China, America, and the Economist

The world’s most influential newsweekly is probably the Economist, and I’ve been a continuous subscriber since late 1979, a period of more than 43 years. For the last couple of decades, I’ve usually just glanced at an issue before placing it among my stacks of past numbers, but this week’s cover story caught my eye: “America v. China: It’s Worse Than You Think.” That topic was of great interest to me, so I decided to take a closer look.

Reading some of those articles reminded me of how I’d felt when I first encountered that publication as a college freshman, a story that I’d told more than a decade ago:

Published on newsprint so thin as to almost be translucent, mailed out twice each fortnight tightly folded in a plain brown wrapper, it called itself a “newspaper” rather than a magazine, carried no bylines for its articles or masthead for its issues, and in its style sometimes almost seemed a strange intellectual residue of pre-war Old Europe, often ignoring the many shibboleths and taboos which so infested respectable American journalism. Its great intelligence and its plainspokenness were enormously refreshing, and with a minuscule circulation of around 50,000, few of them Americans, I felt that I had discovered a wondrous secret source of true world knowledge. Such was the old London Economist under Norman Macrae, its longtime Deputy Editor and shaping influence.

For almost twenty years I eagerly read each issue almost cover-to-cover, and was well-rewarded for my invested time. Moreover, in the blue-tinted pages of its companion Economist Intelligence Report newsletter, I read of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin as rising Soviet figures, years before they ever received any mention in America’s elite media. When The Economist ran its 1985 cover highlighting the doubling of Chinese agricultural production in just seven years, I showed it round to all my friends as proof that I’d been correct during all those years I’d been predicting China’s rapid rise, and they readily conceded the point: the Oracle of London had spoken.

Beginning in those early college days, I’d begun competing with one or two of my friends in trying to get letters to the editor published in that small-circulation but elite newsweekly. My batting average was pretty good over the years—around 70% I think—and I eventually managed to place four or five of them, the first time I’d ever seen my own words appear in print.

My greatest success came with the last of those in 1986, when they published my 500 word submission, among the longest letters they’d ever run. I had urged the editors to add an Asia Section in consideration of the enormous and rapidly growing economic and political importance of that global region:

East Asia contains well over a billion and a half people, and the Indian subcontinent another billion; Europe (excluding the Soviet Union and Britain), little more than 400 million.
East Asia contributes a GNP of over $2 trillion, and the subcontinent, another couple of hundred billion dollars; Europe (again excluding Russia and Britain), less than $4 trillion. Furthermore, given the current growth rates and economic potential of the Asian states—especially China and India, as your recent minisurvey suggested—the next 15 years should see the Far East overtake Europe in economic significance.
By any standards, Japan, China and (perhaps) India are three of the half-dozen or so most significant nations in the world, and their importance is steadily rising. By contrast, the importance of leading European nations such as France or West Germany is declining…
You publish a regular Europe section, but continue to lump East Asia and the Indian subcontinent under “miscellaneous,” namely your International section. And the eternal troubles of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America generally occupy the bulk of that section.
The lack of a separate Far Eastern Survey (or East Asian Survey) thus results in a less than sufficient coverage of those areas. An unscientific perusal of your past six issues (March 15th to April 19th) indicates these totals for regular survey pages of coverage: Europe (excluding the Soviet Union and Britain), 30; East Asia, 11; Indian subcontinent, 3.5. Only the most stubborn Eurocentric would claim that these totals accurately reflect the world importance of these three regions.

Establishing a regular survey section devoted to the Far East (or to East Asia) would properly focus increased reportage on what may well be the world’s economic and political center-of-gravity 30 or 40 years hence.

I was quite gratified when the new Asia section was launched the following year. Their last such change had been more than a dozen years earlier when the British publication had added a Europe section after Britain joined the European Community. Providing proper coverage to Asia may have been an important step for the Economist on its path to becoming a truly global newsweekly. But as I pointed out in April 2012, that great success might also have had some unfortunate consequences.

Alas, the very quality and uniqueness of the magazine proved its undoing. As years went by, more and more well-educated Americans discovered a periodical revealing ideas and facts largely ignored by our own elite newspapers, let alone Time and Newsweek aimed at ten million or more weekly readers. Whereas as late as the early 1990s, its advertising would still brag that it was not read by millions, by 2000 the million circulation mark had been reached, together with the enormous profitability provided by a decidedly upscale and elite readership.

But all these new subscribers were mostly affluent Americans, whose sensibilities and perspectives were quite different from that of the few tens of thousands of British who’d previously constituted the core readership. To these newcomers—and even more importantly to the wealthy advertisers they attracted—reality was bounded by The New York Times on the left and The Wall Street Journal on the right, and anything which pushed too far outside that envelope of respectable opinion was discordant, perhaps even disturbing. So as time went on, more and more of the sharp intellectual features which had once given the magazine such verve and originality were gradually sanded off, not completely, but to a considerable extent. The London Economist became just the plain Economist, rarely willing to violate the boundaries or taboos of the reigning DC/NYC neoconservative/neoliberal American Establishment, merely a smarter, better written, much deeper version of Time or Businessweek.

This sad intellectual decline became obvious to me over the last decade, as America’s post-9/11 policies, both foreign and domestic, swerved into almost total madness, yet continued to receive a mixture of support plus some occasional tut-tutting from a magazine which I had once so greatly respected. Perhaps the top editors recollected the case of their esteemed predecessor Francis Hirst, who had publicly broached the possibility of a negotiated peace to end the useless slaughter of WWI, and been summarily dismissed as editor in 1916 for his obvious lack of patriotism.

And the endless, unimaginable disasters which America suffered due to these absurd policies seem not to have left many editorial marks. A cursory examination of recent covers reveals such stories as: the Iranian nuclear weapons threat; the importance of “freeing Syria”; the looming collapse of Putin’s regime; the over-regulation of the American economy; and the horrific problems faced by America’s rich. Just change a few words here and there and those same covers could have been run five or ten years ago. The Economist now simply ranks among the most elite media organs of America’s One Party State.

That painfully negative critique of a publication I’d once so greatly admired had been prompted by its China coverage. A couple of weeks earlier, I’d published a lengthy analysis on the clear shift of geopolitical power to China.

China’s Rise, America’s Fall
Which superpower is more threatened by its “extractive elites”?
Ron Unz • The American Conservative • April 17, 2012 • 6,600 Words

And by purest coincidence, just a few days later the Economist had released a very different appraisal, arguing that demographic factors greatly favored America over China, a contrary verdict that several people had brought to my attention as a seeming refutation of my thesis.

China’s Achilles Heel
A comparison with America reveals a deep flaw in China’s model of growth
The Economist • April 21, 2012 • 1,200 Words

In my response, I sharply questioned some of their arguments:

The claim is that China’s projected demography constitutes a “deadly point of unseen weakness,” in sharp contrast to America’s quite healthy future situation. But while such “happy news” may lighten the hearts of DC pundits and the appartchiks they inform, the analysis advanced doesn’t strike me as very persuasive.

For example, the argument is made that China “will grow old before it grows rich,” and will have a median age considerably higher than America’s in 2050, 40 years hence. That may be true, but if we roll forward the economic growth rates of the last few decades, the average Chinese will have become roughly as wealthy as the average American in just another 20 years, long before that point. Extrapolate those economic trends 20 years beyond that, and Chinese will be enormously wealthier than Americans in 2050…

The Economist seems to regard America’s ongoing “population Ponzi scheme” as a great ace-in-the-hole with regard to our economic growth and social requirements. But while it’s true that Bernie Madoff did very well financially for similar reasons, things didn’t work out for him in the end. Is it really a good thing that the American population is growing more rapidly than that of Mexico or Algeria, or that (as The Economist puts it) “no one knows when America will reach its population peak”?…

To the extent that this particular piece is representative, I fear that Economist clear-headedness has been replaced by the sort of wishful thinking that still dominates our DC/NYC ruling elites. Since these very elites presumably constitute the extended social circle of many Economist writers and editors, this is perhaps not surprising.

The Long Decline of the London Economist
Ron Unz • The American Conservative • April 27, 2012 • 1,900 Words

A year later I published another lengthy article providing some of the deeper reasoning behind my expectations of tremendous Chinese economic and technological success, which opened with the following paragraphs:

During the three decades following Deng Xiaoping’s 1978 reforms, China achieved the fastest sustained rate of economic growth in human history, with the resulting 40-fold rise in the size of China’s economy leaving it poised to surpass America’s as the largest in the world. A billion ordinary Han Chinese have lifted themselves economically from oxen and bicycles to the verge of automobiles within a single generation.

China’s academic performance has been just as stunning. The 2009 Program for International Student Assessment(PISA) tests placed gigantic Shanghai—a megalopolis of 15 million—at the absolute top of world student achievement. PISA results from the rest of the country have been nearly as impressive, with the average scores of hundreds of millions of provincial Chinese—mostly from rural families with annual incomes below $2,000—matching or exceeding those of Europe’s most advanced and successful countries, such as Germany, France, and Switzerland, and ranking well above America’s results.

These successes follow closely on the heels of a previous generation of similar economic and technological gains for several much smaller Chinese-ancestry countries in that same part of the world, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and the great academic and socioeconomic success of small Chinese-descended minority populations in predominantly white nations, including America, Canada, and Australia. The children of the Yellow Emperor seem destined to play an enormous role in Mankind’s future.

Although these developments might have shocked Westerners of the mid-20th Century—when China was best known for its terrible poverty and Maoist revolutionary fanaticism—they would have seemed far less unexpected to our leading thinkers of 100 years ago, many of whom prophesied that the Middle Kingdom would eventually regain its ranking among the foremost nations of the world. This was certainly the expectation of E.A. Ross, one of America’s greatest early sociologists, whose book The Changing Chinese looked past the destitution, misery, and corruption of the China of his day to a future modernized China perhaps on a technological par with America and the leading European nations. Ross’s views were widely echoed by public intellectuals such as Lothrop Stoddard, who foresaw China’s probable awakening from centuries of inward-looking slumber as a looming challenge to the worldwide hegemony long enjoyed by the various European-descended nations.

How Social Darwinism Made Modern China
A thousand years of meritocracy shaped the Middle Kingdom
Ron Unz • The American Conservative • March 11, 2013 • 8,300 Words

The original roots of that article stretched back nearly 35 years. In 1978 I had taken a UCLA graduate seminar on the rural Chinese political economy and quickly encountered the unmistakable evidence of massive selective pressure in traditional Chinese society, a consequence of social conditions that had continued unabated for a thousand years or more, certainly long enough to reshape the human characteristics of the world’s most numerous race. Several years later I wrote up that analysis as a classroom paper for Harvard’s E.O. Wilson, the founding father of Sociobiology, but three decades were to pass before I was finally prompted to publish my findings as an article in 2013.

A couple of years before that I’d also come across Ross’s short book on China, then a century old, and along with all of his other work, I found it absolutely brimming with the sort of deep sociological insights that the powerful reigning taboos of modern Western academic culture had long since eliminated from public discourse. I would highly recommend that book to anyone interested in understanding the Chinese people and their society.

The Changing Chinese
The Conflict of Oriental and Western Cultures in China
E.A. Ross • 1911 • 61,000 Words

When I’d first encountered the Economist of Norman Macrae, his writing had often contained traces of such controversial ideas, which had once been so common during the era of his youth, and I had been greatly impressed for that reason. But after his 1988 retirement and certainly by the turn of the century, any such heretical surviving notions were almost completely washed away by the dominant transatlantic Neoliberalism, perhaps severely diminishing the newsweekly’s predictive acumen.

I do think that the events of the last few years—and certainly the last few weeks—have strongly affirmed my own 2012 comparison of China and America over the contrasting perspective that the Economist had provided around the same time.

Other countries around the world seem to have clearly recognized and reacted to this ongoing global transition. Our pivotal Middle Eastern ally of Saudi Arabia has now moved into China’s camp, while Brazil recently decided to shift away from use of the dollar in much of its international trade, probably soon to be followed in that momentous decision by many other major countries. Meanwhile, America and its NATO allies have completely failed to inflict any serious damage upon the Russian economy despite the unprecedented sanctions they had imposed, as I discussed in a recent article.

Much of that piece had focused on the intriguing economic analysis of Jacques Sapir, director of studies at France’s prestigious EHESS institute, who had argued that the best measure of a country’s economic strength is the real size of its productive sector, a calculation that excludes services, whose output is often non-tradeable and far more easily manipulated. With that in mind, we should recognize that as far back as 2019 China’s real productive economy was already three times larger than America’s, indeed larger than the combined total for America, the European Union, and Japan.

Given Sapir’s plausible emphasis upon real productive GDP as a crucial metric of national economic power, I’ve constructed a table presenting those figures for the largest thirty-odd real economies, together with their nominal and per capita GDPs. I have also included an additional column displaying the real per capita productive GDP.

All this data was drawn from the CIA World Factbook, which conveniently provides estimates of the 2021 real PPP-adjusted GDP for the countries of the world, as well as the most recent figures for the nominal GDPs, the economic sector composition, and the national populations. Since all those estimates come from slightly different years, the results are necessarily approximations, and I’ve rounded all the values partly to emphasize this point.

Many of these results seem quite interesting. At the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the nominal size of the Russian economy was fairly small, being half-way between that of Spain and Italy, and therefore seemed very vulnerable to a coordinated financial assault by the West. But in real productive terms, Russia’s economy was almost 10% larger than Germany’s and nearly the size of Japan’s, helping to explain why the Western attempts to cripple Russia with sanctions failed so miserably and instead led to severe energy shortages and high inflation in the countries mounting the effort. Indeed, the real productive economy of Russia is nearly 20% larger than the combined total for Britain and France.

An examination of the per capita real productive incomes is also quite intriguing. According to that measure, the average Russian produces considerably more annual value than his heavily service-oriented British or French counterparts, a figure nearly 40% higher than the EU average. America’s nominal per capita GDP is more than five times greater than Russia’s, seeming to demonstrate the yawning chasm between our wealth and their miserable poverty; but when we focus on real per capita productive GDP, the difference shrinks to a mere 15%. This suggests that much of the wide gulf in our current standard of living may merely be an artifact of the dollar’s international reserve currency status and might therefore be very vulnerable to major geopolitical shifts.

The same focus on the productive sector also elevates the Chinese, and today their real per capita productive GDP is already within 10% of that of the British or French and well above that of the average EU citizen.

Service industries obviously do generate income and value, and excluding them in such a calculation merely constitutes an intellectual exercise that should not be taken too seriously. But I do think it provides a useful alternative economic perspective, one worth considering as a supplement to the more typical comparisons, and these figures may indicate the fragility of existing Western affluence.

Despite the Economist‘s cautionary 2012 sentiments regarding China’s future economic trajectory, the editors certainly recognized the enormous progress that country had already made, and they were fully aware that it stood on the brink of surpassing America in the size of its real economy. Therefore, in January of that same year they had added a dedicated China section, the first devoted to a single country since America had received that special distinction in 1942. So after digesting the China articles in the current issue, I decided to explore their coverage in greater depth by spending a couple of days carefully reading those sections from the past eight months of issues, while also lightly glancing at other portions of the magazine.

The editors had hardly neglected Chinese topics during that period, running eight separate cover stories on that country—one every four or five weeks—as well as publishing two lengthy special surveys, the first on China itself and the second on the conflict over Taiwan, each running around 10,000 words, as well as a substantial Briefing on Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

I hadn’t regularly read the Economist in almost twenty years, and as I began to do so, I was very impressed by the remarkable intelligence and quality of the writing, which was clearly aimed at a much higher-end audience than that of my morning New York Times, these days so severely degraded into “wokeness,” spittle-flecked partisanship, and total frivolity. I soon remembered why the British newsweekly had remained for so many years my favorite publication and my most reliable source of information. But I also noticed the same establishmentarian flaws that had deeply alienated me in the years after the 9/11 Attacks. The writers and editors were still loathe to venture outside the restrictive confines of the Western media consensus.

This failing was most apparent with regard to their offhand remarks or tacit assumptions, truisms that they considered so obvious and well-established as to require no explanation nor support.

For example, an article on TikTok in the current issue casually suggested that the Russian interference had helped propel Donald Trump into the White House, declaring that “Russia used Facebook in the 2016 presidential race in America.” This represents a major element of the ridiculous Russiagate media hoax.

Another particularly absurd example of the editorial unwillingness to stray from media norms was that China was regularly described as having the “second largest” economy in the world even though the Economist itself had pioneered the much more realistic Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) metric—dubbed the “Big Mac” standard—that correctly judged China’s GDP to be far larger. Indeed, they published a fine article in 2020 explicitly summarizing the true facts and noting that according to the World Bank, China’s real economy had overtaken our own between 2014 and 2016. But this obvious reality was subsequently ignored in the casual references found elsewhere in the articles on China.

Although I was only reading the China sections, I was also often dismayed by references made to other current matters, especially those involving foreign policy. Thus, the Russian war with Ukraine was invariably described as “unprovoked” military aggression with phrasing identical to that of the Times and every other Western media outlet, and the Chinese were ridiculed for their “paranoia” in believing that the conflict had been caused by continual NATO expansion. But John MearsheimerJeffrey Sachs, and numerous other top academic experts have repeatedly demonstrated that the Chinese perspective was completely correct.

Yet even in this particularly egregious example, some traces of the old Economist objectivity still remained visible. The Western media coverage of the Ukraine conflict has excluded all contrary voices, no matter how credentialed and eminent, but a 75 minute academic lecture by Prof. Mearsheimer on the origins of the Ukraine tinderbox had been sitting almost unnoticed on Youtube since 2014, and once the war began, it suddenly exploded in popularity, attracting many millions of viewers worldwide. Soon afterward the Economist editors invited the distinguished scholar to contribute a 1,500 word essay laying out his contrary analysis of the war for their readers, hardly enough to balance their ocean of words demonizing Russia and Vladimir Putin, but far more than almost any other mainstream Western outlet had been willing to allow.

Unfortunately, such examples seemed rather rare. In another article, China was denounced for joining Russia in vetoing UN sanctions against Syria “for using chemical weapons against its own people.” But although that accusation had been very strongly challenged by MIT Prof. Theodore Postol, a leading weapons expert, as well as investigative journalist Seymour Hersh and numerous others, a search revealed no mention of those contrary facts anywhere in the publication.

Or consider the lengthy survey on Taiwan’s society, which hailed the enactment of gay marriage as a triumph of democracy in the island republic. The actual facts were precisely the opposite since a large majority of Taiwanese voters had opposed that change in a public referendum while the policy was instead established by undemocratic judicial fiat.

A far more important example will likely be of great historic consequence. On September 26, 2022, massive underwater explosions severely damaged the $30 billion Russian-German Nord Stream pipelines, ranking as perhaps the greatest act of industrial terrorism in world history and playing a major role in Europe’s devastating energy crisis. A couple of days later, the Economist joined the chorus of our “Mocking Bird” Western media in meekly passing along the statements of anonymous European officials that Vladimir Putin had probably been responsible for the attacks, while quietly admitting it was “unclear” why the Russians would have destroyed their own pipelines. Moreover, even those slight doubts rapidly faded and by the time the newsweekly published a lengthy story on the incident a month later, we were flatly told: “Russia denies responsibility for the explosions. But few doubt that the Kremlin did it.” Yet according to Prof. Sachs, knowledgeable journalists in the mainstream media quietly assumed that America was responsible, and my own analysis of the facts pointed in exactly the same direction.

American Pravda: Of Pipelines and Plagues
Ron Unz • The Unz Review • October 3, 2022 • 3,900 Words

Then a couple of months ago renowned journalist Seymour Hersh published his blockbuster expose providing the precise details of the American attack on the pipelines, and his revelations were totally ignored, both by the Economist and every other mainstream media outlet. But as millions read his story and it began gaining traction on the Internet, panicked Western intelligence services anonymously released a vague competing claim that a shadowy handful of pro-Ukrainian activists on a rented sailboat had been responsible for those gigantic underwater explosions, a ridiculous absurdity but one that drew respectful coverage all across the mainstream media, including a long article in the Economist. Perhaps embarrassed by the obvious hoax he was reporting, the writer also included a couple of sentences mentioning Hersh’s contrary account, but heavily criticized it, claiming that America would have no clear motive for such an attack since it “would risk antagonising European allies.”

Seymour Hersh: Standing Tall in a Sea of Lies
Ron Unz • The Unz Review • February 13, 2023 • 2,000 Words

It is obviously unfair to single out the Economist for sticking so closely to its establishmentarian positions on so many topics since that failing is shared by nearly all of our other mainstream media outlets. But I had once held the publication to far higher standards, and with a little effort I could have multiplied these disturbing examples ten-fold.

Particularly poignant to me was a recent Lexington column entitled “How the Iraq War Became a Threat to American Democracy” which appeared around the twentieth anniversary of that seminal event and summarized the disastrous geopolitical consequences for the people of the region and the standing of the American government, both at home and abroad. As the columnist sadly explained:

There were voices raised against the invasion, of course, but America’s interlocking political, security and media elites—its establishment—rallied behind it. During a Senate debate over the Iraq-war authorisation, Senator Joe Biden recalled “the sin of Vietnam” and “the failure of two presidents to level with the American people” over that war’s costs. Then he voted for the measure. Three years later, he called that vote a mistake.

Not all America’s woes can be traced to that fateful invasion, when America’s arrogance rather than its generosity—the flip sides of its idealism—became its global calling-card. The global financial meltdown later that decade rounded out the failure of the establishment. But the Iraq war propelled America down the road to Donald Trump.

Barack Obama represented hope of sharp change from Mr Bush, yet those two leaders were much more like each other than like the president who came next.

All those sentiments were absolutely correct, but I could not help remembering that throughout 2002 and 2003 the Economist itself had been a leading element of that disastrous elite establishment consensus, strongly supporting those decisions so damaging to America and the rest of the world. Indeed, that was exactly the reason I soon stopped reading or trusting it.

Unfortunately, I believe that the current policies advocated by the Economist regarding China, Russia, and Ukraine are just as totally wrong-headed as was its vigorous support two decades ago for the Iraq War, and I fear that in ten or twenty years time, it may be forced to publish a similar column denouncing today’s elite consensus that did so much damage to European and American interests. Our irrational hostility towards Russia has created an enormously powerful China-Russia alliance that looks likely to reshape the world’s geopolitics to the tremendous disadvantage of the West. Three decades ago, we triumphed in our long Cold War against the Soviet Union but we are now completely squandering the political fruits of that historic victory.

Playing “Fool’s Mate” on the Grand Eurasian Chessboard
Ron Unz • The Unz Review • April 3, 2023 • 3,000 Words

There are few print publications in today’s world that combine the establishment credibility of the Economist with its enormous and elite global audience. But along with such media power comes the burden of responsibility, so that the editors and journalists of such a publication should carefully weigh their words.

During 1916, some influential elements of the British establishment proposed a negotiated end to the Great War, including Francis Hirst, then editor of the Economist. Much of the German government had a similar position, and if the initiative had been successful, millions of lives would have been saved, while the chastened European governments probably would have avoided any future Second World War, thereby saving tens of millions more. But the effort failed and Hirst lost his job as a consequence.

Until less than a year ago, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University probably would have been considered as solid a pillar of the Western elite establishment as the top editors of the Economist. But his decades of deep personal knowledge of China, Russia, and Ukraine soon led him to reject our current policies as disastrous for the world. And although almost our entire media has continued to boycott his cogent analysis, his words have been seen and heard by millions worldwide, having an important impact upon the public debate. If the Economist saw fit to move towards a similar position, an enormous shift in elite sentiment might be possible.

Jeffrey Sachs as Righteous Rogue Elephant
Ron Unz • The Unz Review • October 10, 2022 • 3,500 Words

My own relationship with the Economist has sometimes gone beyond that of a mere reader and admirer, and over the years several of my political projects have been noted by the publication. During my own 1998 “English for the Children” campaign in California, the influential newsweekly offered me favorable early attention, and I believe its support played an important role in my successful effort to transform the educational prospects of many millions of young immigrant children across America.

Less than a decade ago, the surprising shift of the Economist towards the benefits of a much higher minimum wage probably helped swing the political debate on what had almost become an abandoned economic issue, and over the next few years large minimum wage hikes were enacted in many of America’s biggest states.

A couple of years later, major Economist articles on the strong evidence of Asian Quotas at elite American colleges added considerable momentum to the issue, and not long afterward another article favorably described the campaign I had organized for the Harvard Board of Overseers partly on that concern, though it unfortunately fell short. Today there is a widespread expectation that racial preferences in college admissions may be restricted or banned by the Supreme Court during the next couple of months.

My involvement with this publication has deep roots. When I’d first become a subscriber in 1979, I think the circulation of the Economist may have been not much over 100,000 (rather than 50,000 as I’d once mistakenly believed). Given the likely age of those readers and the actuarial tables, I doubt whether more than a few hundred of them have maintained an unbroken subscription for the last 43 years. While I’m surely not anything like the longest continuous subscriber to the newsweekly, I do suspect I go back farther than 99.9% or even 99.99% of their current 1.6 million readers. Indeed, I doubt that almost any of their current editorial staff can match my years on their subscription rolls, and probably many of their writers were not even born when I eagerly received my first issue.

So as someone who very much wishes the publication well but also feels the same for the world, I do hope the Economist editors will carefully reconsider some of their current positions, drawing upon the wisdom of Norman Macrae and the political courage of Francis Hirst, while being careful to avoid the journalistic fate of the latter.

Reprinted with permission from The Unz Review.

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