The Economist

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Type Weekly newsmagazine
(it refers to itself as a newspaper)
Format Magazine
Owners The Economist Group
Founded September 1843
Political position      Economism (Libertarianism)
Headquarters 25 St James's Street
London GB-SW1A 1HG
Editor-in-chief Bill Emmott

The Economist is a weekly news and international affairs publication of The Economist Newspaper Limited in London. As of 2004, its average circulation topped 1 million copies a week, about half of which are sold in North America.

According to its contents page, its goal is to "take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress." Subjects covered include international news, economics, politics, business, finance, science and technology and the arts. The publication is targeted at the high-end "prestige" segment of the market and counts among its audience influential business and government decision-makers. It takes a strongly argued editorial stance on many issues, especially support for fiscal conservativism; it thus practises advocacy journalism.

For historical reasons The Economist is often referred to as a newspaper, although unlike most newspapers it is printed in magazine form on glossy paper, like a newsmagazine.

The Economist belongs to The Economist Group. The publication interests of the group include the CFO brand family as well as European Voice [1] and Roll Call [2] (known as "the Newspaper of Capitol Hill"). Another part of the group is The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) [3], a research and advisory company providing country, industry and management analysis worldwide.



The newspaper was first published in September 1843 and edited by James Wilson, an advocate of free trade and the repeal of the Corn Laws. Later the journal incorporated the Bankers' Gazette and the Railway Monitor. Wilson's son-in-law, Walter Bagehot, was editor from 1860 to his death in 1877. Other famous editors include Herbert Spencer (1848–1853).


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 newspaper includes, as an additional section, an in-depth survey of a particular business issue, business sector or geographical region.

Articles often take a definitive editorial stance and almost never carry a byline. This means that no specific person or persons can be named as the author. Not even the name of the editor (since 1993, Bill Emmott) 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 surveys; and to highlight a potential conflict of interest over a book review. The names of Economist editors and correspondents can be located, however, via the staff pages of the website.

The newspaper has a trademark tight writing style [4] that is famous for putting a maximum amount of information into a minimum of column inches. The one feature most articles have in common is the concluding witticism. Some have joked that as long as the writers can deliver that, their political or other opinions do not matter. Since 1995, The Economist has published one obituary every week, of a famous (or infamous) person from any field of endeavour.

The Economist is famous for its Big Mac index, which uses the price of a Big Mac hamburger sold by McDonald's in different countries as an informal measure of purchasing power parity between two currencies. It has turned out to be a whimsical but surprisingly accurate index for comparison. In January 2004, this index was joined by a Starbucks "tall latte index".

The newspaper is also a co-sponsor of the Copenhagen Consensus.

Each of the opinion columns in the newspaper is devoted to a particular area of interest. The names of these columns reflect the topic they concentrate on:

Two other regular columns are:

  • Face Value: about prominent people in the business world
  • Economic Focus: a general economics column frequently based on academic research

The magazine goes to press on Thursdays, is available online from Thursday evening GMT, and is available on newsstands in many countries the next day. It is printed in seven sites around the world.

The Economist newspaper sponsors yearly "Innovation Awards", now in six categories.


Main article: The Economist editorial stance

When the newspaper was founded, the term “economism” denoted what would today be termed fiscal conservatism. The Economist generally supports economic liberalism, that is it supports free markets, and opposes socialism. It is in favour of globalisation. Economic liberalism is generally associated with the right, especially outside the United States, but is now favoured by some traditionally left-wing parties, especially the British Labour Party. It also supports social liberalism, which is often seen as left-wing, especially in the United States. This contrast derives in part from The Economist's roots in classical liberalism, disfavouring government interference in either social or economic activity. According to editor Bill Emmott "The Economist's philosophy has always been liberal, not conservative"[5]. In modern terms its stance has traces of libertarianism. However, the views taken by individual contributors are quite diverse.


Circulation for the newspaper, audited by Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), was 1,038,552 for the first half of 2005. [6]. Sales inside North America were 51 per cent of the total, with sales in the UK making up 15 per cent of the total and continental Europe 20 per cent. The Economist claims sales, both by subscription and on newstands, in 201 countries.

The newspaper consciously adopts an internationalist approach and notes that over 80% of its readership is from outside the UK, its country of publication.

The Economist Newspaper Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Economist Group. One half of The Economist Group is owned by private shareholders, and the other half by the Financial Times, a subsidiary of The Pearson Group. The editorial independence of The Economist is strictly upheld.


The Economist frequently receives letters from senior businesspeople, politicians and spokespeople for government departments, Non-Governmental Organisations and pressure-groups. While well-written or witty responses from anyone will be considered, controversial issues will frequently produce a torrent of letters. For example, the survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, published January 2005, produced largely critical letters from Oxfam, the UN World Food Programme, UN Global Compact, the Chairman of BT, an ex-Director of Shell and the UK Institute of Directors.

Censorship of The Economist

Sections of The Economist criticising authoritarian regimes, such as China, are frequently removed from the newspaper by the authorities in those countries. Nelson Mandela stated that he used to receive The Economist while imprisoned in South Africa until the authorities there realised that it was not restricted to covering economic issues and was taking a very strong line against the apartheid regime. The government of Saudi Arabia (among others) censors the magazine, which often appears on newsstands with missing pages. Some issues (such as one covering King Fahd's death in 2005) were banned from the kingdom. Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe went further, and imprisoned The Economist's correspondent there, charging him with violating an infamous statute against "publishing untruth".

The Economist has frequently criticised figures and countries deemed corrupt. In recent years, for example, it has been critical of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Prime Minister (who dubbed it The Ecommunist [7]); Laurent Kabila, the late president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Robert Mugabe, the head of government in Zimbabwe. The Economist also called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation after the emergence of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse.


Since 1938, the editors of the Economist have been:

Further reading

  • Edwards, Ruth Dudley. The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1993.

See also

External links

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