Economist is an
English-language weekly magazine-format newspaper
owned by the
Economist Group and edited at offices in
London. Continuous publication began under its founder,
James Wilson, in September 1843. In 2015 its average weekly
circulation was a little over 1.5 million, about half of which were
sold in the United States.The publication belongs to the
Economist Group. It is 50% owned by the English branch of the
Rothschild family and by the
Agnelli family through its holding
company Exor. The remaining 50% is held by private investors including
the editors and staff. The Rothschilds and the Agnellis are
represented on the board of directors. A board of trustees
formally appoints the editor, who cannot be removed without its
permission. Although The
Economist has a global emphasis and scope,
about two-thirds of the 75 staff journalists are based in the London
borough of Westminster. For the year to March 2016 the Economist
Group declared operating profit of £61m. Previous major
shareholders include Pearson PLC.
Economist takes an editorial stance of classical and economic
liberalism that supports free trade, globalisation, free immigration,
and cultural liberalism (such as supporting legal recognition for
same-sex marriage or drug liberalisation). The publication has
described itself as "...a product of the Caledonian liberalism of Adam
Smith and David Hume". It targets highly educated, cultured
readers and claims an audience containing many influential executives
and policy-makers. The publication's CEO described this recent
global change, which was first noticed in the 1990s and accelerated in
the beginning of the 21st century, as a "new age of Mass
1.1 List of editors
3 Tone and voice
7.1 Innovation Awards
7.2 Writing prize
9 Criticism, accusation and praise
9.1 Praise and accolades
12 Further reading
13 External links
Front page of The
Economist on 16 May 1846
Economist was founded by the British businessman and banker James
Wilson in 1843, to advance the repeal of the Corn Laws, a system of
import tariffs. A prospectus for the "newspaper" from 5 August
1843 enumerated thirteen areas of coverage that its editors wanted the
publication to focus on:
Original leading articles, in which free-trade principles will be most
rigidly applied to all the important questions of the day.
Articles relating to some practical, commercial, agricultural, or
foreign topic of passing interest, such as foreign treaties.
An article on the elementary principles of political economy, applied
to practical experience, covering the laws related to prices, wages,
rent, exchange, revenue and taxes.
Parliamentary reports, with particular focus on commerce, agriculture
and free trade.
Reports and accounts of popular movements advocating free trade.
General news from the Court of St. James's, the Metropolis, the
Provinces, Scotland, and Ireland.
Commercial topics such as changes in fiscal regulations, the state and
prospects of the markets, imports and exports, foreign news, the state
of the manufacturing districts, notices of important new mechanical
improvements, shipping news, the money market, and the progress of
railways and public companies.
Agricultural topics, including the application of geology and
chemistry; notices of new and improved implements, state of crops,
markets, prices, foreign markets and prices converted into English
money; from time to time, in some detail, the plans pursued in
Belgium, Switzerland, and other well-cultivated countries.
Colonial and foreign topics, including trade, produce, political and
fiscal changes, and other matters, including exposés on the evils of
restriction and protection, and the advantages of free intercourse and
Law reports, confined chiefly to areas important to commerce,
manufacturing, and agriculture.
Books, confined chiefly, but not so exclusively, to commerce,
manufacturing, and agriculture, and including all treatises on
political economy, finance, or taxation.
A commercial gazette, with prices and statistics of the week.
Correspondence and inquiries from the news magazine's readers.
Wilson described it as taking part in "a severe contest between
intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance
obstructing our progress", a phrase which still appears on its
masthead as the publication's mission.
It has long been respected as "one of the most competent and subtle
Western periodicals on public affairs". The publication was a
major source of financial and economic information for
Karl Marx in
the formulation of socialist theory; he wrote: "the
the European organ of the aristocracy of finance, described most
strikingly the attitude of this class."
Its logo was designed in 1959 by Reynolds Stone.
In January 2012, The
Economist launched a new weekly section devoted
exclusively to China, the first new country section since the
introduction of a section about the United States in 1942.
In August 2015, The
Economist Group bought back 5 million of its
shares (worth $284 million) from Pearson. Pearson's remaining shares
(worth $447 million) would be sold to Exor.
List of editors
Walter Bagehot, one of the early Editors of The Economist
The editors of The
Economist have been:
James Wilson 1843–1857 (
Herbert Spencer was sub-editor from 1848 to
Richard Holt Hutton
Richard Holt Hutton 1857–1861
Walter Bagehot, 1861–1877
Daniel Conner Lathbury, 1877–1881 (jointly)
Inglis Palgrave, 1877–1883 (jointly)
Edward Johnstone, 1883–1907
Francis Wrigley Hirst, 1907–1916
Hartley Withers, 1916–1921
Sir Walter Layton, 1922–1938
Geoffrey Crowther, 1938–1956
Donald Tyerman, 1956–1965
Sir Alastair Burnet, 1965–1974
Andrew Knight, 1974–1986
Rupert Pennant-Rea, 1986–1993
Bill Emmott, 1993–2006
John Micklethwait, 2006–2014
Zanny Minton Beddoes, 2015–present
Main article: The
Economist editorial stance
Economist Building (until 2017), St James's Street, by Alison and
When the news magazine was founded, the term "economism" denoted what
would today be termed "economic liberalism". The
supports free trade, globalisation, and free immigration. The
activist and journalist
George Monbiot has described it as neo-liberal
while occasionally accepting the propositions of Keynesian economics
where deemed more "reasonable". The news magazine favours a carbon
tax to fight global warming. According to one former editor, Bill
Emmott, "the Economist's philosophy has always been liberal, not
conservative". Individual contributors take diverse views. The
Economist favours the support, through central banks, of banks and
other important corporations. This principle can, in a much more
limited form, be traced back to Walter Bagehot, the third editor of
The Economist, who argued that the Bank of England should support
major banks that got into difficulties.
Karl Marx deemed The Economist
the "European organ" of "the aristocracy of finance".
The news magazine has also supported liberal causes on social issues
such as recognition of gay marriages, legalisation of drugs,
criticises the US tax model, and seems to support some government
regulation on health issues, such as smoking in public, as well as
bans on spanking children. The
Economist consistently favours
guest worker programmes, parental choice of school, and amnesties
and once published an "obituary" of God. The
Economist also has a
long record of supporting gun control.
Economist has endorsed the Labour Party (in 2005) the Conservative
Party (in 2010 and 2015), and the Liberal Democrats (in 2017)
at general election time in Britain, and both Republican and
Democratic candidates in the United States. Economist.com puts its
stance this way:
What, besides free trade and free markets, does The
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". That is as true today as when Crowther [Geoffrey, Economist
editor 1938–1956] said it in 1955. The
Economist considers itself
the enemy of privilege, pomposity and predictability. It has backed
conservatives such as
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It has
supported the Americans in Vietnam. But it has also endorsed Harold
Wilson and Bill Clinton, and espoused a variety of liberal causes:
opposing capital punishment from its earliest days, while favouring
penal reform and decolonisation, as well as—more recently—gun
control and gay marriage.
Economist frequently accuses figures and countries of corruption
or dishonesty. In recent years, for example, it criticised Paul
World Bank president; Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Prime
Minister (who dubbed it The Ecommunist); Laurent-Désiré Kabila,
the late president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Robert
Mugabe, the head of government in Zimbabwe; and, recently, Cristina
Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentina. The Economist
also called for Bill Clinton's impeachment and, after the emergence of
the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse, for Donald Rumsfeld's
resignation. Though The
Economist initially gave vigorous support for
the US-led invasion of Iraq, it later called the operation "bungled
from the start" and criticised the "almost criminal negligence" of the
Bush Administration's handling of the war, while maintaining, in 2007,
that pulling out in the short term would be irresponsible. In the
2004 US election, the editors "reluctantly" backed John Kerry.
In the 2008 US election The
Economist endorsed Barack Obama, while
using the front cover of the issue published on the eve of the
election to promote his candidacy. In the 2012 US election, Barack
Obama was again endorsed: the editorial said that they preferred Obama
on the economy, foreign policy and health care, but criticised him for
running a negative campaign against Romney and for a "...poor
appreciation of commerce."
Tone and voice
Though it has many individual columns, by tradition and current
practice the magazine ensures a uniform voice—aided by the anonymity
of writers—throughout its pages, as if most articles were
written by a single author, which may be perceived to display dry,
understated wit, and precise use of language. The Economist
has traditionally—albeit not always consistently—persisted in
referring to itself as a "newspaper", rather than a newsmagazine, due
to the gradual pace of its transformation in format from newsprint to
glossy colour (articles were printed on the front page into the 1950s)
in addition to its general focus on current affairs as opposed to
The Economist's treatment of economics presumes a working familiarity
with fundamental concepts of classical economics. For instance, it
does not explain terms like invisible hand, macroeconomics, or demand
curve, and may take just six or seven words to explain the theory of
comparative advantage. Articles involving economics do not presume any
formal training on the part of the reader and aim to be accessible to
the educated layman. It usually does not translate short French (and
German) quotes or phrases. It does describe the business or nature of
even well-known entities, writing, for example, "Goldman Sachs, an
Many articles include some witticism; image captions are often
humorous puns and the letters section usually concludes with an odd or
light-hearted letter. These efforts at humour have sometimes had a
mixed reception. For example, the cover of the 20 September 2003
issue, headlined by a story on the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancún,
featured a cactus giving the middle finger. Readers sent both
positive and negative letters in response.
Articles often take a definite editorial stance and almost never carry
a byline. Not even the name of the editor (since 2015, Zanny Minton
Beddoes) is printed in the issue. It is a long-standing tradition
that an editor's only signed article during their tenure is written on
the occasion of their departure from the position. The author of a
piece is named in certain circumstances: when notable persons are
invited to contribute opinion pieces; when journalists of The
Economist compile special reports (previously known as surveys); for
the Year in Review special edition; and to highlight a potential
conflict of interest over a book review. The names of The Economist
editors and correspondents can be located on the media directory pages
of the website. Online blog pieces are signed with the initials of
the writer and authors of print stories are allowed to note their
authorship from their personal web sites. "This approach is not
without its faults (we have four staff members with the initials
"J.P.", for example) but is the best compromise between total
anonymity and full bylines, in our view", wrote one anonymous writer
of The Economist.
The editors say this is necessary because "collective voice and
personality matter more than the identities of individual
journalists" and reflects "a collaborative effort". In most
articles, authors refer to themselves as "your correspondent" or "this
reviewer". The writers of the titled opinion columns tend to refer to
themselves by the title (hence, a sentence in the "Lexington" column
might read "Lexington was informed...").
The American author Michael Lewis has criticised the magazine's
editorial anonymity, labeling it a means to hide the youth and
inexperience of those writing articles. In 1991 Lewis quipped: "The
magazine is written by young people pretending to be old people ... If
American readers got a look at the pimply complexions of their
economic gurus, they would cancel their subscriptions in droves".
Though widely believed, this description was (and is) factually false:
the four editors appointed in 1965, 1974, 1986 and 1993 were all aged
close to 37, no great age in journalism, even on appointment; and a
fair number of their colleagues were older than they.
Although individual articles are written anonymously, there is no
secrecy over who the writers are as they are listed on The Economist's
website, which also provides summaries of their careers and academic
John Ralston Saul
John Ralston Saul describes The
Economist as a "...magazine which
hides the names of the journalists who write its articles in order to
create the illusion that they dispense disinterested truth rather than
opinion. This sales technique, reminiscent of pre-Reformation
Catholicism, is not surprising in a publication named after the social
science most given to wild guesses and imaginary facts presented in
the guise of inevitability and exactitude. That it is the Bible of the
corporate executive indicates to what extent received wisdom is the
daily bread of a managerial civilization."
Each of The
Economist issue's official date range is from Saturday to
the following Friday. The
Economist posts each week's new content
online at approximately 2100 Thursday evening UK time, ahead of the
official publication date.
In 1877, the publication's circulation was 3,700, and in 1920 it had
risen to 6,000. Circulation increased rapidly after 1945, reaching
100,000 by 1970.
Circulation is audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). From
around 30,000 in 1960 it has risen to near 1 million by 2000 and by
2016 to about 1.3 million. Sales inside North America were in 2007
around 54 per cent of the total, with sales in the UK making up 14 per
cent of the total and continental Europe 19 per cent. The Economist
claims sales, both by subscription and at newsagents, in over 200
countries. Of its American readers, two out of three earn more than
$100,000 a year.
Economist once boasted about its limited circulation. In the early
1990s it used the slogan "The
Economist – not read by millions of
people". "Never in the history of journalism has so much been read for
so long by so few," wrote Geoffrey Crowther, a former editor.
Newspaper Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of The
Economist Group. The publications of the group include the CFO brand
family as well as the annual The World in..., the lifestyle bimonthly
1843, European Voice, and Roll Call. Sir Evelyn Robert de Rothschild
was Chairman of the company from 1972 to 1989.
Economist frequently receives letters from senior businesspeople,
politicians, ambassadors, and from spokespeople for various government
departments, non-governmental organisations and lobbies. Well-written
or witty responses from anyone are considered, and controversial
issues frequently produce a torrent of letters. For example, the
survey of corporate social responsibility, published January 2005,
produced largely critical letters from Oxfam, the World Food
Programme, United Nations Global Compact, the Chairman of BT Group, an
ex-Director of Shell and the UK Institute of Directors.
Many of the letters published are critical of its stance or
commentary. After The
Economist ran a critique of Amnesty
International and human rights in general in its issue dated 24 March
2007, its letters page ran a vibrant reply from Amnesty, as well as
several other letters in support of the organisation, including one
from the head of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Rebuttals from officials within regimes such as the Singapore
government are routinely printed, to comply with local right-of-reply
laws without compromising editorial independence.
It is extremely rare for any comment by The
Economist to appear
alongside any published letter. Letters published in the news magazine
are typically between 150 and 200 words long (and began with the
salutation "Sir" until the editorship of Zanny Minton Beddoes, the
first female editor; they now have no salutation). Previous to a
change in procedure, all responses to on-line articles were usually
published in "The Inbox". Comments can now be made directly under
Visualisation of the Big Mac Index
The Economist's primary focus is world events, politics and business,
but it also runs regular sections on science and technology as well as
books and the arts. Approximately every two weeks, the publication
includes an in-depth special report (previously called surveys) on
a given topic. The five main categories are Countries and Regions,
Business, Finance and Economics, Science and Technology, and Other.
Every three months, it publishes a technology report called Technology
Quarterly or TQ, a special section focusing on recent trends and
developments in science and technology.
Since July 2007, there has also been a complete audio edition of the
news magazine available 9pm
London time on Thursdays. The audio
version of The
Economist is produced by the production company Talking
Issues. The company records the full text of the news magazine in mp3
format, including the extra pages in the UK edition. The weekly 130 MB
download is free for subscribers and available for a fee for
The publication's writers adopt a tight style that seeks to include
the maximum amount of information in a limited space. David G.
Bradley, publisher of The Atlantic, described the formula as "a
consistent world view expressed, consistently, in tight and engaging
There is a section of economic statistics. Tables such as employment
statistics are published each week and there are special statistical
features too. It is unique among British weeklies in providing
authoritative coverage of official statistics and its rankings of
international statistics have been decisive. In addition, The
Economist is known for its Big Mac Index, which it first published in
1986, which uses the price of the hamburger in different countries as
an informal measure of the purchasing power of currencies.
The publication runs several opinion columns whose names reflect their
Analects (China) – named after The Analects, a collection of
Confucian sayings, this column was established in February 2012.
Bagehot (Britain) – named for
Walter Bagehot /ˈbædʒət/,
19th-century British constitutional expert and early editor of The
Economist. From July 2010 until June 2012 it was written by
David Rennie. Since April 2017 it has been written by Adrian
Bello (Latin America) – named for Andrés Bello, a diplomat, poet,
legislator and philosopher, who lived and worked in Chile. The
column was established in January 2014 and is written by Michael Reid.
Charlemagne (Europe) – named for Charlemagne, Emperor of the
Frankish Empire. It is written by Tom Nuttall and earlier it was
written by David Rennie (2007–2010) and by Anton La Guardia
Lexington (United States) – named for Lexington, Massachusetts, the
site of the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. From June
2010 until May 2012 it was written by Peter David, until his death in
a car accident.
Buttonwood (Finance) – named for the buttonwood tree where early
Wall Street traders gathered. Until September 2006 this was available
only as an on-line column, but it is now included in the print
edition. It is written by Philip Coggan.
Banyan (Asia) – named for the banyan tree, this column was
established in April 2009 and focuses on various issues across the
Asian continent, and is written by Dominic Ziegler.
Baobab (Africa & Middle East) – named for the baobab tree, this
column was established in July 2010 and focuses on various issues
across the African continent.
Babbage (Technology) – named for the inventor Charles Babbage, this
column was established in March 2010 and focuses on various technology
Prospero (Books and arts) – named after the character from William
Shakespeare's play The Tempest, this column reviews books and focuses
on arts-related issues.
Game Theory (Sport) – named after the science of predicting outcomes
in a certain situation, this column focuses on "sports major and
minor" and "the politics, economics, science and statistics of the
games we play and watch".
Schumpeter (Business) – named for the economist Joseph Schumpeter,
this column was established in September 2009 and is written by
Johnson (language) – named for Samuel Johnson, this column returned
to the publication in 2016 and covers language. It is written by
Robert Lane Greene.
Other regular features include:
Face Value, about prominent people in the business world
Free Exchange, a general economics column, frequently based on
academic research, replaced the column Economics Focus in January 2012
An obituary. Since 1997 it has been written by Ann Wroe.
sections on science and the arts
The news magazine goes to press on Thursdays, between 6pm and 7pm GMT,
and is available at newsagents in many countries the next day. It is
printed at seven sites around the world. Known on their website as
"This week's print edition", it is available online, albeit with only
the first five viewed articles being free (and available to
subscribers only mid-October 2009 – 2010).
Economist published in 2015 its first US college rankings, focused
on comparable economical advantages defined as 'the economic value of
a university is equal to the gap between how much its students
subsequently earn, and how much they might have made had they studied
elsewhere'. Based on set of strict criteria sourced from US Department
of Education ("College Scorecard") with relevant 'expected earnings'
and multiple statistics applied in calculation of 'median earnings'
conclusive evaluation method has been applied to run the scorecard's
earnings data through a multiple regression analysis, a common method
of measuring the relationships between variables.
Economist also produces the annual The World in [Year]
publication. It also sponsors a writing award.
Innovation Awards Logo
Economist sponsors the yearly "
Economist Innovation Awards", in
the categories of bioscience, computing and communications, energy and
the environment, social and economic innovation, business-process
innovation, consumer products, and a special "no boundaries"
category. The awards have been held since 2002. Nominations are
held between 2 and 30 April. The award ceremony is then hosted on 15
November. Choices are based off the following factors:
How much revenue their innovation has made their company or its
economic impact on a specific good cause or society in general
The effect their work has had on the marketplace (or if it's created a
whole new marketplace altogether)
The impact their innovation has had on a new type of science or
In 1999, The
Economist organized a global futurist writing
competition, The World in 2050. Co-sponsored by Royal Dutch/Shell, the
competition included a first prize of US$20,000 and publication in The
Economist's annual flagship publication, The World In. Over 3,000
entries from around the world were submitted via a website set up for
the purpose and at various
Royal Dutch Shell
Royal Dutch Shell offices worldwide.
The judging panel included Bill Emmott, Esther Dyson, Sir Mark
Moody-Stuart (then-chairman of Royal Dutch Shell), and Matt Ridley
(a British scientist and member of the House of Lords).
Sections of The
Economist criticising authoritarian regimes are
frequently removed from the magazine by the authorities in those
Economist regularly has difficulties with the ruling
party of Singapore, the People's Action Party, which had successfully
sued it, in a Singaporean court, for libel.
The Economist, like many other publications, is subjected to
India whenever it depicts a map of Kashmir. The maps are
stamped by Indian Customs officials as being "neither correct, nor
authentic". Issues are sometimes delayed, but not stopped or
On 15 June 2006,
Iran banned the sale of The
Economist when it
published a map labelling the
Persian Gulf simply as "Gulf"—a choice
that derives its political significance from the
Persian Gulf naming
In a separate incident, the government of
Zimbabwe went further and
imprisoned The Economist's correspondent there, Andrew Meldrum. The
government charged him with violating a statute on "publishing
untruth" for writing that a woman was decapitated by supporters of the
Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front party. The
decapitation claim was retracted and allegedly fabricated by the
woman's husband. The correspondent was later acquitted, only to
receive a deportation order.
On 19 August 2013, The
Economist disclosed that the Missouri
Department of Corrections had censored its issue of 29 June 2013.
According to the letter sent by the department, prisoners were not
allowed to receive the issue because "1. it constitutes a threat to
the security or discipline of the institution; 2. may facilitate or
encourage criminal activity; or 3. may interfere with the
rehabilitation of an offender".
Criticism, accusation and praise
James Fallows argued in
The Washington Post
The Washington Post that The
Economist used editorial lines that contradicted the news stories they
purported to highlight. In 1999,
Andrew Sullivan complained in The
New Republic that it uses "marketing genius" to make up for
deficiencies in analysis and original reporting, resulting in "a kind
of Reader's Digest" for America's corporate elite. Although
he acknowledged that the magazine's claim about the dotcom bubble
bursting would probably be accurate in the long run (the bubble burst
in the US market two years later), Sullivan pointed out that the
magazine greatly exaggerated the danger the US economy was in after
the Dow Jones fell to 7,400 during the 1998 Labor Day weekend. He also
said that The
Economist is editorially constrained because so many
scribes graduated from the same college at Oxford University, Magdalen
The Guardian wrote that "its writers rarely see a
political or economic problem that cannot be solved by the trusted
three-card trick of privatisation, deregulation and
In 2008, Jon Meacham, former editor of
Newsweek and a self-described
"fan", criticised The Economist's focus on analysis over original
In 2012, The
Economist was accused of hacking into the computer of
Mohammed Nizamul Huq of the Bangladesh Supreme Court, leading
to his resignation as the chairman of the International Crimes
Tribunal. The magazine denied the
In 2014, the magazine withdrew a harshly-criticised review of a book
by Edward Baptist on slavery and American capitalism; The Economist
had complained that "[a]lmost all the blacks in his book are victims,
almost all the whites villains." Baptist attributed the harsh
review to the magazine's adherence to "free-market fundamentalist"
theories, "the idea that everything would be better if measured first
and last by its efficiency at producing profit."
Praise and accolades
In 2005, the
Chicago Tribune named it the best English-language
magazine noting its strength in international reporting "where it does
not feel moved to cover a faraway land only at a time of unmitigated
disaster" and that it kept a wall between its reporting and its more
conservative editorial policies.
^ The title and its design are references to the book
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