Accepted paper:

Do economists act like democrats or technocratic paternalists?

Authors:

Ivar Kolstad (Chr. Michelsen Institute)
Arne Wiig (Chr Michelsen Institute)
Odd-Helge Fjeldstad (Chr. Michelsen Institute)

Paper short abstract:

When confronted with information that ordinary citizens do not care that strongly about efficiency, does this change economists' views of optimal public policy? This paper presents results from a field experiment on tax preferences conducted among students of economics in Tanzania.

Paper long abstract:

Experimental evidence indicates that economists are more concerned with efficiency than non-economists. When confronted with information that ordinary citizens do not care that strongly about efficiency, does this change economists' views of optimal public policy? This paper presents results from a field experiment on tax preferences conducted among students of economics in Tanzania. A treatment group was primed with information that ordinary citizens do not agree with implications of efficiency-based optimal tax theory. Tax preferences were then measured using discrete choice experiments. The results show that the treated economists modify their position partly, but not fully, in the direction of public opinion. Economists can hence be viewed as part democrats and part technocratic paternalists. We find no evidence that the treatment effect is driven by confusion, priming on distributional issues, or experimenter demand effects.

panel J05
Preferences for redistribution: Experimental evidence