The New York Times and downward sloping demand curves

Read all about it! Read all about it! The New York Times comes out in favor of downward sloping demand curves! Huzzah! Huzzah! Spread the good news. Some editorialist at this newspaper must have read a few pages of an introductory microeconomics textbook, and been convinced by it. Amazing. In an editorial of April 8, 2014 entitled “Ten Cents a Bag? That’s About Right” this venerable newspaper was urging, as a good watermelon (green on the outside, red on the inside) that we reduce our use of plastic bags; it would appear they hurt the environment. And, astoundingly enough, it claimed that compelling store owners to charge ten cents per plastic bag would reduce the demand for these supposed ecological scourges.

In doing so, it bought into the notion of downward sloping demand curves: the higher the price, the less of a given item will be demanded.

Why is this astounding? Why is this amazing? Why should we all congratulation the New York Times for this brilliant insight?

Because in another context, they have been denying this and denying this. I speak, of course, of the minimum wage law, which this newspaper has long (but not always) been defending. In that context, they blatantly deny that raising wages (the price of labor) would lead to a reduction in demand.

Perhaps the editorialists who wrote about plastic bags and defend downward sloping demand should discuss this matter with their colleagues who write about the minimum wage law and deny downward sloping demand. Will they come to blows? Who knows. But I for one would very much like to be a fly on the wall (with a recording device; don’t ask) when that discussion occurs. There’s a new head editor at the NY Times. Perhaps he should call a meeting between the two groups of editorial writers.


10:12 pm on June 7, 2014