05 May 2016

Does “the Economist” know what a “market failure” is?

Apparently not. "Do British housing markets suffer from market failure”? The answer is no.

Here’s a quick refresher - a market failure is when the market - left alone - doesn’t produce an efficient or pareto optimal solution. Good examples are externalities such as pollution or congestion, or public goods such as new vaccines. The London housing market is not a good example of a market failure, where poor outcomes are the result of clumsy government regulation restricting supply. The fact that the market is responding to insane restrictions on new supply by focusing what little building they are allowed to do on expensive rather than affordable houses is not a market failure. Yes it is a market, and yes it is producing poor outcomes, but it is failing because of over-regulation. That is a government failure not a failure of the market mechanism.

It’s one thing when ordinary people use economic jargon in a colloquial sense with a totally different meaning to the economic term, but you expect better from a magazine called the Economist.