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A letter to readers from the editor

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Readers' comments

The Economist welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our comments policy.

Peace Love and Understanding

Pretty hard for us to have a discussion when the majority of the articles in Open Markets, Open Ideas, and other sections have comments disabled.

Any day now you can start acting according to your own stated values. Not that anyone really does....

jvictor1789

An interesting first step in the right direction; I hope to find out more.
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Incidentally, how about putting back online your old debates? It is the fair thing to do. I understand on the other side that there could be repercussions-can't blame you for sinking the Videgaray debate into the Marianas Trench. On the other side a way to be balanced about it would be to open a brand new debate on the same subject-it would be fitting, and the Mexican election is 70 days away.
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Best of luck.
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BTW, greetings to FADFFLLFAF.

homocidalmaniac

What an excellent idea! How about international newspapers being allowed on in the act and requesting participation from their readers? The ideals espoused are universal.

Hominem te memento

Seems a bit hypocritical to publish a global call for dialogue and debate not long after you remove the right to comment on half of your articles

Tom Meadowcroft

It is difficult to have a discussion about liberalism any more. The word has been transformed into a derogatory label, albeit a label that means different things in different places. Liberal is too often used as an insult for people to have an intellectual discussion that does not degenerate into name-calling and other forms of overwrought drama. I welcome the discussion of ideas in principle, but I worry that this particular discussion will get bogged down in pre-conceived notions and partisanship. Having an intellectual discussion about liberalism is almost as hard as having an intellectual discussion about abortion.

ashbird

Global Conversation. That's a laudable ambition.
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But a very tall one to fill.
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First, ask yourself, in all due respect, is TE more global than provincial, or the other way around?
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At the risk of sounding condescending, I'd like to point out some of the stuff you publish is far from passing muster by the standard you enunciate. Personally, I pass them over. I don't read them, let alone enter a comment; not worth the time.
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Say it in a harsher way, on some topical issues (not all, but not negligible either) the paper retains the perspective of a frog looking up from the bottom of a dry well the size of one in a medieval town.
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The problem is, IMHO, ironically, historical. There is too much of a trace of a colonialist's lens, and denial of the history of the British Empire (remember that one?)
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I root for your success. It is in the world's (i.e., global) interest that you succeed. But let's not use words that are so pretentiously BIG. Prove it by the stuff you say before you use the BIG words. And please, no baiting of readership (i.e., subscription) with sensational headlines and bylines. That stuff is cheap and unbecoming, particularly in the light your stated goal.

ashbird in reply to MagicMoneyFrog

"The Economist is far from perfect, but it is still my favorite newspaper."
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Mine too, MMF. Or I wouldn't be reading it, would I??! And for all these years!! Including commenting, where particularly in the early days, a couple of weirdos kept telling me to "go back where you came from" and that I wrote horrible English and I should "crawl" instead of walk.
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I think the quality of different columns do vary. Rather widely. I personally think a handful of columns stand out as extraordinarily good. I don't think any reasonable person can ask for more from a generalist paper. On the other hand, some consistently stand out as less good, particularly when the "facts" are poorly researched, and an author speaks beyond his/her scope of knowledge.
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As to specific other papers that are good, there are quite a few. None by any means is perfect (I did not mean TE was "imperfect", MMF. Of course nothing in this world is perfect. I only meant sometimes its views are extremely dated from the perspective of history of the globe, if a "global conversation" is to be had. That was all.)
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Some very good papers are in French, in German, and in Chinese. I read them in their English Editions. I read on a daily basis 6 papers, which include the NYT and New Yorker. I have one German paper in mind I particularly think deserves the appellation "global". By that I mean its perspective is global. I don't have to agree with everything it says. But the tone and tenor of its Opinion pieces deserve the adjective "global", hence the readers it attracts are "global", so that a "global conversation" is more likely to be had. That's all.
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But it wouldn't be fair to me to tell you what the name of this paper is, would it, MMF? I do not represent them. I don't sell them. Nor do I have any intention to get people to give up TE in order to subscribe to the other.
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The world is very big. It is a good idea to not to bind the mind to one particular spot.

ashbird in reply to ashbird

I just realized I left out one other paper - the Canadian paper. So the number is 7, not 6.
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TE is the only one I leave comments on. That should tell you how much I value the paper, all things considered. Also, I don't do FB, Twitter, not even Linkedin (I don't need to "network" in that way. Many people in the world don't, did you know that?). I don't do that kind of stuff. Never have. Never will.

Peace Love and Understanding

So you claim to be guided by principles of freedom including Open Debate, where arguments can be contested for their merit in a marketplace of ideas...

And yet, in your recent site revamp, you have completely removed the ability for public comment for most of the articles you post, snuffing out the marketplace for ideas entirely from all but sources who are filtered by institutional gatekeepers. On your own website. For your own articles. In direct contradiction to your stated mission.

You are a traitor to your own cause.

Kroneborge

" In doing so, we have always been guided by classical liberal values: a belief in human progress, distrust of powerful interests and respect for individual freedom. "

unless we are talking about the right to bear arms of course. The serfs can't have the right to defend themselves. That would make them citizens

MagicMoneyFrog in reply to Kroneborge

Pretty much the entirely of the world agrees that an armed citizenry simply leads to more gun deaths, including more people gunned down by the government. The right to bear arms is only a fundamental right in the eyes of the USA's conservatives. The rest of the world is a bit wiser on this issue.

ashbird in reply to MagicMoneyFrog

MMF, Methink even accepting the right for citizenry to bear arms for reasons of self-defense is enshrined in the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which covered the right of a "Militia" when 2nd amendment was passed in 1791 , what might an armed person be defending against by shooting 200 to 400 RPM, which is what an AR15 does?? A troop of Godzillas?
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Should all citizens next have a tank on their drive way?
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Or the state should install a line of National Guards guarding all schools after the next mass shooting occurs? - It will, a matter of time. Many NRA supporters have AR15's. Check the stats.
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These are not rhetorical Q's.

ashbird in reply to ashbird

But of course, each time that happens, they'd say send them murderers to mental health professionals, whom they also say are "Mentally Ill Liberals". So should these "Liberals" tell the shooters the cure for their problem is buy more AR15's??

November in reply to ashbird

""Should all citizens next have a tank on their drive way?""
Tanks damage the road surface with their tracks, their fuel consumption is not so hot, their carbon footprint is pretty big...., how about a compromise? An armored Humvee with remote controlled fire and forget cannons. That's the NRA's latest baby...compliant with environmental laws. Godzilla'd better watch out...

Kroneborge in reply to ashbird

An AR-15 is a semi automatic rifle. No different than all the other semi automatic rifles (except it looks scary).

Also the militia is very able bodied citizen excepting some members of government (see George Mason quote). Moreover, if you see US v Miller you will note the Supreme Court's point that the 2a was supposed to specifically cover weapons of the type used by the military. IE people should have select fire M-16's not just AR-15 (semi auto).

It should also be noted that yes there were automatic weapons at the time the 2a was signed (see Belton in 1777)

Finally of course not only did citizens have the same small arms as the military when the 2a was assigned they also often has actual cannons.

The purpose of course of the 2a being to make sure the citizens were better armed than the government to keep our of control governments in check. So the citizens could change that government by force if needed (like they had just done).

history of course shows how wise the founders were in this. Over the last century over 100 million people killed by their own governments more than all the wars combined.

Zoltán Koskovics

So have you guys opened comments on ALL your articles yet?
Because if you haven't that means you actually want to stifle debate on some subjects while trying to throw in some BS rhetoric to hide that fact.

timwills

Representative democracy - but its not very representative.
How many disenfranchised millions, or hundreds of millions have the pleasure of paying taxes with no representation?
Even EU citizens living in another EU state are not allowed to vote on how their national level taxes are spent,
or have a say in 'national' referendums - including the outrageous tragedy of Brexit (which TE in a curiously meek manner, accepts).
And the UK even disenfranchises citizens who have been out of the kingdom for 15 years.
But on the other side are examples such as Argentinians who pay no taxes but can vote in Italian elections, and Irish citizens in UK ones.
There's a lot of taxation without representation and representation without taxation.
Curiously and meekly accepted.

CA-Oxonian

An excellent initiative. It is odd, however, that the most important aspect of society (the way we govern ourselves) is not addresses at all. As we are coming to the end of our 300-year experiment with representative democracy and it is showing itself utterly unfit for purpose, it is curious that The Economist is not addressing this problem even obliquely.

B. Hotchkiss in reply to CA-Oxonian

A quotation from another current article, admittedly by the propounder in a debate, who is supporting the idea that universities ought to ban offensive speakers:

"But this misunderstands the essential point of “no-platform”: fascistic organisations that advocate the removal of democratic rights for others—and thus the undoing of democracy itself—should not be entitled to abuse free-speech protections, the essential tool of democracy, to make their case."

The subject you discuss is one that simply cannot be discussed comfortably, or perhaps even safely, in the current environment. It is not the only subject that fits into this category.

Rohit Gandhi

To the editor - I appreciate the new initiative. I am however amazed that your initiative for an open future does not involve any discussion of the environment and how our food habits will ensure there is no future left for any of us once we've destroyed the entire Amazon rainforest and other carbon sucking forests. Please discuss and include the detrimental impact of our eating habits (meat and dairy) and our clothing and other accessory habits (leather) on the environment and how it is absolutely critical that the population switches to plant-based if we are to have any hope of saving the environment.

Rohit Gandhi in reply to Tom Meadowcroft

Not as nearly regularly enough as it needs to be. Politics and electric cars are fun to talk about but global warming is going to tear apart the fabric of this world and TE like most other publications regularly ignores the biggest cause of climate change and environmental degradation.

CaptainRon

American liberals do not stand for the big state. We fight against the corporate welfare from the right and believe that the government needs to control the excesses from large corporate interests. We fight against government control of our personal consensual sexual choices. To make this claim is erroneous as the claim from the right that they are the party of Christians when their actions are as far from Christ's teachings with its emphasis on denigrating the poor, worshipping greed and the gun and war culture. We are learning again there is no such thing as a fiscal conservative.

guest-aaniisij

TE concept is failure from the start. TE proposed a debate only on aspects of the problem it wants, and only staying within the range of opinions it finds tolerable.
In the modern world, it is no longer possible for the press to avoid or change away from uncomfortable views and topics. TE may debate only what TE wants, but the general population thinks and does what they want. There is no more tolerance to political correctness or unspoken agreements of higher level of society.
I may remind TE editors how communist parties in communist regimes wanted to discuss reforms, but only within limits of communist ideology. How it ended? Or, a generation later: how several governments in the European Union tried to respond to migration but excluded views, people and actions which they named (wrongly) populist. Were these governments successful? What happened in the recent elections?

November

We in Western Europe have been using Fiat money for chronic deficit funding for a long time and looks like our welfare society is quite smug with the idea of quantitative easing to cover our immediate expenses. No point in arguing the morality of Fiat money; we are well past the gold standard vs. quantitative easing debate.

If quantitative easing is chosen to be our permanent financial standard, then we might as well incorporate some very basic human rights into this equation; a few of them would be : guaranteed modular housing for everyone, universal basic income for everyone, the four day work week and full employment for everyone.

We already have universal health coverage, but we could add to that universal legal coverage, and a cashless economy so all transactions become visible, eliminating black marketeering, money laundering, illegal employment and tax fraud.

We can use quantitative easing to accomplish all these basic goals which are also basic human rights in an advanced civilization. Once these standards have been adhered to, quantitative easing could itself be eased back or eliminated altogether, and we could ultimately embrace the gold standard again.

Any temporary shortcomings in labour and services can easily be met by imported temporary labour, but it must be made quite clear that such a sound welfare state would be unable to absorb hoards of immigrants without causing a chaotic depression. Therefore free movement of people from poor to wealthy countries is something I cannot advocate.

guest-aaniljja in reply to November

Some good thoughts here, like an universal legal coverage, which would put Otto Mustermann on a level playing field with Mark Zuckerberg.
But a cashless society? Do you realize that rich in Sweden have no problem avoiding taxes, by shifting private money to complex financial products, companies and abroad? What a crazily immense power it would give to banks: being able to control and get data on every economic activity, no matter how small and private? Do you really want your bank to know what you buy in the pharmacy? How powerless would such a society be against technological threats?

November in reply to guest-aaniljja

You have touched on two things : financial crime and privacy. As far as bank privacy laws are concerned, folks in Germany have very little of it as it is. Every welfare receipient must submit their bank statements twice a year for scrutiny by the authorities. There is no big hue and cry about that because these folks on the dole are viewed as lower class, sinning people who are too lazy to work and as such have less rights than the revenue generators. But why can't the government insist on seeing the bank statements of revenue generators as well? In both cases the government should be checking for illegal cash inflows that have to be declared by law. What you're apparently saying is that the poor man on welfare must show, but the rich man is entitled to his bank privacy. That's a hypocritical argument.

Your second point about tax avoidance and legal loopholes, well a loophole can be identified and closed by following the trail of transactions that leads to a loophole. Banks already have crazy powers over common folks, far much that they are entitled to. Every time the governments introduces another round of quantitative easing, the bankers are the first privelaged few to receive that cash and award themselves lavish bonuses before that money even has a chance to be absorbed or "trickle down". That" trickle down" assertment is just bank jargon for "trick on the downtrodden".

All one really needs is a tough straight administration that is immune to the woos and charms of the wealthy classes. It's the wealthy few and criminals who worry about privacy laws, not the majority of the honest hardworking public.

Sense Seeker

All very nice, but since the 19th century ended, economic liberalism has proven to be a bit of a two-edged sword. It has led to great prosperity, but also to great disparities in wealth. Also, the most socially liberal countries have tended to be those in which capitalism was tempered by strong governments who were not afraid to use regulation to force markets to produce societally optimal results, and to tax to both raise funds to ensure a decent quality of life and fair chances for all, and to reduce inequalities in wealth and power.
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Even TE has regularly voiced concern about the growing inequalities. Does that go out the window in this new emphasis on 19th century views on the economy and society? Have we learnt nothing since?
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Nevertheless, good to see TE encourage discussion again. Let's hope the platform holds out, this time.

guest-aaniisij in reply to Sense Seeker

Liberalism is striving for an equal playing field for all enities in the economy. Lobbying, laws and barriers on entry which promote the rich 0.01% and big corporations are ILLIBERAL and NOT LIBERAL by definition. It is worth to clear the language before the discussion. It is simply wrong calling the U.S. economy heavily dominated by lobbyists, lawyers, creating solutions which benefit the rich and banning solutions which don't benefit them a 'not regulated economy'.