[Marxism] Wall St. Journal gets worried.
1999wildcat at gmail.com
Mon Dec 10 19:04:19 MST 2018
>From a column
in today's Wall St. Journal. Note, in particular, the last two paragraphs:
*"Voters Rebel in Europe's Big Three*
The past week has seen the leaders of the three most important European
states fighting for their political lives. In London, Prime Minister
Theresa May struggles to hold power as opinion in Parliament moves against
her Brexit agreement. In Paris, a firestorm of public rage has humbled
President Emmanuel Macron and forced him into an undignified retreat before
street protests he previously vowed to ignore. Even Berlin experienced its
share of political drama as Chancellor Angela Merkel officially stepped
down under pressure as leader of the Christian Democratic Union. Her
preferred successor was able to eke out only a narrow win over anti-Merkel
The turbulence in these countries, pillars of European and indeed world
order, isn’t just about particular leaders. Their entire political systems
have come under strain. In the U.K., even before the Brexit referendum, the
rise of the Scottish National Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s victory over the
moderate wing of the Labour Party had already transformed the political
system. In France, Mr. Macron came to power as the existing party system
imploded. In Germany, the antiestablishment Left and Alternative for
Germany parties have been steadily gaining strength as centrist parties
falter in the polls.
It’s one thing for political systems to face populist revolts when times
are bad. President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil came on the
heels of a deep recession and a massive corruption scandal. Voters turned
against a political establishment that was corrupt and economically inept.
Italy’s populists came to power in a country where, a decade after the
financial crisis, gross domestic product has not yet returned to 2008
levels. Persistent crime and poverty helped elevate a left-wing populist to
the presidency in Mexico.
But that is not what is happening in Europe’s Big Three. The German economy
under Ms. Merkel is the envy of much of the world. Britain’s economy has
also done relatively well, with unemployment low and declining despite
uncertainty from Brexit. And while growth in France is slow, it is real;
average wages as reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development rose more than 1% a year between 2007 and 2017. Any material
grievances voters may have are not extreme by historical standards.
The discontent shaking Europe’s governments, and the anger reverberating
through American politics, comes as times are about as good as they get.
The crash of 2008 and the Great Recession are far behind us, and most
countries are at the peak of their business cycles. Conventional political
science suggests this should be a better environment for incumbent
politicians. People normally get cranky when the economy is doing badly but
mellow out as things improve. Now a long period of steady if not
exceptional growth is in the rearview mirror, but voters are in revolt
across much of the West.
There are plenty of good explanations for voter anger. French taxes are
high. Prosperity hasn’t significantly lifted some regions, like rural
France, Northern England and parts of eastern Germany. Often, voters’
perceived grievances have to do with cultural and class issues:
immigration, economic inequality or elite disdain for ordinary people. In
the U.S., strong economic numbers didn’t prevent Democrats from scoring a
significant victory against the GOP because of widespread discomfort with
President Trump’s rhetorical excesses, his controversial policy choices,
and the multiple investigations surrounding his administration.
The real question is what happens to Western politics when the economy next
heads south. Times won’t always be this good, and the next recession will
test the resilience of advanced political systems.
If the German center takes a beating when unemployment is under 4%, what
will happen if it goes back to 6% or 8%? If there are riots in the streets
of Paris as national wages rise, what will happen when they start to fall?
If Britain is this divided with a strong economy, what happens when—Brexit
or no Brexit—the next downturn comes? And, for that matter, what happens in
American politics if the Trump boom turns into a bust? “For if they do
these things in the green tree,” Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke, “what
shall be done in the dry?”
We may get answers to these questions sooner than we would like. Between
trade friction, stock-market volatility and a flattening yield curve, there
are signs that the current expansion, already long by historical standards,
isn’t immortal. We must hope that when the good economic times yield to
another recession, the West’s political leadership will have the
imagination and fortitude to weather the storm.
*“In politics, abstract terms conceal treachery.” *from "The Black
Jacobins" by C. L. R. James
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