Skip to main content

Why is the Economist Being so Idiotic?

  • Author:
  • Updated:

I've attacked the Economist a couple of times on these pages for the dishonest and misleading portrayal of left leaning politicians, and it seems the highly esteemed magazine is continuing to make things up when it comes to defining the actual policies of word leaders of the liberal persuasion.

Here's the cover of the latest edition of the Economist, using a doctored Obama-Romney/Laurel and Hardy image to presumably help readers visualize the ongoing debate in America about small government vs big government:

James Kwak goes to town on the entire premise and content of the article, calling the Economist 'comically stupid'. It's a devastating critique and worth reading in full. Here's the main crux of his argument:

Now, how you could draw a contrast between two men who passed structurally identical health care plans—in which government regulation is used to incent people to buy insurance from private companies—baffled me. The caption, if anything, should have been “Small government or tiny?” So I peeked inside, where things get worse.

The premise of the article is that President Obama has made government bigger. But there’s no intelligent way to make this case, because it just isn’t true by any meaningful measure. There’s a chart in the print edition (which I can’t find online) showing government employment as a percentage of total employment and as a percentage of the potential labor force (correcting for the overall business cycle). The former line went up from 2007 to 2010 (hey! big government!), but the latter line has only gone down since 2002. In other words, government employment is declining as a share of the working-age population, a point also made by Catherine Rampell earlier. And this isn’t a recent phenomenon: the government’s civilian workforce, which was around 1 percent of the population from the 1950s until the early 1990s, is now down around 0.7 percent (see the BLS, Current Employment Statistics).

I enjoy reading the Economist for it's pithy analysis and comprehensive coverage of global affairs, but it has been playing way too loose with the facts in recent times in the name of furthering its pro-market ideological agenda. I have no problem with reading analysis from a different perspective than my own, but it has to be based on actual facts. The Economist can do a lot better than this.