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A Harvard survey last month found that a slim majority of millennials reject capitalism, and with the quality of media reporting about business and the economy, it’s not hard to guess why. (Not to mention the pitiful state of economics education in public high schools.) The Washington Post published a story today that perfectly illustrates the extent of the problem in a single sentence.
The story is about single women in China who have passed their early 20s without a husband, which they say brings shame to their families and have turned to “love markets” as a last resort. Turns out that some entrepreneurs have started companies to help these women find husbands. These are more than dating websites. The companies train the women in man-finding techniques and search cities to help them locate eligible men.
In setting the scene, the Post reporter wrote: “Out of this social climate, a multimillion-dollar industry has emerged that exploits the fears and loneliness of a generation.”
This is a media bias twofer. It’s clear-cut editorializing in a news story, portraying the companies as coldly taking advantage of vulnerable women. It’s also an exhibit of leftist economic rhetoric that suggests an open hostility to market capitalism.
Reading the whole story, it’s evident that the working women want this service because they find it highly valuable. One of the business owners started his company after having found himself in a similar position — he couldn’t find a wife.
There’s clearly a market demand being met here. No one in the story complains about the prices or the services. Everyone’s getting something they want in a voluntary exchange in an open market. Yet the reporter editorializes that the companies are exploiters of women.
To better understand the problem of the thinking here, imagine that China had companies that offered these services to men but not to women, so as not to “exploit” their fears and loneliness. What are the odds that a major US media organization would characterize this discrimination as honorable and respectful vs. sexist and discriminatory?
I think the odds are zero. The story would be: Chinese “love markets” serve only men, leaving women fearful and lonely.
In this case, businesses are arguably empowering Chinese women to maintain high-paying careers by letting them outsource their mate search for a fee. Successful career women have found it hard to date. They’re therefore lonely. They want help. Companies enter the scene offering something these career women want — a connection to a potential husband — for something they have lots of — money. Through the market, these women are finding a way to have a career and find a husband in a culture that has not made that easy for them. And the Post calls the businesses that are enabling this Western feminist goal exploiters of women.
If you want to understand why young people have a negative opinion of capitalism, consider the number of times every day this kind of anti-capitalist, anti-market rhetoric likely seeps into the culture, coloring the way people think about businesses and markets.