Nov 7, 2019 - Economy & Business

The appeal of The Economist

A magnifying glass is being held up overtop the Economist magazine.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Economist is by a large margin the most valuable magazine on the planet, still going strong in the digital age, with a 50% non-controlling stake changing hands in 2015 for £469 million ($731 million) in cash. (In comparison, Marc and Lynne Benioff spent $190 million for 100% of Time in 2018.)

The intrigue: The Economist's allure is based in liberalism, but it's not easy to understand how that is defined.

The big picture: Every so often, a talented essayist attempts to identify the source of The Economist's appeal, and invariably finds that its actual quality falls far short of its reputation.

Both pieces are good, but neither aspires to being a comprehensive historical survey, going back to The Economist's founding in 1843.

  • Now, that survey has finally arrived, in the form of "Liberalism at Large: The World According to The Economist," a new book by Alexander Zevin.

Required reading: Pankaj Mishra's magisterial review-essay of Zevin's book has appeared in the New Yorker, and it is likely to change the way you view not only The Economist, but the entire edifice of liberalism.

  • When all 175 years of the magazine's history are viewed as a whole, the reek of colonial hypocrisy becomes impossible to ignore.

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