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Was The Economist always this left-leaning?

Posted by Lissa on November 11, 2009

I used to read the Economist much more diligently than I do today.  Back in college, it was in my mind the “right-leaning” publication I read to keep balanced.  Later on, it was the business-centric publication that I read to keep an eye on foreign affairs.  I let my interest lapse and I haven’t regularly read the magazine (or “newspaper” as they call it) for a few years.

Until this weekend.  I was on the train to my choir dress rehearsal when I realized I’d left my Kindle at home.  (AAUUGGGHHH!  Nightmares!!)  Peeved, but resigned, I stopped by CVS to buy an Economist for rehearsal downtime and the train ride back.

As I read, I was at first amused, then surprised, then astonished by the continuous leftward slant.  The first two sections yielded gems such as:

– “What’s more, the parts of the world where populations are growing fastest are also those most vulnerable to climate change, and a rising population will exacerbate the consequences of global warming — water shortages, mass migration, declining food yields.”

– “Only Chinese-style coercion would bring [population growth] down much below [8.5 billion]; and forcing poor people to have fewer children than they want because the rich consume too many of the world’s resources would be immoral.”

– “Falling fertility may be making poor people’s lives better, but it cannot save the Earth.  That lies in our own hands.”

– “One of the aims of imprisonment is to give miscreants a shove in the right direction, through job-training, Jesus or whatever does the trick.  Allowing prisoners to vote will not magically reconnect them with society, but it will probably do more good than excluding them.”

– “Serving prisoners are not numerous enough to swing many elections.  But once a government uses disenfranchisement as a sanction, it is tempted to take things further.  Consider those American states where the suspension of prisoners’ votes has morphed into a lifelong ban; in Republican-controlled Florida, for instance, nearly a third of black men cannot vote — enough to have swung the 2000 presidential election.”

– (in envisioning a poor farmer industrializing and moving towards greater wealth/lower fertility) “Now imagine you are a bit richer.  You may have moved to a town, or your village may have grown.  Schools, markets and factories are within reach.  And suddenly, the incentives change. [snip] Perhaps the state provides a pension and you no longer need children to look after you.  And perhaps your wife is no longer willing to bear endless offspring.”  (Really?  The only way to have retirement wealth is to be pensioned off by the state?  And the only reason you have fewer children is because your wife finally put her foot down and stopped popping them out?)

“The bad news is that the girls who will give birth to the coming, larger generations have already been born.  The good news is that they will want far fewer children than their mothers or grandmothers did.”  (Thanks.  Thanks so much.)

– “Japan and southern Europe have clung to older ways, discouraging women from working and frowning on single-parent families; there, fertility has stayed low, presumably because women resist what they see as unwelcome social pressure by having fewer children.”  (That is quite a presumption.  Me, I’d assume that having one working parent versus two working parents encourage fewer children because you’re got fewer people earning money to support them.  No, they never provide any sort of reasoning or backup for their statement.)

So what gives, folks?  I used to think The Economist was perfectly middle-of-the-road.  Now, to my eyes, it has a conspicuously leftward slant.

I know that in England even the Right leans Left.  But has this slant increased in the last few years?  Or is it just that I’m looking with new eyes?

13 Responses to “Was The Economist always this left-leaning?”

  1. Tam said

    Lissa, I’m sorry to say that it’s always been every bit as centrist and neutral as CBS and NBC.

  2. alan said

    Yep, it’s always leaned leftwards. Unfortunately so have most economists.

  3. You nailed it, Lissa…you’re looking at it with new eyes.

    There’s an old saying…”with Age, comes Wisdom”. You’ve grown older and wiser, and have come to see the world not through the rose-colored glasses of high ideals and lofty dreams, but through the looking glass of Time, and you now have enough of a path of where you’ve been etched into your memory, and as such have a much better understanding of what lies ahead.

    Wow…thats really deep. I need another cup of coffee… 😉

  4. Borepatch said

    I’m with Tam. Other than I don’t know for a fact that they forged documents in a “report”.

    It’s useful to remember that The Economist is out of London, and is described correctly as “Conservative” there. That just means that the playing field is titled even further to the left over there than here. It’s probably more precise to say “elitist” than “leftist”, which leads to their general support for initiatives led by an elite.

    I suspect that you’re not getting more conservative, but rather less elitist. Certainly that was my journey.

  5. TBeck said

    It seems like every new generation of journalists eventually rediscovers Thomas Malthuus…

  6. Mike said

    The Economist doesn’t fit well in the American political spectrum because their slant tends to favor big nanny states, but also free trade (the Economist actually started as a spin-off from an anti-protectionism organization in the 1800s). I don’t always agree with the commentary, but it’s overall pretty well-done.

    By the way, Borepatch, I don’t agree with you that they are elitist. On America, the coverage may be because their own preferences are the same as elitists’. When looking elsewhere, they seem to recognize all the problems with the stuff they want America to adopt. Perhaps the bias shows up largely from language skills: they can send British journalism grads (who are likely very leftist) to cover American stories, but may have to hire locals who speak the language elsewhere.

  7. Ed said

    The Economist seems to be “classically liberal”, i.e. what Americans would call libertarian.

    • Bobby said

      Americans are dumb if they confuse liberal with libertarian… or is that what you think it is Ed? Read Forbes… that is if you can look past the 70% of the magazine that is ads.

      • Ric Caruso said

        Maybe lil’ wannabe “libertarians” are just too dumb to realize that “libertarianism” IS the new-Liberalism. With only a few Dollars difference.

  8. Anonymous said

    It is getting worse and worse. I have had some form of subscription since my university days (about 10 years now) and I will not be renewing it again. They are creeping into shameless territory with their bias against the right. It is more troubling when you are trying to gain insight into other parts of the world I do not have a familiarity with. If it is known that they slant one area it stands to reason the news from other reasons is similarly slanted and we are just reading what they want you to hear. Unfortunate for such a newspaper but the last few years have seen it get worse and worse. It used to be just the US mainstream media but now its apparently trendy to bash one side and gloss over any negative hapenings in the other.

  9. TE said

    I recently ran with a short 12 week subscription and will not renew. As the election has progressed I intentionally tracked each weeks issue. Never is there a mention of the negative issues within the democratic party. Conversely, they repeatedly disrespect the intelligence of the right wing. – disappointing.


    Thank you for this post!
    I don’t know the magazine, cause I am brazilian and here in Brazil it is not on sale.
    But I came to know the magazine recently brought an article in the cover that attacks the only one Brazilian conservative candidate to president that leads the polls with wide advantage in those last 30 years.
    It made me think the magazine has a specific bias, then, after reading your post, it became more clear.

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