In anticipation of this weekend's AFC Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh's mayor has changed his last name from "Ravenstahl" to "Steelerstahl." All in good fun, of course. Though if, God forbid, he passed away tomorrow, what would his tombstone say?
Anyway, it brought my mind back to an idea I've had for a while now. Clearly, this action doesn't have any direct consequences on the economy of Pittsburgh. But if we believe that public officials tend to get things wrong more than they get them right, then focusing their attention on the mundane and unimportant would lead to better outcomes, right? Maybe Pittsburgh isn't the right venue to view this in; what about Congress? When Roger Clemens sat in front of a committee, people complained that Congress was wasting its time and should have better things to do. Well, if the "better" things to do are to levy taxes, impose regulation and logroll to their heart's content, then I say have as many Clemens hearings as possible! Let's have him back a few more times! Same can be said for the Lewinsky scandal. As long as Congress is paying attention to that, they can leave the economy alone.
This would be difficult to test; since the effect is multi-stage (more diversion --> less lawmaking --> better economic outcomes) and intertemporal, it's not the easiest case to prove with numbers. I'd love to see a paper on that, though.