‘The Economist’ – purveyors of Fake News and false information.

What can one say? The Economist is a major journal that has been going since 1843 and has this to say about itself:

‘A recent editor, Rupert Pennant-Rea, once described The Economist as “a Friday viewspaper, where the readers, with higher than average incomes, better than average minds but with less than average time, can test their opinions against ours. We try to tell the world about the world, to persuade the expert and reach the amateur, with an injection of opinion and argument.”’ (Note 1. About us _ The Economist  )

This is a journal of record and not one we would expect to export fake news. However that is exactly what we have found. Before going into detail we should establish the basic background: any journal or teacher will inevitably make mistakes of fact  at some point but the appropriate response is to check and then admit one’s error and make a correction. We wrote to The  Editor on 30 December 2017  as follows:

“Please provide the data or make a correction. Otherwise I will publicize your publication as a fraud/fake news.”

It is now many weeks later and neither data nor retraction has been provided. What is our point? That this is evidence of  a typical form of racism embedded in Western media. The outrageously false facts about Africa were racist enough but the failure to retract  once challenged goes to the heart of the journals integrity, or should we say lack of it. Personally,  I have no doubt that if it were a matter of economic data about UK they would correct it immediately, but in  their minds who cares about Africa anyway. AsTrump so clearly put it the whole place is a ‘s..hole’ anyway.  

We are here to establish and record the absence of integrity in Western media when it comes to reporting about Africa.

So much for prologue:

The Economist published a report dated 8 Sept 2017 called ‘The Cost of the American Dream’ (Note 2 The cost of the American dream – Inequality of opportunity) in which it is stated: ‘…the average monthly consumption of the richest 10% of Tanzanians was $173 in 2012. In America, the lowest decile sees an average income of $226. That there is simply no overlap in decile consumption between the two countries is not because Tanzanians are all layabouts who made poor life choices, but because they live in a poor country. Being born in America is worth so much because it means you’ve won the between-country birth lottery.’

 

Let us leave aside mere technicalities such as cost of living adjustment and how FX has been treated and stay with claimed raw data (It should be noted that despite strenuous effort I was unable to find the quoted data). This statement starts with the ‘average’ of a decile and then goes on to make statements about the ‘overlap in decile’. This of course is a wild transposition because  the average says nothing about dispersion and so to say there is no overlap requires  information about the dispersion of the population. But lets leave aside such fancy technicalities and look at this in the hard light of data about America.

 

According to a Brookings Institute study :

‘Using an alternative dataset from the one employed for the official U.S. poverty measure, Shaefer and Edin show that millions of Americans live on less than $2 a day—a threshold commonly used to measure poverty in the developing world. Depending on the exact definitions used, they find that up to 5 percent of American households with children are shown to fall under this parsimonious poverty line.’ (Note 3   How Poor Are America’s Poorest_ U.S )

If the poorest in America live on £2 dollar a day and there were no overlap in deciles then the richest in Tanzania would need to earn less than $2 a day.  This is quite extra-ordinary as $2 a day  is a universal standard for extreme poverty and the article is therefore implying that the richest people in Tanzania are living in extreme poverty. Really? How on earth are the poor in Tanzania surviving?

There are several  issues: How did this ridiculous statement get past  fact checkers in the first place and secondly why did The Economist not retract once it was  brought to their attention? But most important is a political one. As has been shown in an earlier article (Note 4) that  this issue goes back to Adam Smith when he made the preposterous statement that the poorest Englishman was vastly better off than the richest African king at a time when English children were worked to death in worse conditions than slaves in the Caribbean (Note 5). This report seeks to suggest to poor Whites that they are better off than the richest Africans and should be grateful to be American. Obviously this fuels racism and hostility when poor whites discover that they have been sold nonsense and see non-whites living wealthy lives.

Lastly, we should recognise the silent complicity of the Western academic economics establishment. Any such ridiculous error on any other economics subject would have been pounced upon immediately and ridiculed but when it involves Africa and racist comments the Western economics establishment is astoundingly silent. We hear you!

 

NOTES:

  1. http://www.economist.com/help/about-us
  2. https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/09/inequality-opportunity 
  3. https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-poor-are-americas-poorest-u-s-2-a-day-poverty-in-a-global-context/
  4. https://african-century.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Comments_on_Racism_misconceptions_of_rac.pdf
  5.  Adam Smith’s comments posits a society that  fits his model of ‘state of nature’ without trade or division of labour. This is therefore a fantasy image not a reflection of any known human society. For a society to have a king requires social differentiation and therefore division of labour and to have no external trade requires immense social isolation. But none of this matters as Adam Smith’s point appears entirely political, to seek to accommodate the English poor to their condition.