I Don’t Know Is Not An Answer

June 12, 2014, 12:04 am

Justin Wolfers gives David Brat a pass on a confession of ignorance:

When an MSNBC interviewer asked David Brat, the economics professor at Randolph-Macon College who toppled Eric Cantor in a primary challenge Tuesday, whether he opposed the minimum wage, he responded on Wednesday, “Um, I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one.”

The political class is billing it as a gaffe. But Mr. Brat’s fellow economists would probably be far more generous.

Assessing the evidence on the effects of the minimum wage is a tricky business, and the evidence isn’t strong enough to support the certainties that pundits seem to demand.

Well, that’s nice. I’m sure when David Brat has to take a vote on the issue, his lack of decisiveness will serve his constituents well. Policymakers don’t have the luxury of scholars; they have to decide, even in the absence of firm evidence. Should David Brat have outlined the ambivalent feelings of economists on the minimum wage? Sure. But he also needed to have figured out what his policy decision would be.

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