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March 14, 2008

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robertdfeinman

"So should I start reading The Economist again?" - No.

Magazines like this and Financial Times are not aimed at economists, they are aimed at business leaders and politicians who have a built in bias towards the status quo and the triumph of capitalism.

They want to have their prejudices confirmed, and their owners (part of the ruling class) want to see their privilege maintained. If this means misreading economic theory, history or current events in the pursuit of their cause - so be it.

Sven

What do you recommend to read instead of The Economist?

Chris M

Same for me. I read it cover to cover from about 1992-2003. But their loony take on American politics caused me to doubt if the rest of their coverage was accurate. If they can't figure out that Bush is nuts then why should I trust their coverage of Botswana?

I think maybe what I used to get out of the Economist I get from blogs now.

greatzamfir

It's my impression that the crdit crisis has (temporarily?0 softened the Economist a bit.

A question about the graph: the data points are so similar, they must use a very, very similar definition of "rule of law", or more likely the same indicator.

Given that 'rule of law' is hardly a well defined concept, what's the point of using three graphs using the same concept, instead of three graphs that use different concepts? If the trend is similar in the latter case, then there is a reason for multiple graphs, but this seems pointless.

dissent

I recently read the Economist and was so disgusted I have hardly been able to pick it up since. (I have a subscription, which means I eye the new arrivals with distaste and generally plop them in the trash after a brief scan.)

The offending passage was a political analysis of the presidential race. The writer was huffing about the effects of a possible victory by a Democrat on the Supreme Court: how that would lead to politicization of nominees and under cut the mission and role of the Supreme Court.

This after the nomination of Thomas, Roberts, Scalia, and Alito. This after Bush vs. Gore.

I am still disgusted and unable to read my own subscription.

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan

"Magazines like this and Financial Times are not aimed at economists,"

Actually, the FT is a lot more circumspect than the Economist is. If there's a better economics correspondent than Martin Wolf, I'd like to know who they are.

inthemachine

As with any other situation, once you know the bias is there, its pretty easy to adjust for. Besides, where else can you get graphs about global inflation with witty puns in the title?

Marcos Siqueira

Should I read the economist? It depends - an economist may say.

The Economist (like the FT, WSJ, etc) is nothing but a collection of the correspondents and journalists that write for it. Sure, the editors play a big role, but in the end the analysis is very dependent on the individual writing it. So the answer will depend on what topics interest you the most and what journalists cover those topics. The FT for example is great on China - Richard McGregor. The economist is really good on Egypt - Max Rodenbeck.

Now the only problem with the Economist is that they use no bylines, which makes it hard to figure out where the information is coming from. So if you really value the importance of knowing the source of that information and figuring out the bias of the writer, then boycotting the economist is not a bad idea. For a paper that talks so much about the importance of transparency they are rather opaque dont you think?

David

I would also come in defense of the FT...much better than the Economist.

Student

Same impression. The economist's coverage of Russia is ridiculously biased.

But: I liked their persistent prognosis of the subprime crisis even a couple of years ago.

Ana C.

I love The Economist! I have a subscription since 1995 and have always read it backwards. The obituaries are fantastic.

Richard

I don't want to read something that always confirms my own bias. Plenty of times The Economist has raised points I hadn't thought of.

Also there are few widely published publications that cover as broad a range of topics as The Economist.

Matt

I started reading The Economist fairly regularly when I lived in Russia in 99-01, in part because it was a change from the few Newsweek subscription I had and also because it was sold at subsidized prices, making it afordable- 50RR at the time, I think, not much more than a Russian magazine. What turned me off after a while was that all the "new" articles, including the news financial articles, clearly indicated that the dot.com situation was a house of cards about to come down. It was pretty obvious from the news coverage. But the editorial content, and often the editorial content appended to the news articles, kept saying the opposite- that no regulation was needed, that everything had changed, etc. I didn't know if it was foolishness or dishonesty but either way I decided that they could not be trusted very much.

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan

I guess the advantage of the Economist is the awfulness of its American competition (Time, US News and World Report, Newsweek, Businessweek).

Even if you're just above average looking and only moderately intelligent, you can look great in a crowd of the stupid and ugly.

One thing I have noticed about the Economist: they have had a reasonable record in calling the peak of a bubblemonths before the shit hits the fan. Think Asian crisis, dot-com bubble, they had cover articles on the immanent shitfest about 2-6 months before.

david

The conclusion of this exercise appears to be a consensus that The Economist was wrong about Bush and has a free-markets bias. But--and for me this is crucial--it's got broader coverage than any other weekly.

Add to that the density of information--no magazine or newspaper even comes close--and for me we've got required reading.

Dominic

If you're considering another look at the Economist, try downloading the audio edition. I find it good to listen to at the gym and walking to work etc.

And I have to disagree with comments on the tone. There aren't many news sources which make me laugh out loud several times in a single article about foreign investment in oil fields!

Jeff

Yup, it's all about the punny titles (and the obits). I still love the Economist.

What part of the West Coast did you live on? I live in LA, and 3 weeks out of 4 it arrives on Friday.

Peter

Their coverage of American politics has been extremely dim lately. Just one example - describing McCain as a steadfast opponent of torture. That's what you'd expect from a blowhard like Chris Matthews. But there's also a lot of good stuff in there.

Sebastian

I agree that the economist varies strongly in quality by region: Africa is outstanding, Latin America only soso (even once discounted for bias), EU coverage is great, but many of the individual EU countries are frequently off. My sense as a total layperson is that science and technology is great, as a re about 50% of the large surveys they write.

That means in total there's a lot of great stuff to go around, but Dani's point is still important and troublesome: you often catch them saying very strange things about things you actually know something about, but it's hard to detect that if you don't.

Michael

The main problem with the Economist article here is that it does not take into account the learning going on in the field. As a person who works in the field, I find it is a bit like reading debates by physicists on who will win the next football game. For more comments from the field you can follow my blog qhickthink

Arthur McMolecule

For a more heterodox take on things, there's always:

http://www.dollarsandsense.org/

Their articles are always more interesting than the economist!

bee

I too must admit that I gave up on the Economist. I found that the Economist tries too hard to sound intelligent.

I do agree that it has no direct competition in the US. The news magazines in the US are dominated by journalists who are seeking to communicate to comic book readers. This is not a function of the readers, its a function of their opinions about readers.

bee

I too must admit that I gave up on the Economist. I found that the Economist tries too hard to sound intelligent.

I do agree that it has no direct competition in the US. The news magazines in the US are dominated by journalists who are seeking to communicate to comic book readers. This is not a function of the readers, its a function of their opinions about readers.

KevanB

I began reading the Economist asa schoolboy in 1962. I still read it. It has been irritating me, making me laugh all that time. At current prices this means I have spent 12,000 or so Euros on the magazine. A figure this discussion caused me to work out. But then what else would I have spent the money on?

Tebow

Here I thought I was sophisticated when I graduated from Time! Now I have to switch to the AER? haha

Despite the magazine(/newspaper)'s bias, is the Economist Intelligence Unit a solid source for academic work?

happyjuggler0

Do you all realize you can get The Economist for free online, excepting some British stuff? And they usually set up online on Thursday US time.

As far as the quality of The Economist is concerned, I have two points to add. First, while it is not perfect, it can be a good starting point on a subject (e.g. the situation in Somalia) you are not too familiar with. Second, most print media simply royally suck on economic matters, so by comparison it is quite good.

ozma

I find http://www.dollarsandsense.org much more interesting.

Jason

The Economist has good stories about business and finance, plus the special reports are often quite good and interesting. I love their use of charts to explain data. That being said, I never read the opinion-oriented pieces towards the beginning because they are so shallow and ideological. And their coverage of the US is very weak. It's definitely worth reading, but not cover to cover.

PK

I skim through the conclusions-we already know their bias but their articles are well written, even if we disagree. I concur with some other posters-what do you suggest we read instead?

DanielMittler

Reading The Economist every week in my view is a necessary test for any progressive political activist to check that you are still smarter than the opposition. So, I recommend it. But if you do start reading it again, make sure you complain to the Economist about their lousy distribution. All this talk of efficiency and the market sorting things out. And they can't even get their magazine to subscribers on Friday (when it comes out in Britain) and when you change your address it takes weeks for the subscription department to realize. Is it The Economist quietly admitting to market failure? Or is it just, er, crap service?

Casey

I like The Economist, not necessarily because I agree or disagree with their opinions (it tends to be about 50-50) but I like the short, to the point articles, the broad range of topics they cover and how much information it contains for a weekly magazine. I never read it cover to cover, but its the perfect magazine to have sitting around when you want to kill a few minutes and get stories you would never see in Time or Newsweek.

Barkley Rosser

We share a subscription with a colleague. He reads it first, which means we get it late. This actually pushed me at least to only read the odd articles that are on areas I have not seen covered in other media. They do have a much broader global coverage than other US media, although the FT is certainly higher quality in general these days. They have been good on the financial market coverage also, and their Economic Focus some other special features are good. Of course one does not know if they are distorted on those stories about places one is not reading about elsewhere, but then, how does one find about places one is not normally following?

Of course their coverage of the US went into the toilet some years ago when they decided that they needed to kiss up to the right wing elite readers in the US. Just pathetic.

Barkley Rosser

My wife and I share a subscription with a colleague, who reads it first. So, I just look at the few stories that cover things I have not seen elsewhere, plus a few features that are good. They do still have broad coverage, although the FT is probably better now. As noted by others, the worst problem has been the abysmal character of the US political coverage, apparently driven by a decision to appeal to the elite right wing crowd in the US. But, heck, I don't read The Economist to follow US politics anyway.

Jan Klingelhöfer

Well,

I admit being annoyed by the economist from time to time

Well, is it surprising to be mostly disappointed by articles about things you know most about? Seems rather obvious to me that this has to be the case with almost every newspaper. I am often annoyed by their coverage of Germany (being German I believe to know a bit about my country even if I am living in Sweden), and yes, I have been wondering how serious I can take articles about let's say France that I cannot judge if they get Germany not right. However, of course I am very annoyed by what most German Newspapers write too. Moreover you have sometimes to adjust for limited knowledge of an international readership, so it is maybe acceptable to call the German Bundesrat an upper house of Parliament even if it is not a verry accurate description.

What else should I read? It is still by far the best Newspaper out there and there ideological biases are very transperent to every reader,so I don't have a problem with them. (by the way, I have rather a problem with their social liberalism and their pro-immigration bias, just for the record).

Despite all: I love it and the new audio edition is amazing (and there subscription service sucks big time)

enigma_foundry

No, you shouldn't start reading it again, but I do make the case that you look at it's pictures... http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/2006/09/13/great-cover-wrong-article/

Jeff

Why pay for the The Economist?

Isn't everything on the net for free?

Oleg Volkov

The term "transparency of the biases" recalls me some anecdotes of the Pravda readers from the dashed Soviet Union era.

Seriously, I believe that these new audio version is promoting itself as a a great ESL learning tool.
Surprisingly diverse contexts and gazillions of well-trained voices: What else do we, language students, need?!!

By the way, what does the word "branewoshing" mean?

Francine

The Economist's US coverage went downhill when they started "regionalizing" their editions and hiring a bunch of young neo-con twits from Dartmouth to write the articles to their perceived American audience. Ana has it right: read it backwards (and ignore the US news coverage).

Oz

The Economists is decent in its African coverage, albeit sometimes too simplistic. I am an African economist and I read the economist.

Yaz

If you understand a little about economics and politics it is easy to take what you want from each article. However some of its biases are sickening....I find it hard to except them calling Russia's transition to capitalism...."A resounding success". We have enough journalism with free-market bias

WFrank

Nothing like a professor's name on paper to make him/her change his tune!

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i love to read the Economist. i have been reading it for years.

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Right on, I have also stopped reading the Economist. Their blatant belligerent rhetoric (especially against Iran) reminds me whether or not this magazine is a political tool than a news magazine.

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