The Economist & me

I’ve been writing for The Economist since 1997, which probably comes to a thousand stories or so.

Currently I am Germany correspondent, so the pieces in the Europe section on Germany are mine. (You can’t tell, because we don’t have bylines, but I link to them on Twitter.)

I also occasionally write stories for our sister magazines or outside publications. For example:

Intelligent Life

Stumbling over the Past (2013)

How an artist and many private citizens remember holocaust victims with Stolpersteine, little brass plates in the public sidewalk of Berlin and other cities, and how those stones form new human connections.

Sprechen Sie Du? (2013)

A humorous look at a vexing problem with the German language: whether to use the formal or informal “you”.

The Atlantic

The Graffiti That Made Germany Better (2014)

How Berlin’s architecture blends the tragedy of the past with redemption in the present and renewal in the future.

Juncture (journal of the think tank IPPR)

Germany’s Cool Power (2014)

As German national identity at last becomes more ‘normal’, what does that mean for the country’s view of its role in Europe and the world?

The dilemma at the heart of Europe: Germany and the German question (2013)

The issue that has been conspicuous by its absence from Germany’s parliamentary campaign: the relationship between Europe and the economic powerhouse that is too small to lead, too large simply to fall into line.

At The Economist we consider a few story categories “special”–either more fun or more soulful–so here is a small sample of those:

Christmas Specials

The Filipina Sisterhood: An anthropology of happiness (2001)

This is my favorite story ever. Why are the poor and down-trodden Filipina maids in Hong Kong cheerful and apparently happy, when their rich and successful Chinese employers are reliably miserable and cranky? Lessons for all of us!

The Holy Roman Empire: European Disunion done right (2012)

Written in the thick of the euro crisis, this is meant to be a cheeky historical comparison between the European Union and the Holy Roman Empire. The parallels really are quite striking, and may offer lessons.

Migrant farm workers: Fields of Tears (2010)

Here I’m profiling a family of Mexicans who came — illegally — to work in California’s fields. I compare them with the Okies that John Steinbeck wrote about in Grapes of Wrath. Why did they come? Does that reason make it right?

Socrates in America: Arguing to death (2009)

What would Socrates think about the way Americans talk to one another today? What would Americans think about Socrates? A thought exercise about American democracy, conformism and individualism, good and bad conversations, and more. This story came out of a thread right here on The Hannibal Blog!

American Spirituality: Where “California” bubbled up (2007)

Here I report from the Mecca of the counterculture and the New Age, the hot baths at Esalen in Big Sur on the Pacific Coast. What happened to all those Hippies? Shamans? Yogis? How is the enlightenment-genre doing these days?

Special Reports

Democracy in California: The people’s will (2011)

A deep dive into the causes of California’s dysfunction, which turns into an investigation of “direct democracy”, California’s fourth branch of government. Of interest to governance and democracy wonks all over the world.

(This special report was on the cover. I also wrote the cover Leader.)


Mobility: Nomads at last (2008)

A sociological, anthropological and psychological look at how our mobile technologies, such as mobile phones, WiFi, laptops and so forth, are changing the way we work, live, love, think, speak and write.


New media: Among the audience (2006) (This won an award.)

A look at how technology changes the media and society, from Gutenberg to blogs, podcasts, wikis and so forth. Includes a few podcasts we did, which happen to be The Economist‘s first ever!

Information technology: Make it simple (2004)

My dirge about complexity in technology, and promise of simplicity as the ‘next big thing’.

Asian Business: In Praise of Rules (2001)

From South-East Asia to China, the past, present and future of business, companies and law. And, of course, those colorful tycoons!