I loathe most opinion surveys. Asking people what they think about things rarely leads anywhere useful, especially when the subject is technical and/or even remotely complicated. For example, surveys about evolution, climate change, cancer cures, and, I dunno, life on other planets are mostly pointless. No matter the facts, people can’t be bothered with nuances or logic — they have an opinion, want someone to notice, and so fall over to tell any passing pollster.
Case in point: This new survey about the Fed. It says most Americans think the Fed needs to be “reined in” or “abolished”. Fine. Quite honestly, as I’ve written before, I’m on-side with a less active Fed, having argued repeatedly and wearyingly that the days of over-caffeinated monetary mucking about are deservedly over. We’re trying to use a blunt instrument for delicate surgery, and mostly cutting great holes in the economic patient.
But what do poll-ees propose we do? Wait for it: We should, they say, have more Fed political oversight, and make sure the Fed “acts in the interests of the American people”.
Can we put these people on a desert island somewhere and let them swap sandstone for fossilized Subway sandwiches? They want more politics at the Fed, and they want poll-driven monetary policy? Oh, that would be delightful, like a Swiss canton run by the 2005 California Assembly.
But I digress. Asking people for their opinion about subjects like this should require an opening skill-testing question, something to separate the bloviators from the rest. Something like, what are the Fed’s mandates? Or, how, exactly, does the Fed print money? Or, how long has Tim Geithner worked at the Fed? (Trick!) That sort of thing. Otherwise, I just don’t care what you think. I don’t. Sorry.
Anyway, after all this opinioneering about the Fed, we get this: 34% of survey respondents said they like Ben, 25% didn’t. And the rest, that remaining 41%? They had no idea about this Ben guy — which demonstrably didn’t stop them from offering an opinion on the Fed.