I’m a big fan of The Economist, for its detailed and informative articles on what’s happening in the world — not just the economics and politics, but also all sorts of related cultural and social news. Typically, the magazine leads with stories on places you’re probably not paying attention to at all (Indonesia or Bolivia, say) and then canvasses the world, eventually covering familiar places in North America, the U.K., and the rest of Europe. You can skip over some of the arcane financial details if that’s not your thing, but you’ll learn a lot from the rest.
The writing is excellent, often actually clever. Here, from the October 25th issue, is the antic beginning of a story from Japan,”Sukyandaru; Shinzo Abe’s plan to raise the profile of women in his cabinet is in tatters”, leading with Lady Bracknell:
To lose one minister may be counted a misfortune. To lose two on the same day makes the prime minister look careless. On October 20th Japan’s recently appointed trade and industry minister, Yuko Obuchi, and justice minister, Midori Matsushima, resigned from the cabinet following small infringements of political-funding rules. It is a blow to Shinzo Abe’s efforts to boost the standing of women in Japan.
A bit later, the piece is still sly, though entirely serious in its content:
Perhaps the administration’s absence of money scandals until now is the surprising thing. Financial wrongdoing used to be a regular fixture of Japan’s political scene. It was only a couple of decades ago when politicians might be caught hiding gold bars and bundles of cash from bribes at home. More recently, in December 2009, when Yukio Hatoyama was the DPJ’s first prime minister, he was found to have included dead and false contributors on his list of campaign donors. Most of his money had actually come from his mum, heir to an industrial fortune.
The infractions committed by Ms Obuchi and by Ms Matsushima are trivial.