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The Economist: Silver Spoons Only

Julian D. A. Wiseman

Abstract: Paying token wages to interns selects applicants by parental wealth.


Publication history: only at Usual disclaimer and copyright terms apply.

The Economist January 29th 2011
A small stipend will be paid to the successful candidate
From the print edition of The Economist, January 29th-February 4th 2011 (also available from the online edition).

The author has subscribed to The Economist for about two decades. It is a fine newspaper, rarely ignorant, even when wrong. One of its good features is that it endeavours to speak plainly, even when, perhaps especially when, the facts are uncomfortable.

Now turn your attention to the extract on the right, and particularly “A small stipend will be paid to the successful candidate.” The Economist has failed its usual standards. It should have been said bluntly: if your parents can’t afford to support you, for a summer, in one of the world’s most expensive cities, then we don’t want you.

Is the current strategy efficient for The Economist? Imagine a country in which the only good schools are expensive schools. The good schools are either private, or there is de facto selection by house price. In either case, selecting candidates by family wealth might be a low-cost, or negative cost, means of excluding candidates from the terrible schools.

However, The Economist’s editorials, for all their liking of free-market efficiency, typically don’t go so far as to encourage such pre-judgement of candidates.

— Julian D. A. Wiseman
21st February 2011

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