The Economist & me
I’ve been writing for The Economist since 1997, which probably comes to a thousand stories or so. That includes stories I write for our two sister publications: Intelligent Life, our soulful style and culture magazine, and The World In [year], our annual year-end preview of the coming year.
If you’re interested in my ongoing weekly output, I usually link that in my Twitter feed.
On this page, I’ll just post an itty-bitty sample a a few story categories we at The Economist consider “special”:
- Christmas Specials (longer pieces for our annual double issue over the holidays, in which we ‘let our hair down’ a bit), and
- Special Reports (12,000-word essays in discrete chapters around a theme).
Two other things to note:
- We switch “beats” every few years, and I’m in my fifth beat now. (More about the philosophy behind beat-switching here.)
- In The Economist (but not in Intelligent Life or The World in [YEAR]) we have no ‘bylines’, meaning that the articles are not signed by writers. This frustrates some readers, and even some writers. (More about this topic here.)
The Holy Roman Empire: European Disunion done right, December 20th, 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, December 16th, 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, December 17th, 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!
The Filipina Sisterhood: An anthropology of happiness, December 20th, 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!
American Spirituality: Where “California” bubbled up, December 19th, 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?
Democracy in California: The people’s will, April 23rd, 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.)
- The people’s will
- Direct democracy: Origin of the species
- Proposition 13: War by Initiative
- Stateside and abroad
- California’s legislature: The withering branch
- Education: A lesson in mediocrity
- How voters decide: What do you know?
- What next? Burn the wagons
Mobility: Nomads at last, April 10th, 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.
- The new nomadism
- Working from anywhere
- A nomadic environment
- Family ties
- Mobility and location
- Nomadic monitoring
- Homo mobilis
- Audio interview
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!
- Among the audience
- It’s the links, stupid
- Compose yourself
- The wiki principle
- Heard on the street
- Wonders of the metaverse
- The gazillion-dollar question
- What sort of revolution?
- Sources and acknowledgements
- Offer to readers
- Audio interview: Andreas Kluth
- Audio interview: David Sifry
- Audio interview: Chris Anderson
- Audio interview: Jerry Michalski
- Audio interview: Paul Saffo
Information technology: Make it simple, October 28th, 2004.
My dirge about complexity in technology, and promise of simplicity as the ‘next big thing’.
- Make it simple
- Now you see it, now you don’t
- A byte’s-eye view of complexity
- If in doubt, farm it out
- Spare me the details
- The mom test
- Metaphorically speaking
- Hearing voices
- The blood of incumbents
- Author interview
Asian Business: In Praise of Rules, April 5th, 2001.
From South-East Asia to China, the past, present and future of business, companies and law. And, of course, those colorful tycoons!