The Economist’s recent performance had been less-than-robust, with many long-term readers losing sympathy with the paper’s EU obsessions and woke lurch exemplified by the title’s new slogan “in pursuit of progress since 1843”. Now, with falling advertising and newsstand revenues, the company has just put out the first profits warning to shareholders in living memory, consoling them with the knowledge that the CEO, non-executive directors and senior management would not be taking bonuses and will be taking double-digit pay cuts. 100 people have been laid off from the commercial side – not a single journalist.
For the editor, Zanny Minton Beddoes, that means she’ll have to get by on a meagre £364,000 (based on her 2019 salary of £455,000). It will not come as a total surprise that the Economist’s overall commercial performance is suffering. Zanny can’t bear to be around the vulgar commercial people who sell the things like advertising, conferences and the subscriptions which pay her and her team’s far more generous salaries. Zanny’s grand offices for her and her journalists in John Adam Street cost three times the rent in Canary Wharf – to where the salespeople have been shunted off. The morale of the sales team she needs to pull her out of this crisis is, unsurprisingly, not great.
Nobody personifies the woke metropolitan elite more than Zanny Minton Beddoes, who has been editor of the Economist since 2015. Has the shift to a more woke editorial slant been good for business? How non-executive director and major shareholder John Elkann (scion of the Agnelli family) feels about this is unclear. The Economist’s constitution means that in practice the editor can’t be fired. So even if at times it seems to shareholders like the lunatics run the asylum, there is little they can do about it.
The Economist is celebrating it’s 175th year of publication with a paen to liberalism in the form of an essay. It is a bit of navel gazing combined with dollops of self-justification. Editor Zanny Minton Beddoes admits in her essay that The Economist has become the in-house journal of the liberal elite, what Steve Bannon calls “the party of Davos”. No institution is immune to intellectual fashions, the newspaper has in Guido’s lifetime championed Keynesianism, then neo-liberalism, and now the ‘Washington Consensus’. It has of late become overly preoccupied with climate change and whatever else concerns the faddish Davos crowd. The irony of The Economist, which was founded in 1843 to champion free trade, free markets and limited government, being on the wrong side of the argument on Brexit, in thrall to the EU and the thousands of tariffs that protectionist bloc enforces, is striking. Never mind the ambitions of those in Brussels for a pan-European super-state rigidly regulated from the Black Sea to the Atlantic.
On immigration Zanny admits for liberals “it is not too wide of the mark to caricature their views on migration as more influenced by the ease of employing a cleaner than by a fear of losing out.” Not a single democracy has escaped pain from uncontrolled mass migration, no politician can ignore the votes of those who have to compete with newcomers, the so-called “deplorables” in America and working-class Brexit voters in Britain. Almost all Western democracies have tired of fast migration. On this Zanny recognises reluctantly that “in the short run, liberals risk undermining the cause of free movement if they push beyond the bounds of pragmatism.” She proposes reform of the rules for refugees, despite accepting that in reality most immigration is driven by economics.
How adrift the current editor of The Economist is from the founding principles can be seen with her support for Universal Basic Income – putting everyone on the dole, disincentivising work. She cites a modest proposal for America to introduce a “UBI of $10,000 a year” which she admits “would require a tax take of at least 33% of GDP”, to be paid for by more disincentivising wealth taxes. So much for limited government.
One could go on, Steve Bannon did at their recent shindig. Judge for yourself how Zanny fared:
Happy birthday to The Economist…
John Micklethwait is leaving the Economist for Bloomberg. Generally perceived to have succeeded in meeting the digital challenge under his editorship, the highly profitable publication throws off cash by playing on the insecurities of the business class in the same way that Cosmopolitan plays on the insecurities of women. The magazine prides itself on being for homme sérieux. In a dumbed down globalised world it remains the premier business magazine.
Business affairs editor Zanny Minton Beddoes, US editor Robert Guest and foreign editor Ed Carr are said to be frontrunners for the top job, MediaGuido has no idea as to their respective merits. In the 80s the newspaper – it styles itself thus despite being a magazine – was on the cutting edge of the Thatcher-Reagan revolution. Which was as it should be for a publication founded to support free markets and repeal the corn laws.
Nowadays it is editorially in thrall to the fashionable guilty billionaire class that throngs to Davos, adding to global warming with all the hot air they release. This international elite wants to conserve the stable managed form of globalisation that has served them more profitably than a dynamic free trading world order would. Hardly surprising given that Micklethwait has been intimately involved with the organisation of the Bilderberg conferences for years. One example of how the magazine has politically lost its way, it endorsed Obama in ’08 and again in ’12 despite Mitt Romney being of their ilk and right on Russia being the primary geo-political foe. Obama ran on an explicitly anti-free trade ticket.
The next editor should perhaps come from outside, someone enthusiastic for more free trade rather than blocs of managed trade arrangements. The Economist is, like sister-paper the FT, weak on the deficiencies of the EU. An editor with a more realistic view of the EU could help change the mindset of the business class towards a more realistic appraisal of the EU. That would be true to the free trade roots of the Economist’s founding…