Guido has been chronicling the decline of The Economist and in particular the once revered Bagehot column for some time. This week’s copy has a letter to the editor from a former editor-in-chief of The Economist, Andrew Knight and Charles Moore, the biographer of Margaret Thatcher. It is a a corker on the subject of a recent Bagehot column on “Thatcher Undecomposed”. They are not impressed…
The full letter is worth reading, it tears apart the contradictions, oversights and mistakes in the column. The conclusion alone is pretty damning:
What one looks for in Bagehot’s newspaper is analysis, rather than generalising replete with attitude. Leaving aside his protracted expression of dismay over Brexit and Euroscepticism (the “flames” of which Thatcher wickedly “fanned” with her Bruges speech), Bagehot’s overall conclusion is an odd (in your pages) mercantilist sally. His Little-Britain lunge is that Thatcher’s free-marketry has left Britain “the Wimbledon of global capitalism, more successful at hosting world-class players than producing them”.
Thatcherites should celebrate that metaphor. Wimbledon: a great global tournament in the heart of British suburbia creating lots of jobs; lots of national prestige; lots of exciting visitors to the grass courts; lots of competition. Lots, in short, of the levelling out, the subsidy-less prosperity, the excitement, enjoyment and fun of the very sort she (and the original Walter Bagehot) would have relished.
That today’s Bagehot can be accused of mercantilism shows how far The Economist has strayed from and is betraying the free trade cause it was founded to further.
Somehow this letter to the editor only appears online and not in the print edition. Fancy that…
The full letter is reproduced below: