Monday, November 14, 2005

Price Theory and the Media

Last week I was going through my dwindling library. In it was a shelf of of books about classic economic thought. There were several on price theory. That is right, the theory of how prices are set in the marketplace. I seem to recall that only wage theory was more complicated.

The reason I was going though my library was that I was setting aside books that might help those in the family who are attending college. I was interested only in the classics, such as writings by Keynes, Hume, Malthus, Gresham and Smith (no Marx). What my professors wrote several decades ago probably has little significance today. Certainly, my own papers do not. But the really old books are still useful.

I was impressed by those economists who dwelt on the reasons prices are what they are. And then I compared the thickness of my price theory books stacked together with what I just heard on television. One of the media, who has a large audience and a small vocabulary, was telling his listeners about oil prices. He summed up all he knew about price theory in one word: gouging. To him, prices are either unimportant or someone is gouging. It is that simple. There are only two states in his economy.

There is something about journalism school that makes experts of us all.

It was disappointing to hear this speaker talk with such authority. I just knew he was going to have some influence on the windbags in Congress who would have hearings about oil prices. They don't have such hearings when prices are unduly low, just when they are high. (Some prices of bottled water are much greater per gallon than those of gasoline, but I am not holding my breath until Congress has hearings on those. Or until media types speak out boldly about gouging in the water business.)

I can understand the windbags in Congress. They like to pontificate. But media people? Maybe it is true that many of them wanted to get into journalism school "to make the world a better place."

I wish they just wanted to report the news accurately. That would be a start toward a better world.

1 comment:

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