Alex Tabarrok recently proposed:
- A game show, So You Think You Can Be President? … [with] at least three segments.
- Coase it Out: Presidential candidates have 12 hours to get a bitterly divorcing couple to divide their assets in a mutually agreeable manner. …
- Game Theory: Candidates compete in a game of Diplomacy. I would also include several ringers …
- Spot the Fraud: … candidates are provided with an economic scenario (mortgage defaults are up, hedge funds are crashing, liquidity is tight). Three experts propose plans. The candidate must choose one of the plans. After the candidate chooses, the true identities of the "experts" are revealed. One is a trucker, another a scuba diver instructor and the last a distinguished economist.
I fear the public would not respect candidates willing to play such a game; it might tarnish their presidential image. Worse, I fear our society is too polarized to choose a neutral host to run such a game. Hosting such games would require many detailed judgment calls, calls which a secretly-partisan host could use to favor one side or the other.
If a politically partisan group proposed a particular host, the other sides would suspect that group of being secretly partisan toward the group who proposed it. So the host would have to be proposed by a major respected non-partisan group – but who could that be? And even if the host started out non-partisan, partisans would lobby it any way they could, and it would be very hard for it to remain non-partisan.
This raises the question: what groups in our society are trusted to be non-partisan, and would we trust them to remain so if they had such a position of power? What would it take for a group to create a believable long-term reputation for being strictly non-partisan, even under very high stakes? If a group could achieve this, would we make use of it?
Alas the economics profession is not such a group. While we can be reasonably objective when the stakes are low, we seem to sell out to the highest bidder when the stakes rise, such as in legal testimony.
Added: In general it seems reliably non-partisan and unbiased advisors could help us in many ways, such as to resolve family and business disputes. But in fact we make little use of such advisors. Is this because they are so rare, or because we really don’t want unbiased advice?