey of Australian economists, seeking their opinions about a range of current policy issues, as well as on matters relating to the profession itself.  The survey has been emailed to all members of the Society and to those economists for whom email addresses were found (economists from econ departments in Australia). The survey closes in two weeks time and the results will be presented at the ACE conference in July, with expected articles in newspapers and online fora.

The idea of the survey is to give a voice to the thousands of economists in Australia who do not regularly talk to the media, by asking their views on economic issues. The survey asks opinions about fiscal deficits, education policy, taxation policy, carbon taxes, trade policy, and basically anything that has been controversial in economic policy debates in the last 10 years or so. Essentially this is an opportunity for Australian economists to have their say.

In order to do the survey, you need to be invited. Economic society members are automatically invited and merely have to click on a link in an email that is sent to them to reach the survey. Nearly all academic economists have been sent an email that invites them indirectly: they have to send an email to the main person organising the survey, Richard Hayes (r.hayes@mbs.edu) , who then sends a personalised link. Yet, basically any economist in Australia who is keen to have their say should feel themselves invited to mail Richard and ask to be included. This for instance goes for economists in ministries, banks, and regulatory institutions.

The survey has a number of academic and institutional sponsors, including of course most prominently the Economic Society headed by Bruce Chapman and with Jonathan Pincus who heads the sub-committee that oversees the running of the survey. On the academic side, Richard Hayes from the Melbourne Business School is the main person organising and running the survey with me and Joshua Gans as ‘silent academic partners’  in the endeavour.

Similar surveys have been run in the US and the UK, and a previous one in Australia was done by Fred Argy who has been  consulted about this version too. Experience shows that the average responses to topical questions show up a lot in newspapers and policy debates and also serve as an internal reality check for economists (what do their peers think?). The voice of economists matter. Obviously, the survey is anonymous, with almost no personal information actually gathered.

4 Responses to "A survey of Australian economic opinions"
  1. Paul, I did the survey but might suggest that some of the questions are not so straight forward.
    For example, should States reduce home stamp duties.  Well, yes perhaps, but how will the States fund themselves?  Will they replace this tax with a more efficient, or less efficient, tax?
    Anyway, I will be interested to see the results.

  2. Hi Cameron,
    you are right that the questions are limited in that they do not present full scenarios: like all surveys hammered out in a committee of experts, this one was sweated over, negotiated over, agonised over, trimmed, expanded, reflected, vetoed, and finally grudgingly agreed to. The usual trade-offs apply: you can ask no more than a few minutes of people’s time so you have to be short. Yet you want to cover many issues, so you have one or two questions per issue. This means you cannot present whole scenarios (any actual individual policy is a 100 pages at least) and you thus rely on measuring general attitudes and hope the reader applies reasonable judgment as to what the fuller scenario would be.
    So whilst you are right, I do have some faith in the ability of economists to apply reasonable judgment. In the case of the home stamp duties for instance, someone who thinks stamp duties are a particularly distortionary and inefficient way of taxation will answer that they want to reduce stamp duties whereas those who think they are relatively efficient and non-distortionary will want to keep them as they are or even increase them.

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