Investing in media companies is always a tricky business, but I have often suspected that there was a pretty close link between the quality of the economics correspondents a news outlet employs and their resulting share price. In Fairfax’s Jessica Irvine, I think we have solid evidence of this theory: a correspondent for the paper since 2005 (when Fairfax Media’s share price was trading reasonably north of the four dollar mark), in the time since she has been churning out copy (including under the cringe-worthy and patronising “Econogirl” soubriquet under which she “[set] out with superhero-like resolve to solve the mysteries of the “money stuff” no-one understands” ) the price of a slice of her employer can as of this writing be had for less than 75 cents. Irvine is also one of the boosters for Fairfax’s “happiness index” trope, which is devoted to putting a science around the money-can’t-buy-happiness tripe that gets trotted out every time an economy starts to look jittery under a lefty government.
Need further proof?
Check out her column today on the wedding industry, in which she finds out from going through the process herself that weddings are expensive and that there’s a whole industry devoted to fleecing would-be Bridezillas. So far, so pedestrian. But this passage really stuck out, because I think it is a concentrated essence, a glace, if you will and to give this a slight foodie angle, of Irvine’s problem as an economist:
If the $4.3 billion spent on weddings each year were instead given to the federal government, it could double its annual overseas aid budget (expected to be $4.8 billion this financial year).
Let us be clear here: No one who understands economics should have as their preference that funds being spent, even in foolish or tacky ways, in the private economy would be better spent by a federal government. And here Irvine’s not even suggesting they should go towards some Thomas Friedman-esque pipe dream of state capitalism-financed high-speed unicorn-propelled monorails crisscrossing the outback, but rather spent overseas where accountability is far less and where the only payoff is potential votes for an Australian seat on the UN Security Council.
Then, this howler:
More importantly, however, it should be recognised that the market value of women’s time has increased dramatically over the past three decades as women have entered the paid workforce. Many a modern bride is prepared to pay a premium for someone to organise the details of her big day. In economics jargon, the opportunity cost of a woman’s time has risen.
Women today are more productively employed in the economy than ever before. Instead of fretting over the details of their wedding, they’re working full-time jobs and wielding positions of real power. And that is something truly worth celebrating.
It is indeed. But if Irvine is not like 90% of women and doing at least some of her wedding planning on Fairfax’s dime, let us just say this Prick will be quite surprised.