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Friday, November 25, 2005

The Economist

Just another quickie post.

Back here, several expressed ridicule that anyone could describe The Economist as centre-left. They further insinuated anyone claiming that must be so far right-wing as to be off the charts (I paraphrase). I should have clarified my position by stating I think The Economist has taken a leftwards-turn over the last couple of years (here is The Economist's advice for US voters during the 2004 presidential elections).

I've been reading it for 15 years or so now, and I would best describe its editorial stance as wishy-washy political opportunism. Aside from some moral and economic issues, they will back whomever they see the political winds favouring.

Wikipedia has further information, including issues and political candidates supported by The Economist editorials over the years.

From The Economist's 'About Us' page:
What, besides free trade and free markets, does The Economist believe in? "It is to the Radicals that The Economist still likes to think of itself as belonging. The extreme centre is the paper's historical position."
So if you think The Economist is right-wing, you are probably so left-wing as to be off the charts.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 11/25/2005 11:58:00 am


Blogger Ackers1 said...

I guess the issue is more whether it is credible and quality journalism which I would suggest it definitely is. It is possible to view the world through a prism which is not always left or right. I never think of the Economist in those terms - usually when I read it I see well researched quality articles.

I wouldn't hold it against them that they endorsed Kerry in the last US election. The way Bush is travelling it is soon going to be difficult finding anyone who will admit to having voted for him!

11/25/2005 12:07:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

I don't hold it against them at all.

What really bugs me about them is how readily they ditch a previous stance. Of course the real reason for such changes could be a change in the staff mix, but we'd never know as they don't put bylines on articles.

11/25/2005 12:21:00 pm  
Blogger Kimble said...

I voted for him, twice.

11/25/2005 12:42:00 pm  
Blogger j.s.kern said...

Few editorial boards that claim to cling like baby chimps to the "extreme centre" will ever remain there. Most uncommitted editors are easily seduced by the predominant bigotries of their peers. "Objective Journalism" is a crass oxymoron that only New Hampshire grandmothers and libel trial defendants believe in. The Economist has been editorially leftist for at least the last 10 years.

11/25/2005 01:37:00 pm  
Blogger fm said...

Institutional Economics (the blog) had this cracker last week:

The Economist’s outgoing Buttonwood columnist tells her readers that money doesn’t matter after all, welcome news for any readers who might have actually read Buttonwood for investment advice rather than for the pointless personal anecdotes.

They've also been predicting the demise of the Australian economy since about 2000 -- we're still waiting.

It's still a quality mag -- I still pay my dues -- but it's very far from an economic or political conservative's wet dream and I would say deliberately so. I guess it reflects the state of politics in Britain at the moment and I guess I can't really blame them for chasing what they believe to be the market. Let's hope that changes sooner rather than later.

11/25/2005 02:37:00 pm  
Blogger dim said...

AL - did you actually READ their Kerry endorsement?

Any left-right wing debate almost instantly exposes the fundamental absurdity of the binary classification - this one is no exception.

The Economist is socially liberal in terms of issues like gay marriage and drug legalisation - they believe in individual freedom and the right to choose (these are traditionally, but not always left-wing opinions). They are also economically liberal - they believe in free markets, free trade and globalisation (usually, but not always right wing). They are vehemently opposed to socialism, communism and government monopolies,

They supported Bush in 2000, the invasion of Iraq and Dole against Clinton. When they do support a left-wing candidate its usually with massive reserve (John Kerry: 'with a heavy heart . . . The incompetent (Bush) against the incoherent'; Tony Blair: 'There is no alternative, alas.')

People who see it drifting away from the right - especially in the US - might see this as part of the massive torrent of criticism from left-wing, centrist and moderate right-wingers that the US right is drifting away from the rest of reality, and not the other way around.

11/25/2005 03:59:00 pm  
Blogger Murray said...

What the hell is "extreme center"?????

The bluest red?

The sweetest sour?

The upest down?

The smartest liberial?

11/25/2005 04:13:00 pm  
Blogger fm said...

dim, fair comments but I think you assume that The Economist's positions are fixed and the political landscape is moving, not the other way around. I think you're half right. Both are true.

Also, while I don't presume that the political drift will necessarily be the same in the UK, Australia, the US and New Zealand, my own observations include: a fairly significant move to the centre by the Blair government in the last election (plus an increase in the conservative vote), State Labor government in Australia doing their very best to imitate conservative policies (the tricky bastards) plus of course the continued reign of John Howard with increased majorities in both houses, same again in the US with an increased vote for George Bush just 12 months ago and majorities in both houses, and of course the doubling of the vote for conservatives in New Zealand and a whisker shy of government. So while I wouldn't expect trends to always say the same, I doubt I would be as presumptuous as yourself to assume that the political tide is retreating on conservative ideas.

11/25/2005 04:33:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

I just forced myself to read The Economist's predictions issue for 2006. Mostly a bunch of US liberal-style 'maintain the status quo' foreign affairs stances, and a few pieces contained some odd factual errors. I wonder if they've always been like that but no-one bothers to check and document the errors on the net. Minor criticisms of course won't be published as letters, so there's no real forum for feedback.

11/25/2005 06:20:00 pm  
Blogger fm said...

I was stuck in Europe for a couple of years with not much to read in English (Göteborg Chefen!). While I was there The Economist was my lifeline for current affairs in the English-speaking world (prior to decent online media). I ended up becoming a big fan of their breadth and depth of coverage as well as their writing style, even if I didn't completely admire their politics and their point of view. I do think they floated to the left since about 2000, but I suppose it's equally possible I've moved further to the right since 911 (or both).

Stephen over at IE (I think you're also a reader AL) has been pretty scathing sometimes. Basically, when The Economist predicts one thing, he's only half jokingly pointed out you can be sure of the opposite. Economically, he's opened my eyes to how often (tragically) that seems to happen with their reporting.

As I said earlier, I still think it's a good publication -- certainly compared to most of the competition -- but it's not the one-stop shop for right-wing point of views that many lefties might suppose.

11/25/2005 08:28:00 pm  
Blogger Chefen said...

FM, what were you doing here in Göteborg?

I'd go a bit crazy for news without the internet. The papers and TV are generally pretty one-eyed when it comes to things Anglo, unfortunately. The Economist is mostly a good mag, but on the odd occasion I do read it I often find myself wondering where they get their info from. Not left-wing, say in the batshit crazy style of the Guardian or smug git style of the Listener, but not right either. Often depends on the columnist though.

11/26/2005 12:52:00 am  
Blogger fm said...

Hei chefen

I followed a girl, as you do. I found the library downtown was pretty cool for English newspapers (for free). The Aussie pub was just down the street as well :-)

11/26/2005 04:44:00 pm  

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