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The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in an office in the City of Westminstermarker, Londonmarker. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843. While The Economist calls itself a "newspaper", each issue appears on glossy paper, like a newsmagazine. In 2009, it reported an average circulation of just over 1.4 million copies per issue, about half of which are sold in North America.

The Economist claims it "is not a chronicle of economics." Rather, it aims "to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress." It practices advocacy journalism in taking an editorial stance based on free trade and globalisation, but also the expansion of government health and education spending and the government support of banks and other financial enterprises in danger of bankruptcy. It targets highly educated readers and claims an audience containing many influential executives and policy-makers.

The publication belongs to The Economist Group, half of which is owned by the Financial Times, a subsidiary of Pearson PLC. A group of independent shareholders, including many members of the staff and the Rothschild banking family of England, owns the rest. A board of trustees formally appoints the editor, who cannot be removed without its permission. In addition, about two-thirds of the seventy-five staff journalists are based in London, despite the global emphasis.


The Economist's primary focus is world news, politics and business, but it also runs regular sections on science and technology as well as books and the arts. Every two weeks, the publication adds an in-depth special report on a particular issue, business sector or geographical region. Every three months, it publishes a technology report called Technology Quarterly or TQ.

Articles often take a definite editorial stance and almost never carry a byline. Not even the name of the editor (from 2006, John Micklethwait) is printed in the issue. It is a longstanding tradition that an editor's only signed article during his tenure is written on the occasion of his departure from the position. The author of a piece is named in certain circumstances: when notable persons are invited to contribute opinion pieces; when Economist writers compile special reports; and to highlight a potential conflict of interest over a book review. The names of The Economist editors and correspondents can be located, however, via the media directory pages of the website.

The publication's writers adopt a tight style that seeks to include the maximum amount of information in a limited space. Atlantic Monthly publisher David G. Bradley described the formula as "a consistent world view expressed, consistently, in tight and engaging prose."

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. This uses the price of a Big Mac hamburger sold by McDonald's in different countries as an informal measure of the purchasing power of currencies.

The publication runs several opinion columns whose names reflect their topic:

Other regular features include:

  • Face Value about prominent people in the business world
  • Economics Focus: a general economics column, frequently based on academic research
  • An obituary
  • sections on science and the arts

The newspaper goes to press on Thursdays, is available online (where it was free until mid-October 2009) from Thursday between 6 and 7pm GMT, and is available on newsstand in many countries the next day. It is printed at seven sites around the world.

The Economist also produces the annual The World in [Year] publication. It also sponsors a writing award.

Innovation Awards

In addition, it sponsors yearly "The 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.


Front page of The Economist, on 16 May 1846

The 5 August 1843 prospectus for the "newspaper," enumerated thirteen areas of coverage that its editors wanted the newspaper to focus on:
  1. Original leading articles, in which free-trade principles will be most rigidly applied to all the important questions of the day.
  2. Articles relating to some practical, commercial, agricultural, or foreign topic of passing interest, such as foreign treaties.
  3. 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.
  4. Parliamentarymarker reports, with particular focus on commerce, agriculture, and free trade.
  5. Reports and accounts of popular movements advocating free trade.
  6. General news from the Court, the Metropolismarker, the Provinces, Scotland, and Ireland.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 trade.
  10. Law reports, confined chiefly to areas important to commerce, manufacturing, and agriculture.
  11. Books, confined chiefly, but not so exclusively, to commerce, manufacturing, and agriculture, and including all treatises on political economy, finance, or taxation.
  12. A commercial gazette, with prices and statistics of the week.
  13. Correspondence and inquiries from the newspaper's readers.

In 1845 during Railway Mania, The Economist changed its name to The Economist, Weekly Commercial Times, Bankers' Gazette, and Railway Monitor. A Political, Literary and General Newspaper.


When the newspaper was founded, the term "economism" denoted what would today be termed "fiscal conservatism" in the United States, or "economic liberalism" in the rest of the world (and historically in the United States as well). The Economist generally supports free markets, globalisation, and free immigration, has been described as neo-liberal.. However, the Economist has also long supported more government health and education spending and supports government "stimulus" spending during recessions and the bailing out of banks and other financial industry enterprises. It also supports social progressivism, including legalised drugs and prostitution. This contrast is attributed to The Economist's roots in classical liberalism, disfavoring government interference in either social or economic activity, although the newspaper favors a carbon tax to fight global warming. According to former editor Bill Emmott, "the Economist's philosophy has always been liberal, not conservative." Individual contributors take diverse views.

The Economist has endorsed both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party in recent British elections, and both Republican and Democratic candidates in the United States. puts its stance this way:

The Economist frequently accuses figures and countries of corruption or dishonesty. In recent years, for example, it criticised former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Prime Minister (who dubbed it The Ecommunist); Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the late president of the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker; Robert Mugabe, the head of government in Zimbabwemarker and, recently, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentinamarker. The Economist also called for Bill Clinton's impeachment and later for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation after the emergence of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse. The Economist initially was a vocal supporter for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but it has since called the operation "bungled from the start" and criticised the "almost criminal negligence" of the Bush Administration’s handling of the war, while maintaining, as of April 2008, that pulling out in the short term would be irresponsible. In the 2004 U.S. election, the editors "reluctantly" backed John Kerry. In the 2008 U.S. election the newspaper endorsed Barack Obama, while using the election eve issue's front cover to promote his candidacy. The paper has also supported some left-wing issues such as progressive taxation, criticising the U.S. tax model in a recent issue, 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 programs, parental choice of school, and amnesties and once published an "obituary" of God. The Economist also has a long record of supporting gun control.

Tone and voice

The Economist does not print by-lines identifying the authors of articles other than surveys and special "by invitation" contribution. The editors say this is necessary because "collective voice and personality matter more than the identities of individual journalists." Authors in most articles refer to themselves within articles 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 that "Lexington was informed...").

The editorial staff enforces a uniform voice throughout its pages, as if most articles were written by a single author, displaying dry, understated wit, and precise use of language. The paper'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. However, articles involving economics do not presume any formal training on the part of the reader and aim to be accessible to the educated layperson. The newspaper usually does not translate short French quotes or phrases, and sentences in Ancient Greek or Latin are not uncommon. It does, however, describe the business or nature of even well-known entities; writing, for example, "Goldman Sachs, an investment bank."

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 Cancúnmarker WTO ministerial meeting, featured a cactus giving the middle finger. Readers sent both positive and negative letters in response.


Each Economist issue's official date range is from Saturday to the next Friday. In the UK print copies are dispatched late Thursday, for Friday delivery to retail outlets. Elsewhere, retail outlets and subscribers receive their copies on Friday or (more often) Saturday, depending on their location. The Economist Web site posts each week's new content by Friday morning, ahead of the official publication date.

Circulation for the newspaper, audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), was over 1.2 million for the first half of 2007.Sales inside North America were around 54 percent of the total, with sales in the UK making up 14 percent of the total and continental Europe 19 percent. The Economist claims sales, both by subscription and on newsstands, in over 200 countries. Global sales have doubled since 1997. Of its American readers, two out of three make more than $100,000 a year.

The 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.

The Economist 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 quarterly Intelligent Life, European Voice, and Roll Call. Sir Evelyn Robert de Rothschild was Chairman of the company from 1972 to 1989.


The Economist frequently receives letters from senior businesspeople, politicians and spokespeople for government departments, non-governmental organisations and lobbies, but 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 newspaper are typically between 150 and 200 words long (and begin with the ritual salutation "Sir"). Previous to a change in procedure, all responses to online articles were usually published in " The Inbox". However, now comments can be made directly under each article.


Sections of The Economist criticising authoritarian regimes, are frequently removed from the newspaper by the authorities in those countries. The Economist regularly has difficulties with the ruling party of Singapore, which had successfully sued it, in a Singaporean court, for libel.

On 15 June 2006 Iranmarker banned the sale of The Economist when it published a map labelling the Persian Gulfmarker simply as "Gulf"—a choice that derives its political significance from the Persian Gulf naming dispute.

In a separate incident, Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwemarker went further, and imprisoned Andrew Meldrum, The Economist's correspondent there. The government charged him with violating a statute on "publishing untruth" for writing that a woman was decapitated by Mugabe supporters. The decapitation claim was retracted and allegedly fabricated by the woman's husband. The correspondent was later acquitted, only to receive a deportation order.

Special features

Roughly every two weeks, The Economist publishes special reports (previously called surveys) on a given topic (list of special reports). The five main categories are Countries and Regions, Business, Finance and Economics, Science and Technology, and Other. The reports are series of (bylined) summary and analysis articles. Every three months, it publishes a " Technology Quarterly," 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 newspaper available 5pm London time on Fridays, the day after the print newspaper's publication. A group of British newsreaders records the full text of the newspaper 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 non-subscribers.


James Fallows argued in The Washington Post that The Economist suffers from British class snobbery, pretentiousness, and simplistic argumentation—and that the editorial line is often contradicted by actual news stories. 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. (However, criticism in the same 1999 article regarding as-yet-unfulfilled pronouncements by The Economist that the American stock market was overvalued was proven wrong a few months later when the Dot-com bubble burst.) He also said that The Economist is editorially constrained because so many scribes graduated from the same college at Oxford University: Magdalen College, Oxfordmarker. The Observer 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 liberalisation."

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, although he still described himself as a "fan", criticises The Economist's focus on analysis over original reporting. Elsewhere, the publication is said to have an “omniscient tone and pedantry." Editorial anonymity, said by the editor to reflect “a collaborative effort,” is said to hide the youth and inexperience of those writing articles. "The magazine is written by young people pretending to be old people," according to American author Michael Lewis. “If American readers got a look at the pimply complexions of their economic gurus, they would cancel their subscriptions in droves."

John Ralston Saul defines 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."


The editors of The Economist have been:



During the 1970s, the Economist's reports on South Africa were written by South African journalist Allister Sparks. Business reports were written by Graham Hatton and other reports by Benjamin Pogrund. All articles were edited (but not rewritten) by an Africa editor in London. This was John Grimond during the first half of the 1970s. The magazine's "Foreign Report", also published during the 1970s, was edited by Robert Moss.

Appearance in popular culture

The Simpsons episode "Catch 'Em If You Can" alluded to the snob appeal of The Economist in an exchange between Homer and Marge Simpson while they are traveling first-class aboard an airplane:

Homer: "Look at me, I'm reading The Economist! Did you know Indonesiamarker is at a crossroads?"

Marge: "No!"

Homer: "It is!"

Four days later, with its customary dry wit, The Economist alluded to the quote, and published an article about Indonesia referring to the "crossroads". The title of the issue was "Indonesia's Gambit", the very same as in The Simpsons' episode. About seven months later, The Economist ran a cover headline reading "Indonesia at a Crossroads." In April 2009, The Economist published an article on Indonesian democracy with the title "Beyond the crossroads".

In 2006, actor Abhishek Bachchan starred in a Motorola KRZR ad where one flight attendant asked if he wanted anything to read. He said "The Economist please", which resulted in the young lady sitting next to him rolling her eyes and his mirror image called him a "fraud". He then settles for Stardust . [8117]

See also


  1. " Locations." Economist Group. Retrieved on 12 September 2009.
  2. " Maps." City of Westminster. Retrieved on 28 August 2009.
  3. Opinion |
  4. George Monbiot, Punitive - and it works, The Guardian, 11 January 2005
  5. Buttonwood, The Economist, 14 June 2008
  7. Spare The Rod, Say Some, The Economist, 31 May 2008
  8. Sense, not Sensenbrenner, The Economist, 30 March 2006
  9. Issue Cover for Sep 20th 2003,
  10. Letters: Pointing the Finger, The Economist, 2 October 2003
  11. The Media Enthralled, Francis T. Seow, 1998, pages 171-175
  12. Saul, John Ralston.The Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense Free Press, 1994, p. 115
  13. The Concise Dictionary of National Biography makes him assistant editor 1858–1860
  14. He was Wilson's son-in-law
  15. A journalist and biographer
  16. 'a solid Scots journalist, Edward Johnstone (1883–1907)'
  17. The Economist, 11 December-17, 2004, cover
  18. The Economist, 11 April-2, 2009

Further reading

  • Edwards, Ruth Dudley (1993) The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993, London: Hamish Hamilton, ISBN 0-241-12939-7

External links

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