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Arrière-Pensée – In Praise of National Stupidity

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The English banker, economist, philosopher, historian, author, publisher and journalist Walter Bagehot is not much remembered today – and to the degree that he is, it is usually (if wrongly) as the founder of The Economist.

That is close, but not quite right. He married the founder’s daughter, altogether a more elegant and efficient way to go about the thing. He never was, however, merely ‘the sonin- law.’ He edited the paper with an elegant if somewhat ironish 19th Century hand between 1860 and 1877, very largely making The Economist what it still is today – a journal written by literate people who, on the whole, also understand something of business. As often happens with truly important careers, Bagehot’s began mostly by chance. He graduated at London University in 1848 and was called to the bar, but his father owned an interest in a rich provincial bank and a good shipping business, and so instead of taking up the law he joined in their management.

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