The Economist (1843- ) is a weekly English language news magazine that comes out of London on Friday. It seems to be written for British businessmen with overseas interests. It has one million readers, half of them in America. Bill Gates reads it cover to cover every week. It is sold all over the world.
It is noted for its good writing, serious reporting and strong point of view.
It did not become a mass-market magazine till the late 1900s. It has been more successful in America than anyone expected.
Why I like it:
- I like its writing style, even if it is more university-level than necessary.
- It covers news from the whole world - not just the parts that directly affect American foreign policy.
- I know where it stands – so it is much easier to separate fact from opinion. When I started reading it I was a Marxist and wanted something counter to my point of view.
- Its point of view is not American.
- It is serious about understanding the world. It reports the news but also wants to know what is going on behind the news.
Currently in 2006 the free part of its website is pretty useless, but the paid part is one of the best news sites on the Internet. Especially good is the way it ties news stories into backgrounders.
Its point of view:
The Economist calls itself liberal – not in the American sense of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton, but in the British sense of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. Pretty much what Americans would call libertarian.
It sees all men as born equal, each acting according to reason and self-interest. There is such a thing as human nature, of people acting out of love or honour, but nine times out of ten it comes down to self-interest, to money. While this makes it less racist than most Anglo news outlets, it still falls for stereotypes, like Broken Africa and black pathologies.
Since people are reasonable and can make their own decisions, government should allow people (and businesses) as much freedom as possible. It will be better for everyone in the end. Greed is good. Government should only limit freedom for the sake of public order and safety.
Therefore The Economist is for democracy, capitalism, globalism and free trade - and against communism, socialism and Islamism. It is much bigger on green issues than the American press. It would weaken laws against drugs and prostitution and get rid of the Queen. While not neocon, it is soft on American imperialism for the sake of free trade.
Science offers a perfectly good account of the world – no gods need apply.
Religion can make believers a bit mad. Like love and honour, it is one of those things The Economist does not understand.
Blind spots: It depends too much on governments, companies and think tanks for news. So much so, for example, that the 1989 Chinese democracy movement in Tiananmen Square took it by surprise.