Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 3, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE ECONOMIST BLOGS....Over at its new politics blog, the Economist, speaking of itself in the third person, summarizes its midterm election recommendations:

The Economists advice for the mid-term elections is this: throw the Republicans out. The Democrats may be incoherent, it says, but they can scarcely do worse than the Republicans have done already. A few independent-minded Republicans deserve to keep their seats, it says, but in general, sometimes ruling parties become so addled and incompetent that they need to be punished.

This is, potentially, bad news for Democrats, since my sense is that the Economist has a pretty bad track record at endorsements. Sort of like the Sports Illustrated jinx. But I've never checked that out rigorously, and since I don't read the magazine anymore I don't know how they've done lately. Maybe their political antennae have gotten better recently. Or maybe I'm just wrong.

You may be thinking, by the way, that the reason I no longer read the Economist is because of their tiresome conservative tilt and increasingly formulaic writing a frequent subject of criticism in the liberal blogosphere. But that's not it. Not mainly, anyway. The real reason is that several years ago they opened a new printing plant designed to make their American operations more efficient. It was based in California, I think, which seemed like good news for me.

Unfortunately, "seemed" is not "is." What happened was that instead of receiving the magazine on Friday or, at the latest, Saturday, I began receiving it on Monday or Tuesday. Since it's a weekly magazine that goes to press on Thursday, that made it hopelessly out of date by the time I got my copy, and since the weekend had passed it meant that I often didn't get around to reading it at all. Eventually, I just gave up.

But now their content is online for free, and they have a couple of new blogs as well. The American politics blog is called Democracy in America and the economics blog is called Free Exchange. They're both worth checking out.

Kevin Drum 12:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

I stopped reading it several years ago due to the frat-boy smugness, which even preceded the start of the Bush regime.

Posted by: Chukuriuk on November 3, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Economist may be out of date by the time I get it, and it is a huge effort to read in its entirety, and it is very expensive, but frankly, I think it provides some of the best international news coverage there is to be had. Their coverage of the Israeli-Hizbollah war this past summer was historically very well-informed, philosophically sophisticated, and while slightly pro-Israeli (which I do not have any problem with), on the whole very balanced and nuanced. In short I love the Economist.

What does this say about its endorsements in the American political arena? I don't know. But at least they are right.

Posted by: lisainvan on November 3, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a liberal who still enjoys the Economist, but its coverage of American politics has always been my least favorite aspect of the magazine. I've always had this vague hope that, as a British media outlet, they would have a fresh or at least disinterested perspective on American politics. That hope has repeatedly been dashed, as they offer the same media cliches about Democrats and Republicans that I can get from CNN.

Buy, hey, at least they endorsed Kerry. Oh, wait...

Posted by: Adam on November 3, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I stopped my subscription to The Economist after being laid off in the early '90's. I could not afford the $100 plus yearly cost. When it endorsed Bush in 2000, I knew I would never subscribe again, since I thought it traded objectivity for ideology. I still read it on-line because some of its economic and business reporting are worth reading.

Posted by: Hostile on November 3, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

You may be thinking, by the way, that the reason I no longer read the Economist is because of their tiresome conservative tilt and increasingly formulaic writing a frequent subject of criticism in the liberal blogosphere.

Actually, I was thinking that the great unwashed masses, who swing like an ape in the jungle from election to election, don't read the Economist (or blogs for that matter), so who cares? The only people who are aware of the Economist and other serious magazines made up their minds a loooong time ago about this election (and the one in 2004, 2002 and 2000).

Posted by: JeffII on November 3, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Newspapers are out of date the morning they are at my door because I got all the new news on the blogs the night before.

I read the Times for the special cultural sections and the op-eds. Newspapers will become magazines, with emphasis on arts, culture, shopping, human interest etc....NEWS will go to the internet because news is NOW.

News magazines have an even harder road ahead.
I love The Week, in theory, but if you are on the internet, it is all old news.

The New York Post is popular because news is not what it does, not really. It does gossip, enertainment AND business gossip and it has a great sports section. It will do fine.

Posted by: lilybart on November 3, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

I presumed that I was the only one receiving the Economist later in the week. Now I know that I am not alone and I have an explanation for the reason. Thanks. The rather good analysis makes it worth the wait -- and it hasn't turned into People magazine or Today's Health, like Newsweek, Time, and US News have.

Posted by: mike on November 3, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I second many of the criticisms of the Economist cited by others above and by Kevin. I still read it, though, mainly because I think it's the best newsweekly available; by comparison, NewsPeople and TimeForMorePeople are just fluff...

For me, it's a good read on a long, boring flight.

Posted by: Wonderin on November 3, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I loved the Economist for years -- they gave Bush the benefit of the doubt over and over and over and over and over again! Cheer-led the war, etc. And Lexington -- a great model for Al!

Posted by: Al's Mommy on November 3, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

I subscribed briefly, but the flaws in their coverage of the US made me doubt the quality of their international coverage.

Posted by: mwg on November 3, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

The Economist is a very good magazine. I agree with the general consensus that you have to filter what they say a bit more than in the past, but it's still fantastically better than any comparable American newsweekly. Plus, their U.S. coverage is only a small part of the magazine, and it's the rest of the magazine that's their relative advantage anyway. They actually cover the world as if the non-U.S. part of the world matters.

I should add that this superiority is generally true of British magazines. Pick just about any subject, from photography to gossip, and the British magazines are just way superior to their U.S. counterparts. It's kind of embarrassing, actually.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on November 3, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The Economist is much like any other group focused on making money: they give the customer what they want. alas, that is the state of the news in today's world (and no different here in the blogosphere, may I add). Since the Economist is British, they have a unique viewpoint on the world. But the majority of their subscrioptions now are in the US. They have to cater to that group, and since that group is split between liberals and conservatives, they are as well. Their editorials are interesting for what they are. Their news is great, however, as it covers details of Malawi politics and Kashmir separatists that no one else does as well. ALL news is subject to the distortions of the lens of the writer and the reader, Kevin. Your column is a great example. But when grazing at the modern buffet of information, it is important to get a the news groups over time, or one develops an imbalance. Vive L'economist

Posted by: Chris on November 3, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Five or ten years ago when I first started intermittently reading the economist I found that once opened I realized that I should read nearly every article in it. Not that I always did, but I felt I should.

Today not so much, and I don't read it so much.

I actually have not bought a copy since the one with the article about the meaning of wealth and sociological research. They profiled some poor guy in the appilacians and a doctor in sub-saharan africa. The facts were very interesting. The appilacian rural welfare case has a color tv, a car, and a trailer. He is poorly educated, depressed and knows no one he encounters has any respect for him and nothing he does in life matters to anyone. The doctor has a shanty and has seen his income fall some huge amount over the past five years but it looked up to and respected in his neighborhood. The author's spin was tiresome and predictable. Look, color tv! Afterall accumulation of posessions is the most important thing to human happieness. Wait what the hell was this article about anyway? Oh yea research that says that this isn't the case.

Posted by: jefff on November 3, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin -
The Economist's distribution problems are not as bad as they once were.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on November 3, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

The Economist was a very good magazine, and my favorite way to get my international news.

However, since appointing John Micklethwait the editor-in-chief back in March of this year, their political bias has gone from classic liberal to conservative apologist. Whenever they write about the American left they sneak in little jabs, and when they write about the American right they give them a tremendous benefit of the doubt. They're really wearing the baseless faith of their new boss on their sleeve these days.

This is not surprising, given Micklethwait's history as a complete conservative apologist. However, it is regrettable; I've subscribed for years.

We won't be renewing our subscription this year.

Links:
Micklethwait named editor-in-chief
Micklethwait's book _The Right Nation_

Posted by: S Ra on November 3, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

This is not surprising, given Micklethwait's history as a complete conservative apologist. However, it is regrettable; I've subscribed for years.

We won't be renewing our subscription this year.
Posted by: S Ra

I didn't renew The Atlantic back in about 2002 for similar reasons. That was about the time when Michael Kelly (who later died in a vehicle crash in Iraq) was made editor, and they started featuring P.J. O'Rourke, Hitchens and Kaplan on a regular basis.

Posted by: JeffII on November 3, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin . . . *every* subscription to the print magazine comes with a web subscription absolutely free, allowing you to read the whole thing on Thursday afternoon, before any of the print subscribers.

I'm just sayin' . . . ;-)

btw, thanks for the link!!!

Posted by: Jane Galt on November 3, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Actually I was shocked that you've actually read anythink regarding economics before.

Posted by: aaron on November 3, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

"This is, potentially, bad news for Democrats, since my sense is that the Economist has a pretty bad track record at endorsements. Sort of like the Sports Illustrated jinx."

What are you talking about??? They endorsed Bush over Gore and Bush over Kerry.

Posted by: captcrisis on November 3, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Kevin, I couldn't resist.

Posted by: aaron on November 3, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

fortunately, i don't pay for my Economist subscription, but i feel only their domestic coverage is wildly skewed- like, right off the talking points skewed. my theory is that it's so much harder to find a high-quality english-speaking reporter who understands, say, Bangladesh or Ghana that they can't afford to discriminate ideologically. their US political coverage is laughable- everything from calling Hillary a "favorite of the left" to saying the Democrats came up with the name "nuclear option" referring to last year's judicial nonsense. only reporters who speak near-exclusively with Republicans- or intentionally lie, which I don't think is the case- would make those mistakes.

Posted by: anon on November 3, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

aaron, they endorsed kerry over bush in 2004.

Posted by: anon on November 3, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Has anybody told the folks over at The Economist that Her Majesty Queen Victoria has gone to her final reward? Also that there has been a slight decline in the British Empire as of late.

Alas, some alarmists are now saying that the web of interlocking alliances amongst the great powers of Europe may lead to a Great War, and a consequent disruption of the Great Age of Free Trade. Silly people, don't they know that Free Trade prevents war? Just ask the Indians or the Chinese.

Posted by: alex on November 3, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Following the rather shop-worn advice to always click the link,I did and read the comments appended.Two of the people who took the time to write their comments were voting Republican and the reasons were right out of Limbaugh,Hannity et al."If Pelosi gets to be Speaker she's going to impeach Bush" and,and she'll prolly appoint Hugo Chavez to the security council and and they're weak on terror and and education.
Jeez,you'd think if they took that much time to write down their thoughts,they'd be better informed....oh,never mind.

Posted by: TJM on November 3, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I should add that this superiority is generally true of British magazines. Pick just about any subject, from photography to gossip, and the British magazines are just way superior to their U.S. counterparts. It's kind of embarrassing, actually.

It's cultural. That's what happens when circulation and ad revenue is your only - not main, but only - metric for success.

Posted by: craigie on November 3, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

They endorsed Clinton in 92, Dole in 96, Bush in 2000, and Kerry in 2004. (In 1988 they recommended neither).

I don't think this record does corresponds either to a "tiresome conservative tilt" or to a jinx.

Posted by: paul on November 3, 2006 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think this record does corresponds either to a "tiresome conservative tilt" or to a jinx.
Posted by: paul

I believe the people making this point are refering to the magazine's political shift in the last few years, not the last two decades.

Posted by: JeffII on November 3, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, "seemed" is not "is." What happened was that instead of receiving the magazine on Friday or, at the latest, Saturday, I began receiving it on Monday or Tuesday.

Kevin: I had the same experience back in Boston in the early 90s. Their mail delivery system sucked back then (maybe the USPS service had something to do with it, but the publisher should have been aware of the situation and adjusted accordingly). I eventually decided to buy it at the newsstand instead, and ultimately migrated to web-only.

Posted by: Jasper on November 3, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

However, since appointing John Micklethwait the editor-in-chief back in March of this year, their political bias has gone from classic liberal to conservative apologist. Whenever they write about the American left they sneak in little jabs, and when they write about the American right they give them a tremendous benefit of the doubt.

I think this has more to do with the Democrats' abandoning free trade than anything else. Promotion of free market economics is, after all, is why the magazine was started in the first place.

Now, we all know pefectly well the GOP talks a much better game on Adam Smith than it actually walks. Still, support of free trade and free markets remains at least the default position of Republicans.

The Wal-Mart bashin', minimum wage raisin', "fair trade" promotin' Democratic party, by contrast, is looking decidedly more Leninist in its economic rhetoric these days than at any point in my lifetime . You can hardly expect the editorial tone of a publication founded to promote free market economics to be immune to this trend.

Posted by: Jasper on November 3, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK
I don't think this record does corresponds either to a "tiresome conservative tilt" or to a jinx.

Yeah, seems to be more of a constant endorsement of the non-incumbent party.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 3, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

The economist is great because it tells you what its slant is. It is an opinionated review not a news magazine. This is different from say Time or NYT that tells you the truth. They believe in free trade. Period. They don't care if that makes them right or left. This makes them incomprehensable to americans who are obsessed with these picune meaningless distingtions.

Yes, it has a peurile enthusiasm for the free market. Yes it gets the US wrong a lot. Unfortunately there is no substitute for it.

And as for being late, very often it picks up a trend two months ahead of TIME. So if you read it a month late, its still ahead of the US media that lives in it's one-day-ahead-one-day-behind window of reality. Of course everyone beats the NYT magazine which ussually catchs up to what everyone has been talking about a week after they finish talking about it.

My subscription to Eco runs out in 2009! ( he screamed with economist-like sophmoric glee)

Posted by: exclab on November 3, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

I used to get the Economist late as well but recently it started arriving on Thursdays and occasionally on Fridays. I find it a great resource for finance/economics and international news. While the magazine has a conservative tilt on some issues it also supports gay marriage, long ago called for Rumsfeld to resign, supported Kerry for president and so on. I don't think one can really pin down The Economist except maybe on issues such as globalization.

Posted by: dloberk on November 4, 2006 at 3:24 AM | PERMALINK

But why would anyone want news and commentary in hard copy--recreational recycling?

Posted by: BroD on November 4, 2006 at 7:03 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: 手机图片 on November 4, 2006 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I stopped subscribing to The Economist when they endorsed Bush for the 2004 election. I did not see how a journal that calls itself The Economist could support the Bush Administration fiscal and monetary policies.

Posted by: Marcia Halvorsen on November 4, 2006 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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