Expert Consensus

Do you disagree with any of these propositions?

  • increases in minimum wages almost always causes job losses among the poor and unskilled
  • GMO's and genetically modified foods have zero proven negative effects on the body or the environment
  • homeopathy is completely useless and has zero medical benefits beyond any potential placebo effects

All of these are super-majority consensus statements in their respective fields.  It's fine if you are skeptical of any of them (and even better if you can justify this skepticism with a reasonably intelligent scientific argument).  But don't tell me that I am somehow inherently wrong to challenge the climate orthodoxy.


  1. sl149q:

    I have always viewed belief in human caused climate change to be roughly the equivalent to believing that GMO's and vaccines are bad. They all use the Precautionary Principle as a foundation argument.

  2. Unknown Commenter:

    We are all going to die!™

  3. Roy_Lofquist:

    "homeopathy is completely useless and has zero medical benefits beyond any potential placebo effects"

    "Your mind can be a powerful healing tool when given the chance. The idea that your brain can convince your body a fake treatment is the real thing — the so-called placebo effect — and thus stimulate healing has been around for millennia. Now science has found that under the right circumstances, a placebo can be just as effective as traditional treatments."

  4. Matthew Slyfield:

    We are all going to die no matter what anyone does to try and stop it. Life is a terminal disease with a 100% fatality rate.

  5. J K Brown:

    You'd better hope you are going to die. If you don't the government will come, take you to some lab and poke you until you wish you were dead.

  6. GoneWithTheWind:

    homeopathy is of course useless and designed to be useless. Except for one extremely effective thing that homeopathy does. It makes a lot of quacks rich.

  7. Ward Chartier:

    How to I ensure that my illnesses all met the "right circumstances" so the placebo effect will have a chance of working for me?

  8. Roy_Lofquist:

    I have no idea. The placebo effect is the boogie man of the medical profession. It dims their halos a bit.

  9. John Moore:

    All completely true.

  10. Bruce Anderson:

    Zero is too strong a word to use in the second. There are environmental problems from GMO agriculture, e.g. RoundUp resistant weeds, more widespread monoculture of less genetically diverse crops (with attendant increased risk of lower adaptability to change)--but, more yield on the same land for less labor.

  11. Bob Beeman:

    Experts in lots of areas have problems backing up their claims. For example, about 75% of money managers cannot match their chosen market indices. The medical profession is the third largest killer of people in the USA at more than 150,000 wrongful deaths per year. Then, we have climate science where real world data is ignored to the favor of numerical models that cannot be validated except with that data. Political polling is an art, and not a science as claimed. If someone claims to be an expert, ask for their historical record.

  12. MSO:

    It is doubtful that the indices would be where they are without the money managers.

  13. Bob Beeman:

    MSO: If that were true, the indices would just be an average of money manager performances. It's not that at all. In the industry one of the excuses for money managers not making the grade is because of their fees, meaning that to make a fair comparison of managers vs market, you have to subtract fees from market indices. This is a bad argument because I can get index performance by investing in an index fund, or ETF. If you can get market averages by just buying market index securities, why pay money managers?

  14. Jens Fiederer:

    I'd say for #1 that USED to be the consensus, but it is actually kind of controversial now (not in the extreme case, but that small increases in minimum wage would case job losses) after the Card and Kruger study. I don't really know anything about this subject except for what I've read in some articles and the Wikipedia page, but I seem to remember that in the mild case the consensus is only about 50%.

    So not as clear cut as #2 and #3.

  15. Jens Fiederer:

    Ah, via Wikipedia:

    "In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. "

    No, it seems dubious to me, too....but I wouldn't say for this one that minimum wage is a slam dunk bad effector.

  16. Rick Kargaard:

    There is a climate change consensus. Everyone agrees that the climate changes. Few dispute that we have seen some warming in the last 150 years. Very few question that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have risen quite dramatically in the last 75 years and most would agree that it is partly due to human use of combustion.
    From there the consensus breaks down rapidly. Many scientists dispute a direct connection between CO2 and warming or the significance of CO2 to climate. I can't see that many people have a fear of negative consequences from CO2 enrichment or of warming.
    There are opportunistic individuals and organizations that profit the spread of fear. Many profit from the sale of books or from speaking engagements. Celebrities gain notoriety and publicity with weighty pronouncements. The media needs spectacular headlines. If the news does not provide that, then opinions will do just fine. The more catastrophic the better.
    We have been warned for many years but the but the catastrophe has not manifested. Alarmists just keep moving the goalposts or try to turn any normal but unusual event into an imaginary disastrous result of climate change.
    Here is a layman's view of events.

  17. CC:

    Why do people believe the opposite of the 3 bullets?
    For the min wage, it is more important to virtue signal that "you care" than to actually help people. There is also this huge misconception (due to a Marxist oppression-based view of the world) that corporations are evil and sitting on bags of money.
    GMOs violate concepts of purity. As people have become richer, they start to value high quality more--nicer cars, nicer restaurants. The purity concept plays into that as does the fear of death: contaminants=death.
    Homeopathy is the old magical view of life.

  18. CC:

    I know a woman who got breast cancer (the most curable cancer). Her homeopathy doc recommended eating pure foods. She would eat an entire meal of green beans for example. Yep, she died. So not entirely harmless.

  19. Signal:

    #1 is clear cut, but it is dependent on framing.

    Labor advocates: consensus MW increases don't harm economy much, and don't seem to destroy jobs much, but maybe just a little -- but its worth a few losses.

    Coyote: consensus MW increases reduces employment of the poorest and lowest-skilled.

    These two points are not contradictory. Coyote is right. The poorest are harmed. That's consensus of "97%" of economists. But its also pretty much agreed that in the short-run, there aren't many job losses.

    Both are true.

  20. kevinsdick:

    The Card and Krueger study has been, in my opinion, debunked here:

    High level summary: C&K only measured fast food restaurant unemployment. This did not suffer because the minimum wage put mom and pop restaurants out of business, sending customers to the fast food franchises and increasing their business enough to support the minimum wage. But _total_ restaurant employment did suffer. So, actually, classic seen vs unseen problem.

  21. Eric Hammer:

    One thing to look at is how the differing studies are framed in the academic discussion. Most (I haven't read all certainly) are about measuring technique among the rather awkward data problems, not so much about the result. Think of it more like "If you measure it this way, you get X, but if you measure it this way you get Y." It is a bit messy as there is a political component that makes the stated outcome look more important than the actual demonstration, but they are all pretty much using the same data and just cutting it differently. It is just that no one outside of the profession, and really very few of us even, care about how it is measured and what sort of torture the data undergoes, so if you want to get into big journals you want to have a title and theme that will get the article picked up in some popular outlet if it is published.

    So yea, economic theory is very much in agreement that minimum wages hurt the poorest or worst off marginal workers. Does it hurt more than it helps others? *shrug* Depends on the data, and on the counterfactual situation, which is where the empirical debate comes in. As an academic economist, however, I would definitely take the reporter filtered results of the article with a grain of salt, and see what the researchers actually do and claim in the paper. Typically the published work is a lot more cautious and circumspect than it is made out to be.

  22. Eric Hammer:

    I replied above, but I do want to second the "seen vs unseen" problem. It can be really hard to tell what would have happened without the minimum wage change, and even harder to come up with a decent way of accounting for that. If a law or regulation changes and growth is 3% like last year does that mean no change, or is the growth due to a change in something unrelated, and would be higher than otherwise? Or lower, for that matter? Doing "theory free" economics is all but impossible for that reason. You just can't know enough to say that all else was equal, or control for everything, and so you really can only say "I can't tell, but it looks like this maybe."

  23. Roy_Lofquist:

    I'm not advocating homeopathy. I just gave an example of credible (Harvard) evidence that contradicts the assertion that homeopathy is a total fraud.

  24. Eric Hammer:

    Isn't the case of RoundUp resistant weeds a return to normal as opposed to an environmental problem? I mean, the weeds were there before RoundUp and the crops that were immune to it, then they weren't for a bit, now they are coming back. It seems more like the environment is winning, to the extent there are winners or losers there.
    On the monoculture and genetic diversity, that is probably true, although whether or not that is an actual problem I don't know. I suspect that GMO producers can adapt their breeds faster than plants would adapt on their own, but I don't know about that for certain.

  25. CC:

    While it may be true that there aren't "many" job losses, these losses tend to be among the youngest and least-skilled. Thomas Sowell recounts that when he was a teen there were lots of jobs for young black men. Now not so much. A way to track that is what happens to black teen unemployment after a big min wage hike? It jumps up. So the bottom rung on the career ladder is being taken away. It doesn't matter much if the teens in my neighborhood can't get a summer job because they are all going to college.

  26. CC:

    Not total fraud but perhaps not useful for cancer.

  27. jimc5499:

    How about the way that it is affecting the retail industry? Store are closing right and left. Many high end retailers are shifting to just having a presence in the large markets. I used to design high end point of purchase displays until me and a bunch of other people got laid-off earlier this month. There is a ripple effect.

  28. marque2:

    There are usually two flaws to these studies. First they usually start on the date the minimum wage went up. The reality is that business folks have spent the year prior laying people off in advance of the change. Secondly politicians smartly rase the wage during economic up turns - so growth in the economy hides the decline. Without the mw raise in the growing economy the job growth would have been more but this is ignored. Places stupid enough to raise wages in a soft economy this time around like Seattle have seen a definite drop in low end employment. Also you need to rber wiki is a left wing rag - so any topic that can even mildly be political will take the left wing pov.

  29. Bruce Anderson:

    Well, if RoundUp ceases to work, how does the farmer maintain yield—he uses a different herbicide, probably a lot more of a more-toxic one applied more often—RoundUp is very effective and not very toxic to anything but plants.

    Developing a new strain to respond to a sudden stress, such as a mutated virus, will take longer when there is less diversity to breed from/gene splice to, and then deployment will take several more years. New strains have to be tested, and seed comes from a field, not from a factory.

    But I'm all for a failed corn harvest—it might make us reconsider burning corn in car engines.

  30. Jens Fiederer:

    Another interesting (but older) discussion on minimum wage was referenced here:

    This was recently referenced in a barely related discussion on mistakes vs. conflicts by the same author,

    Anyway, I'm perfectly aware that there are plenty of discussions on the subject, that is why I singled it out., On minimum wage a surprising number of respectable economists weigh in on the PRO-minimum-wage side....probably because of its political affiliations.

  31. Eric Hammer:

    Hi five on Ethanol being... sub-optimal at best :)

    My suspicion with RoundUp is that it is not unique in the world of "synthetic poisons that target specific forms of plant life while ignoring others, one way or the other." I might be totally wrong about that, but my guess is that there might be two or three ways to skin that weedy cat while making strains of desirable crops resistant to that particular skinning method. (Best metaphor?) Hopefully this will also serve as an opportunity to crack the patent monopoly that Monsanto has been granted, but I am less optimistic there. In general, however, once the practice of making a specific Round
    Up-like weed killer has been established, I am pretty optimistic that another can be created relatively quickly.

    I do agree on the different strain issues. I believe that there are caches of various strains kept for such breeding work, much like there are a few bottles of smallpox hanging around, but I don't know the volumes or locations. I would be surprised however to find that the ratio of strains being grown commercially to strains kept for other reasons is close to 1:1.

  32. John Melbourne:

    I don't see how "zero medical benefits beyond any potential placebo effects" is undermined by pointing out that it has been noticed that the Placebo effect exists

  33. Roy_Lofquist:

    placebo effect = medical benefit.

    "zero medical benefits beyond any potential medical benefits" == 0 = 1.

  34. Robert Rounthwaite:

    What if I agree with all 3?