A Key Economic Cog

Economic freedoms and political freedoms are interdependent, despite the protests of central planners in Beijing or elsewhere. The current global financial crisis helps demonstrate why.

The political freedom most at issue is press freedom - specifically, the freedom to report on and criticize government economic policy. World Bank president James Wolfensohn characterized such press oversight as essential to economic progress.

Reviewing the evolution of Asia's economic downturn, World Bank analysts concluded that a more determined free press could have exposed the corruption and cronyism that lay behind financial collapses. Press challenges to flawed systems might have averted some of the economic ruin.

Ironically, that ruin is further weakening press vigilance in many countries. Independent newspapers and other media find their markets and resources drying up. Russia's vibrant press, for instance, has been hit hard by that country's economic woes. Financier George Soros is setting up a fund to help sustain Russia's independent media.

That's commendable. But along with financial help, journalists worldwide could benefit from increasing their expertise on economic matters. Reporters and editors East and West must sharpen their instincts for what areas to keep an eye on in the intricacies of economic management. That would help them uncover people playing fast and loose with the free market system.

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