On Saturday, I brought you “3 Dramatic Charts Show The ‘Collapse’ Of Global Political Order.”
Essentially, that post threw into stark relief the result of growing voter angst in a world where the middle class increasingly believes that globalization has created more losers than winners in Western democracies.
As Barclays notes, “a cross-country collapse in the political centre of the current scale has not occurred previously [and] reviewing the entire post-WWII period, there is no other similar event.”
For all intents and purposes, support for center-Right and center-Left parties is evaporating at a pace never before witnessed. The likes of Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, and Frauke Petry have capitalized politically on a veritable perfect storm of factors that have conspired to catalyze the backlash against an amorphous “establishment” that populist ringleaders claim is the root of the problem.
Well, having shown you the result of this backlash (i.e. plunging support for the political center), below find a schematic from Barclays who seeks to develop a “framework for analyzing the causes of the ‘Politics of Rage’.”
While there are no “smoking guns”, there seems to be a clear connection between voter rage and various forms of globalisation. We have divided globalisation into three components: economic, political, and cultural.
Trade and immigration, two of the three key forms of economic globalisation, both feature prominently in the campaigns of the alternative parties that are the manifestation of the collapse in the political centre across countries. Survey evidence, popular anecdotes, and other analyses have connected voter discontent to both. In our data analysis, we find strong direct linkages between changes in the centre vote share and actual changes in trade and immigration across countries. Our findings accord with new academic research that finds deeper and more persistent losses from trade for less-skilled workers than previously had been understood. In addition, there is at least some evidence for channels of transmission through real incomes, stress on public services, pressure on house prices, and a breakdown in social capital.
Technology also has played a role in globalisation. The same economic theory applies to technology: it may improve overall standards of living, but it comes with adjustment costs for some members of society. Furthermore, the economic literature has established that technological innovation has gone hand in glove with trade in driving a reallocation of capital and labour globally.
We also have seen that political globalisation – namely, supranationalism and intergovernmentalism – is one of the two most important issues for alternative parties. While neither lends itself readily to quantitative analysis, the world’s only true supranational organisation – the European Union – was at the heart of Brexit and is a key flashpoint for several of the European alternative parties that we considered. Similarly, trade agreements such as WTO, NAFTA, and TTIP, all forms of intergovernmentalism, have been points of focus for alternative parties globally.
While we found little evidence that xenophobia, an adverse reaction to cultural globalisation, was driving the Politics of Rage, we do not reject the idea that it plays some role. Culture, more broadly, probably plays a role in the connection between immigration and the decline in social capital as diverse cultures mix.
As noted, the most common demand of alternative political parties is for reformed representative democracy or direct democracy. This accords well with our findings that voter rage across countries is correlated with a loss of faith in government and a sense that “ordinary citizens” have no say, and these symptoms are worse for lower-education citizens, who appear to provide the greatest base of support for alternative parties.
While all of the above is important, I think perhaps the most telling line is this:
…it may improve overall standards of living, but it comes with adjustment costs for some members of society.
While Barlcays uses that as a descriptor of technology’s impact, it applies across the board. Indeed, it’s foundational and everyone needs to accept it.
Globalization is a utilitarian concept. There will be losers. And you may be among them. But generally speaking, humanity as a whole will be better off. So do us all a favor: shut the f*ck up with the pro-nationalist thing so we can advance as a human race.