Should I renew my subscription to The Economist?


in Daily updates, Economics, Politics, Writing

Since I was in high school, I have been reading this British news magazine weekly, and not without good reasons. It is essential reading for university debators in Canada. If you don’t keep up to speed on what is written there, you are likely to get blindsided when your opponents bring it up. While their editorial stances are not always entirely convincing, they do defend them with evidence and good arguments. You will never sound entirely stupid while trying to defend their positions.

The Economist is also a magazine that seems to maintain attention in many other quarters. It is the only magazine I have frequently seen circulated in Ottawa offices. The biggest argument in favour of reading it may be that others do, and that by continuing to do so I keep myself appraised of what is happening. As a way of remaining reasonably well informed about happenings in many different spheres of life, all over the world, it may be a uniquely valuable publication.

There are also arguments against renewal. Some have argued that I would be better off spending more time reading other sources of news. Some have argued that I should read less news altogether: most of it is depressing, and most of it I can do absolutely nothing about.

Time is another issue. Your average weekly issue consists of about 100 pages of small, tightly-spaced text. I find that it takes at least five hours to read carefully, and significantly longer when there are lengthy special reports, technology quarterlies, and the like included. I could probably find ways to use that time that would be more useful or pleasant.

The cost is a bit of a consideration, at more than $400 for three more years. That is especially true given ongoing job uncertainty.

There is also the matter of climate change. The Economist does seem to accept the basic science that says that continuing to burn fossil fuels threatens humanity. Some of the time, the seriousness of the problem is reflected in the positions they take. At the same time, they have definitely failed to demand that politicians prioritize climate change over other issues, particularly economic growth. They have also frequently celebrated the discovery and development of fossil fuel reserves. Increasingly, it seems like they must be covert supporters of geoengineering. They realize that climate change needs to be dealt with, and know what would be involved in achieving that outcome by cutting fossil fuel use. They are unwilling to wholeheartedly endorse the rapid abandonment of fossil fuels, so the implicit position is to their accept the climatic consequences or try to eliminate them by technical means.

So, what do people think? To renew or not to renew?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

. July 14, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I admit I used to be a huge fan of the Economist. There were days when I would sit in the library and pore over editions from the early 1940s and marvel at the lengths they would go to offer analysis without bias. If you ever have a chance to do it I recommend it highly. It was spooky to see how accurate their writers were in predicting the future.

Things have changed a lot for them in the past twenty years let alone over sixty. I find their writing less compelling and less informed as time goes on, as if they are looking at the world through a shrinking scope. They seem to just be lazily writing their opinion, without any bother to research or read the data available.

oleh July 15, 2011 at 8:40 pm

The Economist remains unique and unparalled as a source of information. The last observation about less research is generally true of printed media which for various reasons has reduced its research and reporting staffs. (An example of depletion of research is Macleans whihc does such a poor job of research and yet presents as Canada’s one of leading news magazines. Even its cover stories are often embarassing in the lack of research and depth . . but alas I continue to subscribe)

The density is a real issue. I wish it came out once a month in hte same length as I would then gladly add it to my reading.

Have you considered sharing a subscription with someone on the basis and reading every second issue. Maybe somebody in the Beaver Barracks would agree to do so. This can have both a time and cost saving factor.

If you wish alternatvie but generally strong reading consider the Walrus which comes out 10 times a year and generally costs about $25 per year. It is essentially a Canadian Harper’s with a Canadian and international perspective. I subscribe to it and try to read it cover to cover (the only magazine I have ever done that with. The articles are varied and sometimes I think of it like the bag of prodiuce a local farmer would deliver to us weekly. We did not know what would be in it, but that generally it would be good.

All that being said, keeping up with the Economist does keep one quite informed.

Milan July 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm

One major point in favour of The Economist is that they are irreverent. Especially in the named columns like Lexington and Bagehot, they are willing to be critical of whoever is in charge.

I remember the kerfuffle when they nicknamed Paul Martin “Mr. Dithers”.

oleh July 19, 2011 at 11:27 pm

I understand the Guardian online provides well-written news with a good research staff.

Milan July 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm

In the end, I decided to renew my subscription for a further three years.

Knowledge is probably my most significant asset, and The Economist is a uniquely good source of information. If it is worth spending five or more hours per week reading, it is worth paying $400 for another three years.

I may not agree with everything they say, but they do make good argument and provide good data. The newspaper/magazine is also so widely read that I would be at risk of falling behind or missing the stream of societal conversation if I was not a subscriber.

oleh July 22, 2011 at 10:51 am


It would take me about twice or three times as long as Milan to go through the Economist. I would not be able to do so on a weekly basis.

I would be interested in subscribing to a monthly periodical which is or approaches the quality of the Economist, but is approximately half of the length of the Economist.

Any idea?

Milan December 6, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Renewing was the right choice. The magazine is consistently worth the time it takes to read, and the time is really more of an expense than the cost of the subscription.

If a book or magazine is worth the time it will take to read, it is probably worth buying.

oleh December 7, 2011 at 2:52 am

In a society, where many are prepared to pay $3 a day or $21 per week for coffee, learning as much as you do from the Economist at less than $3 week seems like a bargain.

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