Mainstream Media Fights for the Little Guy in the Spirit of the Muckrackers

This article shows the ridiculous lengths that economists can go in defending the indefensible:

I. J. ALEXANDER DYCK, University of Toronto – Joseph L. Rotman School of Management
DAVID A. MOSS, Harvard Business School – Business, Government and the International Economy Unit

LUIGI ZINGALES, University of Chicago, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), University of Chicago – Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, Graduate School of Business, European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

We argue that profit-maximizing media help overcome the problem of “rational ignorance” highlighted by Downs (1957) and in so doing make elected representatives more sensitive to the interests of general voters. By collecting news and combining it with entertainment, media are able to inform passive voters on politically relevant issues. To show the impact this information has on legislative outcomes, we document the effect “muckraking” magazines had on the voting patterns of U.S. representatives and senators in the early part of the 20th century. We also show under what conditions profit-maximizing media will cater to general (less affluent) voters in their coverage, providing a counterbalance to special interests.


4 comments so far

  1. rich on

    the last guy is not from CEP and R I hope (Dean Baker)

  2. reader on

    Michael, please give us some posts!!! i enjoy your blog, especially when you write about present day economic stuff, since it’s informed with a deep and thorough base of knowledge. also, what other blogs/sites do you recommend that have a marxist analysis of economic stuff today?

  3. mperelman on

    Dear Reader, I will try to get back on track. Rich, they are 2 different organizations. This one is from the conservative London outfit.


  4. mark hansen on

    the profit maximizing media very likely have the exact effects on the passive voters that they desire.
    i.e. keeping them passive and ignorant.

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