The GFC, Systemic Legitimacy

and "Rip-Off" Stories in the Daily Mail

Tony Curzon Price, Gavin Hassall, Jeremy Davies, and James Couper

29 January, 2020



One of the features of the "populist turn" on both left and right has been the impression that the legitimacy of the market has diminished. In the UK, this has led to some surprising economic policy shifts, for example a centre-right government once strongly ideologically committed to market deregulation passing a retail gas and electricity price cap. A puzzle of this decline in legitimacy is that it does not appear to be picked up in survey time series which ask questions about trust. This lack of measurability in lowered legitimacy hampers progress of its analysis: is there a "crisis of legitimacy"? do policy interventions work? are there patterns to the loss of legitimacy? We make inroads on measurability by employing a "text-is-data" approach on the corpus of personal finance stories in one of the UK's leading tabloid newspapers. We use machine learning and natural language processing to track "de-legitimating stories", and we offer a number of tentative hypotheses to explain the patterns we find - Galbraith's bezzle, clickbait and scapegoating are all considered. We suggest that the methods used provide a data-rich alternative to assuming fixed preferences and beliefs among economic agents.


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