July 26

The Economist revisited


I mentioned here earlier this year that I had subscribed to The Economist for well over two decades, but I began to lose confidence in it when I found that reports on matters on which I had some knowledge were superficial and even wrong.

The newspaper, as it prefers to call itself, was once edited by that great constitutionalist Walter Bagehot.  Today, it draws on the respect and standing it accumulated from its past high standards. But in recent times it has taken on an increasingly undergraduate air, at times substituting opinionated arrogance for knowledge, understanding, common sense and experience. 

Of course much of what it does is still good, but its sudden endorsement of republicanism for the UK was thoughtless, and too often rude  and infantile.  This is exacerbated by the anonymity of its reporters, as every piece of vitriol is thus endorsed by the newspaper.  A reader will then feel it is The Economist which says this, and be annoyed with the newspaper. If the columnist were named, the reader's annoyance would be directed to the columnist.

Anonymity was alright when The Economist was an objective observer, but not for columnists'  nastiness.



 One of the worst examples was a cover calling on President Clinton to resign, or be impeached, over the Monica Lewinsky affair. Needless to say the President did not accept this advice.I did not renew my subscription, but have received increasingly attractive offers to come back. Not while it propagates a republicanism which is too often infantile and nasty.

…another critique…


I was interested to see in the July- August 2011 edition of Quadrant that James Allan, the Canadian Garrick Professor  of Law at the University of Queensland, has taken a similar view to the Economist. ( An extract from this article appears in a recent issue of The Spectator Australian edition.)

 In "Out of love with The Economist” he writes that he first started getting suspicious when The Economist began supporting curious causes, including its call for Britain to become a republic.

 (Continued below)    “Where was the Walter Bagehot-like sentiment-free cost-benefit analysis that weighed up whether replacing a virtually powerless head of state, in favour of some sort of US of French style set-up, or even maybe an Irish one, was really a good idea?  Contrarian iconoclasts don't call for change because it's trendy. They don't indulge in sappy sentimentalisms about outdated feudal trappings. They look at what works, and what doesn't. Or so I thought." 

“Then there are the reports from Australia. I read them and wonder if the first written by the BBC or the Australian  Labor Party government, they are so self-consciously politically progressive, not to mention in favour of any and all stimulus spending…. The Economist hates Mr Abbott, making the biting claim that ‘ Mr Abbott is socially conservative but above all populist.’  There is no higher criticism of a politician in the new Economist mindset than trying to be popular, unless of course that politician is Mr Obama, Mr Blair, or ( Canadian politician) Mr Ignatieff –  you get the idea.”

…Australian report…

Incidentally, in The Economist's special report on Australia on 28 May 2 011, they say that "After Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, Britain abandoned its former colony.” This is an appalling misrepresentation of the historical facts.

The British kept on fighting against Japan in the region, resisting and ultimately repelling the invasion of India and commanding the Allied reoccupation of Burma.  To say we were abandoned suggests a deliberate policy to do nothing, which is just not true. Then, referring to the G 20, the report observes "in whose creation Mr (Kevin) Rudd played a role.” This is unlikely – the G 20 was founded in 1999. They are probably referring to the leaders’ G20 Summits, but they do not say so. After the notorious phone conversation between Mr. Rudd and President Bush, it would be wise to be precise. 

…not alone…

 Professor Alan and I are apparently not alone in being annoyed by The Economist’s embrace of republicanism, particularly in the infantile and nasty way it promotes this. To the newspaper's credit they have published the following: James Andrew Bray, East Kingston, New Hampshire wondered if the Economist was “ out of its mind”.

“As an American republican, I recognise the value Britain earns from its monarchy and the stability and respect.

“Your earlier attempt at a republic did not work too well and were you to throw away 1000 years of history you would have to invent something to replace it. But what?  Another Lord Protector? A president?

“Tell me, who actually cares what the President of Italy or Germany says or does? And what about the Commonwealth? With whom do all those former colonials really identify? And what would you call yourself – the United whatever?

“It is instructive that the Spaniards dug up their monarchy after Franco died, and was it not King Juan Carlos who saved the nascent democracy from a military coup? I strongly advise you to reconsider your Republican attitude for reasons that you don't understand perfectly.

 Lance Lawrence of Aberdeenshire wrote:

“So your snide reference to the royal marriage in "the world this week" (April 19) mentioned that "millions of Britons took advantage of the opportunity to take a foreign holiday". This may well have been the case but apparently most of them watched on television and a crowd of us were on the streets of London. By my calculation that is 42% of the British population and certainly more than the weekly readership of The Economist”




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