Here’s an excellent, albeit highly depressing article in the Economist.
Whilst I broadly agree with the central thrust of the argument, some of the observations are not entirely in the context. Also the Economist implies that Populism is a phenomenon of the Far-Right.
Firstly, let’s look at the context. In a practical sense, in any large or moderately complex country in a democracy, the people elect their parliamentary representatives, often because of their perceived expertise and their political values. This is representative democracy and the aspiration is to preserve the sovereignty of parliament and effectively hold the executive branch of government to account. However, in the post WWII era, the boundaries have become blurred. Enormous bureaucracies have been established, a very long way removed from representative, examples include the UN agencies, the EU bureaucracy in Brussels, the IMF and the World Bank. Towards the end of my career, I was a special advisor to the head of a UN agency. It’s important to understand that these are essentially political organizations, with executive and professional appointments exclusively decided by national governments. Even clerical appointments are driven by nationality, trying to enforce representation of less powerful countries. Over the years, there has been enormous evidence of corruption, political bias and absence of good management, like for example providing audit certification of the institution’s accounts, especially in the EU. Another example is with the Arab League’s infiltration of many United Nations’ organizations – for further evidence open this link,.
In international agencies, funds are received typically from national governments and deployed in an enormous number of donor programmes – unfortunately, corruption often prevails, bringing into question the central purpose of the agency. This is often done with institutional political bias that ignores the reality of poverty, absence of education and democracy in many of the countries appealing for aid. This context is important because it has been consistently ignored angering an increasing number of voters in established democracies who want greater accountability and a return to representative democracy. These voters are angered by the liberal elites who have preserved the power of international agencies. Shrewd politicians have capitalized on this anger and we have the modern political force of populism.
My second issue with the Economist’s argument is the implication that populism is the exclusive preserve of the Far-Right. I would argue that populism is just as much a tool for the Far-left. For example, the leader of the Uk’s Labour Party has a history of Far-Left protest politics, highly dubious associations, institutional bias etc. I could imagine a Far-Left Labour government in the UK, quickly turning to Trotskyist dogma of permanent revolution, dismantling great and historic institutions.
So for me, both the Far-Right and the Far-Left would probably quickly turn from representative democracy, with their leaders arguing that the end justifies the means.
Many who have turned to populist leaders are angered by the status quo of the elitism of the liberal order and the international bureaucracies that they have spawned since 1945. Of course, the populist leaders will protect their own interests, plus those of their families and cronies.
The Economist article’s title blames populism for corrupting democracy. Surely, it was already corrupted by the elitist Liberal order, their cronies and the international bureaucracies?
Dr Alf with his usual thoughtful precision has demolished the thrust of the arguments made by the Economist whose editors regularly attend “private meetings” as evidenced by the attendance list of the Bilderbergers(www.bilderbergmeetings.org). Populism at grass roots level is to do with massive income inequalities.
In America just 51% of the entire population earn enough to pay income tax and increasing numbers of jobs are being subjected to robot process automation, AI, offshoring and outsourcing. GE which used to have massive finance departments dedicated to Dr Alf’s former calling as a Chartered Accountant and Financial Director now have much of the work done in India at a fraction of the cost.
The UK is £5 trillion GBP in debt whilst £25 trillion sits offshore with half of it in BVI. The Economist has nothing to say about that or the juxtaposition of the two sides of the coin. We have on the one hand Chief Executives earning 100, 200 and in some cases 450 times average worker pay, when bonuses and “other emoluments” are factored into the equation, we have 1.8 million zombie companies which never make a profit and teeter on the very edge of their banking covenants and we have local and central government services costing triple those of Switzerland.
At the same time, we have 1 million people using food banks, average gross pay at £30,000 GGP and houses costing nine times average pay thus denying 80% of future adults any prospect of ever buying a home.
Within 13 or 17 years, 50% of jobs will be gone thanks to AI, machine learning, RPA, cybernetics and nanotechnology. This was predicted by Eric Schmidt of Google in 2013 and 2014 at the Grove Hotel, Watford, England and on You Tube and by the Oxford University and Chinese Government surveys all of which the Economist were privy to. People in America,Europe and the UK, unless they were in the top 16% of wage earners, have all seen their living standards drop and remain low for the past 25 years thanks to the banking crisis, “Cyprus style bail-ins”, quantitative easing (debasement of the currency,) and the loss of traditional blue-collar and lower middle class white collar jobs.
We know from Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychology professor, who wrote “12 Rules for Life”, that anyone with an IQ of 83 or less (10% of the global population) is deemed to be incapable of doing ANY job the Pentagon wants done. Extrapolating that into civilian life everywhere as he does means that 10% of the working population are economically useless. That percentage is rising as machine learning improves and AI powers ahead of human intelligence starting this year (Source:Ray Kurzeweil, Chief Futurist and CTO of Google).
People, even at the most intellectually challenged level, know that something is wrong, potholes abound in roads, they are told to buy electric cars at £30,000GBP each when they have less than £500 GBP in their bank accounts at any one time ( the same figure that prevailed in the 1990s when GE Capital conducted a survey to size the market for secured loans and impaired life annuities). Their children cannot get jobs and even if they can they are not reflective of their expensive degree courses. It is much more than being “down on your luck” but is a malaise in which hope is completely lost by those at the sharp end which is where MAGA, the Gilet Jeunes and the EDL, PEGIDA etc, all populist movements along with ANTIFA, Momentum et al spring from. These movements cover the extremes of the political spectrum and are representative of populism.
The phenomenon will not go away unt there is a clear and coherent plan to reskilli people stop the reverse Robjn Hood phenomenon which emboldens plutocrats and puts the proletariat in the”olive press”.
The Economist will never talk about these matters because it exists to create the impression that things are fine.