“POPULISM HAS TAKEN A VICE-LIKE GRIP IN REPLACING DEMOCRACY! – PRENEZ-GARDE!
I have just finished Edward Luce’s book – ‘The Retreat of Western Liberalism.’ The title sounds rather intellectual and erudite. However, it is a riveting, illuminating and rather frightening read. In plain language, what he is telling the reader is that democracy and liberalism are dying on their feet and have in the last 25 years been replaced by populism! When one thinks about that title, I think that has been very self-evidence by what has happened in the US in the last three years, where Trump has turned out to be a highly effective standard bearer for populism even though his personal ratings across America are ‘low.’ What the likes of Messrs Blair, Clinton, Bush and more recently Obama and Cameron have failed to grasp is ‘why’ and ‘how’ the establishment has become less acceptable and in places is being consistently rejected. It is interesting to note that at the last Presidential Election 91% of Washington voted for ‘Hillaryland!’ Washington is a city of government and is the epitome of a crumbling ‘establishment.’ Yet the Mid-West, the Bible-belt and the US’S industrial heartland saw Donald J Trump all the way to 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, despite Mrs Rodham-Clinton winning the popular vote. They wanted change and my word they have it in spades.
It appears that Theresa May has also failed to grasp a similar nettle that the U.K. electorate is equally fed up with the establishment and even though Labour could be financially disastrous for the U.K, a significant number of voters aged between 18-50years of age are prepared to pay the price for change to find out. Let’s face the surprising decision made by the UK electorate to leave the EU had little to do with trade and more to do with the disenchantment of the ‘establishment’ and in many parts of the North a major concern about immigration! The UK’S balance sheet only seemed to play a ‘spear-carrying’ role.
In all fairness the popularity of democracy has been on the wane since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Another bit of data that is worthy of mention is the fact that there is not one democratic country on the African continent. India has been a text book example of the democratic process, but many will be amazed if the status quo will remain so in a decade’s time.
In this book Luce refers to President Trump’s contempt for China’s President Xi Jinping and his inability to understand or show any sympathy for his problems. Luce believes that President Trump could lead the US into a war with China due to his belligerent attitude. He also would not rule out the possibility of the mother and father of all conflicts between the US and the Middle East. We should not forget that at the time of the Cold War there were 5 nuclear powers. There are now nine, with India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea added to the club, with Iran waiting in the wings.
Trump quietly respects Russia’s Putin. Angela Merkel is the only world-class leader in Europe, but she is unpopular in her fourth term, having just yielded some vitally important support in recent local elections. If she fails to improve relations not only with Russia, but also with dissenting members of the EU, such as Italy, Greece, Poland and Hungary, her ‘sacred cow’ or club will start to break-up, following in the footsteps of the U.K.!
Blame for the continued fragmentation of liberalism and democracy must also be levelled at Barack Obama for failing to engage with Russia, China and Congress during his two administrations, leaving the west vulnerable to Russia’s and China’s increasing military strength.
To add fuel to the explosion of populism’s firebrand behaviour, there is no doubt that the banking crisis of 2008/9 seriously turned many liberal minded people into supporters of populism, since no one in any authority in these offending banks and other members of the financial sector on both sides of the Pond, went to jail for criminal activity.
Many now believe that, despite his falling popularity within the liberal and democratic community, President Trump will win the mid-term elections in November and if Mrs May does not pull a few rabbits out of the hat, Jeremy Corbyn will be on his way to Downing Street post the next General Election.
Two other major issues were pointed out by Edward Luce in his excellent book. He was totally underwhelmed by the DAVOS WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM. He felt that as a major political or business jamboree, it was a complete waste of time. Most of the main speakers were windbags who were very fond of their own voices (he did not say that; it’s my interpretation). Until the WEF starts listening to the needs of the world instead of telling them what they expect from the world of business and commerce, the delegates and politicians would just continue to waste millions of dollars on a useless event for their own self-edification.
Finally, technology may well provide the most innovative development of the modern age. However, no contingency plans have been made to deal with its effect on employment and business and most important of all, the damage technological crime could have on world security and its survival. There is no doubt that Russia and China are dangerously ahead of the game with the west languishing in their wake in terms of effectiveness. In August this year the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane gave the most brilliant speech to the Guild Society at Oxford University flagging up the dangers that artificial intelligence and machines that have the potential to make a huge number of jobs obsolete, with thousands of UK workers facing unemployment due to new technology.
Mr Haldane said the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” would be on a “much greater scale” than the previous three, and said the UK will need a skills revolution to avoid unemployment on a mass scale. He said that previous industrial revolutions had “a wrenching and lengthy impact on the jobs market, on the lives and livelihoods of large swathes of society”. He went on to say;
“Jobs were effectively taken by machines of various types, there was a hollowing out of the jobs market, and that left a lot of people for a lengthy period out of work and struggling to make a living” heightening social tensions.
Also, within that space the spending on robots is seen rising to $67 billion by 2025 from an estimated $25 billion this year, according to Boston Consulting. Most of that spending is expected to be done by four industries—computer, electrical, transportation and machinery. The countries buying most of these robots will be those with higher labour costs. including South Korea, Japan, the U.S. and Germany. China is also a rapid adopter.
In closing, suffice to say that social media is playing a massive role in shaping ideological political thinking. Whether much of this change in mood has any merit in it, is probably irrelevant. The fact remains social media is hugely influential. You only need to remember how effective Labour’s visceral ‘Momentum’ social media campaign was at the last General Election in June 2017. I wanted to share some of Edward Luce’s comments and from his ‘thought-provoking’ book to your attention. You may well be more than aware of some of the pitfalls of life. There is a powerful message for those politicians, who believe in the democratic process – “START LISTENING TO THOSE, WHO CAST THEIR VOTE AT THE BALLOT BOX, RATHER THAN JUST PAYING LIP-SERVICE IN LECTURING TO THEM.” If not, rest assured the world looks as if it will become an increasingly dangerous place to bring children up in!
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