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September 05, 2007




Capitalism (a la WSJ) is a money making business: Yes/NO?

Economists appearing on WSJ editorial page (cf.NYT/WP) are simply advertizing their merit to be considered in the capitalist mecca: Yes/No?

In my personal opinion, WSJ editorial page is simply an "opinion" page, and should not be taken for anything more than propaganda for laissez faire Capitalism.

caveat bettor

Then there's this:

Poor Robert Reich. Ronald Bailey at Reason has the goods:

Former Clinton labor secretary and perennial industrial policy hustler, Robert Reich, is a leading negative indicator. Whatever he predicts, the exact opposite occurs. In the 1980s, Reich declared that the U.S. economic growth rates were in a permanent slump and that we needed to adopt the economic model represented by the once famed Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry. In 1982, Reich co-authored Minding America's Business with Ira Magaziner which recommended that the federal government start directing the economy. A few excerpts below:

"U.S. companies and the government [should] develop a coherent and coordinated industrial policy whose aim is to raise the real income of our citizens by improving the pattern of our investments." According to the two the governments of Japan, France and West Germany "understand that the only real alternative to developing a rational industrial policy that seeks to improve the competitive performance of their economy in world markets is for the government to cede the formation of policy to the politically strongest or most active elements of industry. Industrial policies are necessary to ease society's adjustment to structural changes in a growing economy."

The United States was failing because it had "an irrational and uncoordinated industrial policy," resulting in a "process of economic policy formation [that] remains decentralized and chaotic." They added: "Perhaps the most striking feature of the U.S. industrial policy apparatus is the absence of a single agency or office with overall responsibility for monitoring changes in world markets or in the competitiveness of American industry, or for easing the adjustment of the domestic economy to these changes."

They concluded: "The failure of U.S. industrial policy is not simply a failure of organization, of course. It is a failure of substantive strategy. The industrial policies of Japan, West Germany and France have been more successful than U.S. policies because they have explicitly and consciously aimed at improving the international competitiveness of their businesses."



I am a happy subscriber to the WSJ, even though I disagree almost daily with their editorial page. However, it stimulates my thinking and sometimes I do reconsider my views in light of their arguments. Isn't that the point of the editorial? It's somewhat arrogant to assume that Erza can tell the difference between 'good' and 'bad' arguments but WSJ readers cannot.


The reason prominent economists publish in WSJ is for one simple reason. Pretty much all the major political and business leaders read WSJ, and as such the paper's readers have a disproportional effect on economic activity and goverment activity on economic issues. While these same policy makers and influential business figures (well, other than Bush) likely also read the NY Times and LA Times and Washington Post, those newspapers are more general in terms of subject matter, while WSJ is at least in theory oriented toward business and economic issues. As such these leaders look to WSJ to keep up on business and economic issues, and are more likely to carefully read an economics oriented opinion article in WSJ than in a more general paper.
As to the extremeism and intellectual sloppiness of the WSJ editorial page, the same argument could be made about every major newspaper, and I have yet to find an exception (although Financial Times does get close).


Conundrum, I'm not sure it's a matter of arrogance. It's a matter of rational behavior, à la Samuel Popkin. Ezra has time to do the research and think through the arguments and subtleties that many people do not have time for. He has time to do this because he is paid to do so. Ezra's a really smart guy, but if his reading priorities were the same as most people's, he'd miss a lot of the "tricks," too.

Many people, including many WSJ readers, do not have the time to do this research. To decide whether to trust what they read, most people rely on the best clues available to them because in practice it is impractical to research everything in the morning paper. One of the best clues an op-ed page can provide to bolster its apparent credibility is the presence of well-known, well-respected figures. When those people appear on the WSJ page, they add credibility to the rest of it.


The question really is, why do name economists publish in the WSJ while the Financial Times exists? FT is credible and diverse and already publishes many well-vetted articles on economic topics.

I suspect that the WSJ will might it more difficult to find credible contributors over time if it continues an editorial line that is grounded securely in the nineteenth century.


Jhupp, good point. It's true that Erza spends significantly more time reading through the papers than mere mortals with a day-time job. But let me ask you a question: How should anybody practice independent thinking, if well-meaning journalists have to spoonfeed readers with the 'right' arguments? Dani’s blog is a good start but hardly sufficient.

And on the company of well-know economists, I assume that most readers can distinguish between a Noble Laureate and the lastest WSJ fighter for the Laffer curve.


Simple answer: A lot of economists are willing to rub shoulders with wingnuts, especially in exchange for money.


Perhaps a better question is why some economists write for the NY Times, despite its utter economic incompetence.

ZH, you are spot on.


"Why do good economists publish in the WSJ editorial page?"

Why do skilled journalists report what they know to be lies?

Why do nice, friendly people support wars of aggression?

Why do democratic governments support dictatorships?

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