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You're reading: Will belief trump facts in politics and economics?

President Barack Obama called attention to the cognitive divide, and reminded us which side he comes down on, at the beginning of this week, when he chose the Princeton University economist Alan Krueger to lead his Council of Economic Advisers.

Krueger is a labor economist, and at first blush, that focus may seem the important part of his resume. Unemployment, after all, is still above 9 percent, and the president has said job creation is his priority. But when you talk to the insiders about Krueger, what they emphasize is his mastery of data and his utter commitment to the truths it can be coaxed to tell.

Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and a Harvard economist, described Krueger, his former student, as a "total empiricist" and a "great data monger following the data where it went." Lawrence Katz, a fellow Harvard economist and one of the pre-eminent labor economists, enthusiastically agreed: "Alan has an open mind and lets the data speak."

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