The Mid-Atlantic Blog

February 14, 2006

Economic Idiots

Just about to walk out the door, already lateish for work. And then my attention is caught by a piece on BBC 24. Of course, it's Valentine's day so cue standard story about flowers. No surprise there.
But this is the BBC, so nothing is easy. Instead of a nice piece covering the high demand for flowers today we get coverage of the "high environmental cost of importing flowers from Africa".
Three things spring to mind on this.

  • First, how exactly does this work with the BBC coverage of "Make Poverty History", and issues surrounding African development? Outsourcing flower production makes sense: it's easier to make the blooming things in a country with nice weather than in Aberdeenshire, and the labour is cheaper. If Africa is going to develop, people there need jobs, and these jobs will be driven by exports. You can't on the one hand attack the process of getting the export good to market, and claim that the use in this country of the export good is bad for the environment without at the same time thinking about the human cost if you exclude their product from the market.
  • Second, there were lots of references to "environmentalists say" in the report. It had the look of a piece driven straight by a lobby group press release. What I want to know in this kind of report is which lobby group, where are they coming from, and how good is their analysis? I want someone from the lobby group to be interviewed, and have the strengths and weaknesses of their opinions tested. Instead we get a puff piece.
  • Third, the basic economic illiteracy running through the piece is staggering. Leaving details aside, a story that is being made into a story about economics is discussed in terms which make it clear that the economic thought process is the furthest thing from the mind of the journalist or production team. You wouldn't have a fashion piece done by someone who didn't know the difference between a mule and a pump. You wouldn't have a sports piece done by someone who thought that Manchester United were a rugby team. Why on earth do you allow a simple story like this to be a) turned into a story about economics, and then b) to be done from the point of view of someone who appears to understand very little about, well, economics?
All in all, it's put me right out of the Valentine's mood.
And now I'm late for work, and the economic law that determines that the London taxi trade benefits in direct proportion to my propensity to blog in the morning kicks in. Ho hum. Another day starts well!
My advice? Just enjoy the flowers. They're pretty and they smell good.
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