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A Silly Conceptual Mistake

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A silly conceptual mistake

There’s a newspaper cliché that Google has failed to find for me, which goes something like this:

Every letter in The Times will be better written than every article in The New York Times.

That’s a bit harsh on the NYT and much less true than it used to be, if ever it was.

But you get the idea. The letters pages of our quality papers are excellent.

They are quite often the best bit of the FTThe Times and The Telegraph. Most people don’t read them and most people are missing out.

Exhibit A is this cracker from Alex J Pollock in the FT, which takes issue with a graph in the paper showing women who are looking after a family to be “economically inactive”.

What nonsense, says our correspondent. Raising a family is far more economically productive than a lot of what FT readers do. Marketing cryptocurrencies, say.

The FT’s confusion is part of the same notion than “cooking in a restaurant is production, but cooking at home isn’t; that growing food to sell is production, but growing your own food isn’t; that painting a room for money is production, but painting your own room isn’t”.

A “pretty silly conceptual mistake”, he says (he is a man, I checked).

This is why newspapers are brilliant things that we will miss when they are gone. No other industry is so willing to let paying customers make fun of them in the most public way possible.

The wider point about Mr Pollock’s letter is that nearly all of the economic commentary I get sent makes the same mistake.

Because it can’t measure the economic value of what a teacher does for her pupils across their lives, it doesn’t bother to try.

Which distorts the value placed on all sorts of activities and professions. Economists end up overvalued, for one.

They should do better, or I’m writing a letter.

Press release of the day

Amidst my own private IT hell, this from Crayon caught the eye. Business performance will be crippled by a lack of computer efficiency, it says.

Only 7% of businesses think they have “optimised” their IT costs.

Companies need to plan ahead for AI and cloud spending otherwise it will get worse, it warns.

Stories that will keep rolling

1) Are cash strapped shoppers flocking to B&M, or is it suffering like every other retailer?

2) Are Lily handbags still flying off the shelves at Mulberry?

3) Is Germany doing a better job of handing inflation than us?

4) Which major economy will fall into recession first?

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