Monday, January 19, 2009

Newsweek advocates central planning

Facing declining circulation, Time and Newsweek are aiming at a smaller, niche audience:
The rival editors are turning out weeklies that are smaller, more serious, more opinionated and, though they are loath to admit it, more liberal. They are pursuing a more elite audience, in print and on the Web, abandoning the old Henry Luce notion of catering to the masses. It is nothing less than a survival strategy.
Resurrecting an argument they probably made 50 years ago, Newsweek advocates state planning of the economy:
Once seen as the bad habit of an immature economy, China's state meddling is now seen as a bulwark of stability. "Government control of the most capital intensive sectors leaves me optimistic about China's prospects," says CLSA economist Andy Rothman. "The government can say to companies in these sectors, 'Continue to spend, don't defer your investment plans'." Despite the falls in its biggest export markets and its own stock markets, China's economy looks likely to grow more than 7 percent in 2009—down from the double-digit pace of recent years, but stronger than most. Corporate loan rates are actually up, as state banks loosen credit. In a nation where investment is "the backbone of sustainable growth," accounting for 40 percent of GDP, the state is once again ramping up investment to fight serious threats to growth, says Morgan Stanley Asia chief Stephen Roach. "What we're seeing is that the Chinese command-and-control system can actually work more effectively than other market based systems in times of economic stress," he says.
Leaving aside the issue that it's notoriously difficult to get accurate economic statistics about China, I think it's questionable whether you can tie the continued economic strength to wise bureaucrats. And, even if it's true that they did something right this time, does that mean strong and regular government intervention in the economy is a good thing on average?

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