Monday, March 23, 2015

Media Capture In Britain

The British media have done of poor job of describing fiscal issues to the public.  They have basically echoed the messages that the conservative government has been promoting in its election campaign.  The public is being told that Britain will become the next Greece unless it makes large cuts in public spending.  In fact, the government was forced to increase spending in order to prevent the economy from sliding into recession.  The administration, with help from the media, is telling the public that its austerity program has bolstered the economy.  The majority of economists in Britain, outside of those employed by the finance industry, have been critical of the rationale for the government's focus on austerity, and tragedies that would follow, if over spending by government were to continue.

Media capture is always a problem in a democracy.  Governments and vested commercial interests have a powerful incentive to influence public opinion through the media.  They also have the means at their disposal.  The US is not immune from this problem.  We went through a similar news cycle in which the public was told that we would be the next Greece if we did not make drastic cutbacks to entitlement programs.  Fortunately, the economics profession did a decent job of debating this issue with the help of our more responsible media outlets.  However, media capture is an enduring problem in a democracy and a free press cannot be taken for granted.

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