26 March 2015

Prospect hails Piketty, Varoufakis, Klein, Brand and Krugman as world’s top thinkers


The modern media is addicted to lists. If thrusting online journalists at new outfits such as Buzzfeed are not compiling lists of the 25 greatest cats that look like American presidents, they are compiling lists of dogs that look most like members of One Direction. They also produce some lists on less serious topics.

Lists are cheap to produce (which means under pressure media executives like them) and if they are well done they can be amusing or thought-provoking in a way that drives traffic to a website much more effectively than 1500 scholarly words about the Argentinian economy.

But lists are not risk free. Any publication has to guard its reputation and brand jealously. If a list treats the readers like idiots, or reveals the readers to be idiots, it is probably best “spiked”, the newspaper industry term for not published and deleted.

The risks involved in producing a dud list do seem to have been overlooked at Prospect, the London-based progressive magazine. I have read and enjoyed stuff in Prospect down the years but after seeing the results of its reader poll on the world’s greatest thinkers, I’ll never look at it in quite same way again. Indeed, if I had a subscription to Prospect, I would cancel it.

The top five thinkers in the world are, according to Prospect’s readers

1) Thomas Piketty – the “rock-star economist” who wrote a very long and misguided book about inequality that hardly anyone read.

2) Yanis Varoufakis – the comedy finance minister of Greece.

3) Naomi Klein.

4) Russell Brand – yes, that Russell Brand.

5) And in last place, Paul Krugman – the American economist and stimulus obsessive who was so wonderfully taken apart on CapX earlier this week by Andrew Lilico.

That cannot be the world’s top five thinkers. It just can’t be. If it is we might as well close down the planet.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.