Friday, October 4, 2019

The Economist fights for freedom in Chicago

Zanny Minton Beddoes 
     Forbes magazine listed her among its 100 “World’s Most Powerful Women.” A graduate of Harvard and Oxford and, since 2014, the first female editor-in-chief of The Economist, Zanny Minton Beddoes is in Chicago to host the Open Future Festival, “a global summit on the role of markets, technology and freedom in the 21st century” this Saturday at Union Station.
     Though when we spoke, I put a different spin on it.
     ”A day of speeches in a train station...” I ventured. “That sounds very 19th century in this social media age. What do you hope to accomplish?”
     ”I hope it’s 19th century married to 21st century,” she replied, noting that the event will be Livestreamed and posted to YouTube. “We were founded in 1843 and started the first Open Futures Festival marking our 175th anniversary. We wanted to have a chance to re-make the case for open society and open markets. We want to do it by engaging in a global conversation with both supporters of our world view and our critics.”
     Speakers range from Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to Ryan Fournier, co-founder of Students for Trump. From Bhaskar Sunkara, author of The Socialist Manifesto, to Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt in 2011 and is now a gun control advocate.
     ”It’s important to get different people of different ages in a room together to discuss the future of technology, capitalism, free speech and identity politics,” Minton Beddoes said. “We want to engender the discussion.”
     What discussion? It seems discussion is the one thing that isn’t happening in society today. 
Everyone alternates between digging their own ideological trench a little deeper and lobbing shells at anyone who isn't exactly like their own precious selves.
     "I think there are some people who are looking for new solutions, who are debating," Minton Beddoes said. "There is an awful lot of polarization, a lot of people in their own echo chambers shouting at the opposition. That's really who we are trying to address."
     She tries to hear all sides.
    "Whenever I come to this country, I force myself to watching MSNBC for 15 minutes, and Fox for 15 minutes. It's not very fun."
     I almost interrupted her with, "I couldn't do that if you put a gun to my head," but kept quiet.
     "It gives me a window into the polarized nature of this country. It's very striking," she said. "I left in 2014, and it's much more polarized. Two different sets of people having two different conversations with very little willingness to reach across and have an intellectual debate."

To continue reading, click here.


  1. If anyone is interested, Zanny Minton Beddoes will be sharing her opinion of Brexit this afternoon. The discussion will be live streamed on youtube starting at 12:15PM.

  2. What Minton Beddoes is trying to do is honorable but I’d be surprised to see balanced attendance at her event this Saturday. My guess is the crowd will resemble one that attends a live recording of “Wait, Wait... Don’t Tell Me!”
    It seems the right isn’t interested in what their adversaries say. I’d like to think more liberal thinkers at least try to see opposing views, as disturbing as it may be.
    Give Minton Beddoes credit for staying tuned to Fox for 15 minutes. My guess is she had to have herself strapped to a chair with her eyelids kept open as was done to Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

  3. Isn't the Economist kind of a right-wing publication?

    I'm not sure because before I can get a fix on its politics, it bores me and I stop reading.

  4. A timely feature of The Economist is that an original impulse to its founding was opposition to the Corn Laws, a system of tariffs on imported grain that burdened the poor by keeping bread prices high. It's a bit of history that Mr. Trump was evidently unfamiliar with.

    An early editor was Walter Bagehot, author of "The English Constitution" and remembered for the epigamic nature of his writing - e.g. "There's nothing so unpleasant as a virtuous person with a mean mind." It might apply to our "dear leader" except he could under no circumstances be deemed virtuous.


  5. The polarization issue reminds me of the Phineas Finn excerpt posted by Neil a couple years ago in which the observation was made by a canny Irishman that the British politicians called each other nasty names on the floor of Parliament and then adjourned arm in arm to the pub, whereas American politicians really hated each other and meant it literally when they spoke of killing and maiming. But it also reminds me of my father and his two older brothers arguing passionately over a few beers, but never (as far as I knew anyway) holding a grudge afterwards. My father and the oldest older brother were policemen, whereas Uncle Jimmy worked at GM and was a fervent union man, who didn't mind indulging in a fistfight once in a while. But they got along pretty well after all was said and done.

    1. You're fortunate to have had a father who got along with his brothers. Mine didn't, and he had six of them--four older and two younger, all born after my paternal grandmother fled Russia at fifteen. She ran with the Bolsheviks and there was a price on her teen-aged head...she was the Bernadine Dohrn of 1905, involved in revolutionary activities, including a plot to kill the Czar.

      Her seven sons were no "band of brothers"...their mother loved trouble and strife and constantly set them against one another like snarling feral dogs. Feuds, fusses, and fights were the norm. The first-born and the youngest were eighteen years apart, but when all seven finally grew up, the battles only got worse.

      Two of the oldest didn't speak for twenty years. At their mother's funeral, they took off their coats and got ready to duke it out at graveside--one was 58, the other was 64--as I watched, open-mouthed, through the window of an idling limo. I've always disliked the over-used "jaw-dropping"...but it certainly did that day. The cigarette even fell out of my mouth. My father and uncle sat in silence. They were used to it by then.

      In both my immediate and extended families, someone was always pissed-off, arguing, bitching or fighting about something. My father's generation, and their wives, have all quieted down now. The last of them died in May, at 100. But the fourteen kids they produced (including me) were exactly the same. And now our ranks are thinning, too.

  6. I wish I knew about this earlier and had tomorrow open


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.