♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Europe at 5/15/2009 09:30:00 AMLike the Wall Street Journal, the Economist is a fine publication if broad and detailed news coverage--particularly financial news, of course--is what you're after. However, the opinions expressed in both news outlets are decidedly slanted. In the former case, an outdated neoconservative opinion still predominates as if these were still the Reagan years and the subprime debacle didn't really happen. In the latter case, we have seemingly undying fealty to the tenets of Thatcher(ism) despite Britain's debacles which are highly reminiscent of America's. The trouble with the Economist, as any casual reader should know, is that while you can ignore WSJ op-eds, there is a heavier sprinkling of ideology in Economist news articles that you must actively filter.
However, as the Emperor once told Luke Skywalker, the Economist is mistaken about a great many things. From championing Bush over Gore to cheerleading the Iraq invasion, it misfires and misfires badly. Turning to the political-economic realm, let us consider its notions of how European economies should be like. In October of 2006, it had this advice for France in the run-up to the elections for Jacques Chirac's replacement:
While Sarkozy has some reformist leanings, he is quite Gallic in favoring national champions, protecting agriculture, and pooh-poohing Anglo-Saxonomics so beloved by this publication. So in 2006, they effectively asked, "Why can't France be more dynamic--like Britain?" This brings me to last week's cover which raised a good laugh from me at least:
Ha-ha, very funny. Yes, the "French model" is somewhat in vogue, but it's the best of the worst as the entire lot depicted here are well and truly in recessionary waters. Plus, this effort at yukking it up is qualified by a statement about not expecting this pecking order to last for long. Thrown in for good measure is a reference to Adam Smith being a proud champion of the Anglo-Saxon model which is, of course, erroneous as Gavin Kennedy and others who've actually read his works will tell you. More ominously, they (surprise!) laud the thirtieth anniversary of Thatcher's accession to office by having Bagehot recycle that old chestnut of a line: There is no alternative. I guess some things will never change.
UPDATE: A reader reminds me that, yes, it's like Polanyi's very familiar notion of a "double movement": Movement towards a self-regulating market (SRM) eventually inspires a backlash from those seeking greater social protection from the market's depredations. While I am not a Polanyi believer, I'll say this much--as before, it will always be again as political-economic fashions have their own cycle.