The Economist just published its suicide note. Unusually, it has done it well in advance, in the full flush of health and optimism. But it has nevertheless committed itself fully to a course that guarantees its eventual demise, or at least irrelevance and circulation-collapse.
It has been the corporatists' bible and the managerialists' handbook for some time. But it maintained a veneer of commitment to free markets. Its leader this week, however ("Big is back" in praise of a new era of corporate giants), nailed its colours firmly to the wall. In the immediate aftermath of an economic collapse caused by irresponsible big government allied with irresponsible big corporations, exacerbated by one bailing the other out on the basis that they were Too Big To Fail, The Economist has hailed the revival of big corporations from a supposed slump in recent decades. Of course they are going from strength to strength - big government wants to work with big corporations, because it is difficult to centrally-plan and micro-manage an economy of small, competing organisations each with a different vision. Big government therefore provides explicit or implicit guarantees, and endless competitive advantages, to its corporate friends, just as it did previously for nationalized industries (many of them the same companies, but in privatized form nowadays). This isn't something new, it is a continuation of a long-term trend. And it isn't something to be celebrated, but to be feared. It is another step along the progression towards big-block National Socialism. But that doesn't stop The Economist from rubbing its hands in glee.
In the short term, they are backing a winning horse. Of course governments faced with increasing economic difficulties will look to their corporate friends to help them out, and vice versa. We can look forward to a decade or more of increasing corporatism as the signature of our economic decline, to parallel the decade of increasing state-socialism and trades-union power of the 70s. But people will eventually come to understand the harm that this symbiotic relationship causes, just as they came to understand the harm that the "beer and sandwiches" symbiosis between state-socialist governments and the unions caused in the 70s. And at that point, The Economist, the voice of corporatism, will become as relevant and loved as Tribune and The Morning Star.
I look forward to the day. The Economist represents all that is bad about twentieth-century, mainstream, mathematical economics. The day it dies will be the day that people have realised that the purpose of economics is not to calculate outcomes in order to obviate the need for markets, but to teach us that such calculation does not work.
For those looking for the modern equivalent of what The Economist once represented, try MoneyWeek instead.