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I caught a few short flights around South Africa this week. I forgot to take reading material and so found myself reluctantly standing in the magazine section of the airport bookshop choosing the lesser of many evils to tide me over 10km above sea level.
I dislike magazines. They rarely inform. Financial/Economic magazines are among the most annoying. But on this occasion I was desperate for something, and I took the plunge and bought The Economist. I can’t remember when last I paid money for this mag, but in the past 10 years I’ve probably only purchased it a handful of times.
I soon remembered why. What a bore! I can’t call to mind one opinion that resonated or that struck me as fresh or unorthodox. The publication has stagnated into a centrist, mixed-economy snoozefest. In all honesty I hadn’t expected better, but when you part with R50 your inner utility maximising self tries to get the most out of the deal. It was like drawing water out of a stone.
It’s not all bad of course. Some of it is mildly informative. But The Economist is all about quantity over quality. Week in, week out it provides some 80 pages of words.
I chatted to Gareth Brickman about it and he seemed to sum at least part of the problem up. Apart from its bad, wishy washy, ‘statist quo’ economics, The Economist is actually hardly about economics! Page through and you’ll find it’s far more about politics than economics. When it does delve into economics, it can barely do so without bringing it all back to politics. Almost all of its main stories are chiefly political pieces. The Economist loves talking electoral politics, geopolitics, local politics, left-right politics, emerging market politics, and about politicians themselves.
Whether it’s Africa or Asia, the US or Europe, Canada, the UK, or Russia, The Economist has got the politics covered.
As for the economics, best you go somewhere else.
Perhaps it’s time The Economist got real and changed its name to The Politician?