The stupidity and, perhaps more importantly, the naivety of voters in Europe and America never ceases to amaze me these days.
In his first two months in office, Donald Trump has discovered that “fixing” things isn’t as simple as he made it sound on the campaign trail. It turns out sh*t’s complicated and even if you made the (horribly misguided) decision that Trump’s platform represented positive change from the status quo, the viability of that platform was questionable from the time he announced his candidacy.
This is perhaps best summed up in a (troll-ish) tweet by Hillary Senior Advisor Philippe Reines and subsequent retweet by Clinton:
Health Care is complicated.
Diplomacy is exhausting.
— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) March 17, 2017
Things I learned today. https://t.co/lM2xAjIg3H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 17, 2017
And then there was this reply that underscores the point:
learning as he goes. pic.twitter.com/iymTUUNbJi
— Nick Pappas (@NickAPappas) March 17, 2017
But here’s the thing. Marine Le Pen (and the rest of Europe’s would-be populist heads of state) aren’t as stupid as Donald Trump. They aren’t drawing cartoon “kats.”
They know goddamn well that reversing globalization is impossible and that improving the plight of a middle class that feels it’s been left behind by modernity isn’t as simple as firing the economists, closing the borders and banning the burqa.
But they don’t care. Because the only reason they care about improving the plight of the native born populace is because they know that said improvement reinforces their poisonous social agenda and bestows legitimacy upon their claim to power.
“Who cares, Heisenberg?” That is, “who cares what their intent is as long as their citizens are better off?”
Well, the rest of the world cares. People living in emerging economies care, because without the benefits of globalization, urbanization in their countries wouldn’t have been possible. People struggling to survive in the war-torn Mid-East care, because without the opportunity to immigrate, their families will be slaughtered. In short: utilitarianism cares. Humanity, seen as a collective and not as a collection of selfish nation-states cares.
Which is why the following from FT is especially sad. Marine Le Pen has managed to galvanize the youth vote in France around a selfish world view that, while it may be expedient, will ultimately prove deleterious to the continued advancement of humanity.
A windy motorway bridge is not a teenager’s normal idea of a fun place for a Friday night. But Justine Dieulafait and her friends are on a mission — to help far-right candidate Marine Le Pen win the French presidential election.
As traffic streams out of the Brittany port of St Malo, the 18-year-old and 15 young “patriots” unfurl a giant banner: “Youth with Marine”. For added effect they light flares in red, white and blue, prompting cars to honk their horns in support.
“Young people are in revolt,” says Ms Dieulafait. “We have had 50 years of right and left, and look at the millions of us that are unemployed, living in poverty, without stable jobs or housing . . . it’s time for a change in the system, it’s time for Marine.”
In a surprising French election, with favoured candidates falling by the wayside and insurgents including Ms Le Pen heading the polls, Ms Dieulafait and her friends embody another phenomenon: the strength of the youth vote that is propelling the Front National towards its best ever result.
The party is the most popular in France with those in the 18-24 age bracket, capturing 39 per cent of the votes, according to one recent Ifop poll. That is compared with 21 per cent for centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and 9 per cent for centre-right rival François Fillon.
Such a level of youth support for a far-right populist party seems to go against recent trends elsewhere. In the UK last year, young people mobilised against Brexit to defend a cosmopolitan vision of the nation. In the US Donald Trump, with an anti-immigration and anti-globalisation stance, fared poorly with the youth vote.
In France, by contrast, young people are rallying to a party that has compared Muslims praying in the street with the Nazi occupation of France and has promised to fight against free trade and immigration. The rise in support in recent years is dramatic: in 2012 support for the FN by young people was just 18 per cent.
It has become another wild card in an unpredictable race, where a funding scandal has severely damaged the centre-right former frontrunner François Fillon, while 39-year old independent Emmanuel Macron, who has never run for office, leads the polls. Frustration among young people at lack of jobs and poor economic prospects are a big part of the FN’s appeal. “We are a generation at risk of living worse than our parents,” says Dominique, one of the group on the bridge, who is 21 and has been struggling to find a job.
Look, we’re all selfish. That’s part of surviving. But no globalist is telling individual voters not to be selfish. Heisenberg is not saying “gee, you really shouldn’t go out and try to pursue opportunities that will improve your position in life at the expense of everyone else.” You definitely should. Go get richer than your neighbor. F*ck the other guy. And look, if you can start a small business manufacturing widgets in America’s Rust Belt that’s competitive and puts some company in China out of business or if you can start a call center that’s so damn good at what it does and so efficient that it puts a similar business in India out of business, then do it.
But that’s you as an individual trying to get ahead with your skills. If you can do that in the context of a globalized, competitive market for goods and services, then good for you.
We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about leaders who are pushing broad strokes agendas that will ultimately restore structural barriers to the general advancement of human kind. And worse, they’re pushing an agenda that will perpetuate religious discrimination and institutionalize xenophobia.
And they’re doing that under the auspices of quick fixes for their supporters’ economic hardships. That’s a lie. What’s disturbing about the above from FT is that it suggests even the youth vote isn’t immune to the fiction being peddled by Trump and Le Pen.
I have a message for the Justine Dieulafaits and Dominiques in France: Marine Le Pen will not change your economic reality for the better. But she will change it for the worse by pursuing policies that impede the pace of global growth and trade.
Of course for every Heisenberg, there are ten other people shouting from the rooftops (if the shoe fits…) about the terrible plight of “this” generation which, as Dominique puts it, “is living worse than [their] parents.”
My guess is it would be rather telling to compare a day in the life of Dominique’s grandparents and great grandparents to a day in Dominique’s own life.
Go make that comparison and then tell me again about how much “worse” the Dominiques of the world have it compared to their ancestors. And while you’re at it, count the number of good things in Dominique’s life that are directly attributable to globalization.