Reaping the Whirlwind

by John Quiggin on June 26, 2016

I’ve been trying to make sense of the Brexit (or rather E-exit) vote in terms of the “three-party system” analysis I put forward a while back. The result, over the fold, is a piece in Inside Story, an Australian magazine.

The key point is, that, in the absence of a coherent left alternative, neoliberalism (hard and soft) is being overwhelmed by a tribalist backlash. Writing this, I realise it might be construed as criticism of Corbyn for failing to develop and propose such an alternative in the referendum campaign. That would be a bad misreading. The context of the referendum meant that it was always going to be a choice of evils: between the racism and bigotry that animated so much of the Leave campaign, and the neoliberalism of both the Cameron government and the EU. The option of a social democratic, or even soft neoliberal, EU was not on the ballot.

Reaping the whirlwind

The surprising decision by English and Welsh (though not Scottish and Northern Irish) voters to leave the European Union can only be understood in the broader context of the breakdown of the ideological consensus that dominated politics throughout the world until the Global Financial Crisis. Precisely because of its dominance this ideology was seen as common sense by its adherents. Its opponents gave it various names including economic rationalism (in Australia), Thatcherism (in the UK) and the Washington Consensus (in the Third World) but the most common was “neoliberalism”.

As neoliberalism has declined, it has been challenged on the right by the politics of tribalism, embodied in the Brexit vote and by the rise of Donald Trump in the United States. There has also been challenge from the left, reflected in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the British Labour Party, and the strong showing of Bernie Sanders in the US Democratic primaries. To understand what is going here, it is necessary to go beyond the use of neoliberalism as a pejorative term of abuse, and understand it as a powerful, but ultimately wrong and dangerous, way of thinking about the world.

Before we can begin to think about it, we need to clarify some confusion about the term itself. Neoliberalism is mostly used to mean one thing in the US and something related, but different, everywhere else, including in most of the political discussion of the US. This difference may be traced back to the fact the term “liberal” in the US has historically been associated with the centre-left, combining support for social and civil liberties with a moderate form of welfare statism. By contrast, in Europe, the term “liberal” is more closely associated with the 19-th century free-market view commonly called “classical liberalism”.

Correspondingly, the term “neoliberal” is used, outside the US, to refer to the revival of 19th century free market ideas. Closely associated with this is the return of the 19th century globalised economy, made possible both by the free market and by the creation of the first global telecommunications networks, based on the telegraph. Thanks to telegraphy, money could move instantly and freely about the world, while people and goods travelled at the much slower, but still historically impressive, speeds of steamships and railways.

Neoliberals, in this sense merged from the economic crisis of the 1970s, which destroyed an earlier consensus, centred on Keynesian macroeconomic management and a social-democratic welfare state. Its core idea was that unfettered financial markets could do better than governments in every respect, from stabilising employment and inflation to allocating investment to allowing people and families to manage the risks of unemployment, sickness and old age. The full program of neoliberalism in this ‘hard’ sense involved the dismantling of the 20th century welfare state and the associated mixed economy.

The US version of neoliberalism corresponds to what was called elsewhere the Third Way. It involved an attempt by former liberals (in the US sense) and social democrats to accommodate to the demands of financial markets while still softening the edges of capitalism and maintaining a more active role for the state in filling the gaps left by market provision of services. This ‘soft’ neoliberalism was exemplified by the (Bill) Clinton administration in the United States and the Blair government in the UK and was prefigured, in important respects, by the Hawke-Keating government in Australia.

As an ideological retained its dominance until the Global Financial Crisis, which fatally undermined the central claim that a massive and powerful financial system would guarantee prosperity for all. Despite its death as a credible theory of economics and politics, neoliberalism has stumbled on in zombie form for nearly a decade, maintaining its hold over major political parties and over organizations like the OECD, IMF and European Commission. As I observed in my 2010 book, Zombie Economics, the economics profession as a whole has learned almost nothing from the Global Financial Crisis. Ideas like austerity that should have been decently buried long ago continue to wreak havoc throughout the world, and most notably in Europe.

The political situation is similar. During the decades of neoliberalism that began in the 1970s, the, the political system, nearly everywhere, was based on electoral competition between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ versions of neoliberalism, focusing on marginal differences in economic policy, and on more heated divisions in social policy (the so-called ‘culture wars’). Within the political class, and among business leaders and policymakers, there was a near-universal consensus in support of neoliberal ideas. To take any position outside the narrow range from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’ neoliberalism guaranteed marginalisation and exclusion from serious political debate.

Yet, despite its dominance, neoliberalism hardly ever achieved broad support among the public at large. Rather, the seeming success of neoliberalism concealed the continued strength of currents that remained submerged for decades, becoming politically significant only in occasional eruptions.

The most important of these submerged currents was tribalism, that is, is politics based on affirmation of some group identity against others. While there are as many tribalisms as there are tribes, the most politically potent form, and the relevant one here, is that of a formerly unchallenged dominant group facing the real or perceived prospect of becoming a politically weak and economically declining minority. The most important such group consists of white Christians, where ‘Christian’ is interpreted in a sense of cultural identification rather than any specific religious belief.

Opposed to the tribalists in critical ways, but similar in others, is a disparate group that may be called, for want of a better term ‘the left’. As well as a small group who adhere to marxist or other radical critiques of capitalism, the ‘left’ in this sense includes environmentalists, feminists, unionists, old-style liberals and social democrats, and a wide variety of groups whose personal or cultural identity is threatened by white Christian tribalism.

Most people aren’t systematic thinkers and many combine a mixture of these views. For example, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation combined a dominant tribalist theme of opposition to immigration with a reaction against ‘economic rationalism’, and drew a significant amount of support from union oriented Labor voters.

Because neither ‘hard’ nor ‘soft’ neoliberalism commanded much in the way of support, the dominant neoliberal parties relied on the votes of the excluded groups. The ‘hard’ neoliberal parties relied on the votes of tribalists and made symbolic gestures in their direction, but largely ignored them, particularly if their interests came into conflict with those of big business. The big point of conflict within this coalition was immigration policy, favored by business but feared by the voters whose support they needed. The resolution, which was sustained for quite a long while, was to expand skilled and business migration, the kind most favored by business, while focusing tribal fears on particular groups (in the Australian context, those who arrived by boat).

Soft neoliberals similarly gained the electoral support of the various left groups through a combination of modest concessions and willingness to support “the lesser evil” in the absence of any alternative. The archetypal example, and the one that does most to explain the Brexit eruption was Tony Blair’s New Labour, which explicitly abandoned the traditional positions of the Labour Party and embraced globalisation and the financial sector.

The project of European unification, embodied in the European Union and its associated institutions was, in its origins, a classic example of soft neoliberalism. Its central aim was the removal of barriers to the flow of goods, people and money across national borders within Europe. This was, however, constrained by a wide variety of protocols, commonly referred to as the Social Chapter, which were designed to protect European welfare states within a framework of market liberal reform.

Over time, however, hard neoliberalism came to the fore, most obviously in the creation of the euro and its managing institution, the European Central Bank (ECB). The charter of the ECB was focused entirely on targeting inflation, and precluded the use of monetary expansion to finance budget deficits.

The Global Financial Crisis, and the responses of the policy elite proved fatal to neoliberal dominance. Everywhere, bankers and the financial system were bailed out, while ordinary people were made to pay the price. The situation was worst in the Eurozone, where the design of the ECB made it virtually impossible to adopt any policy except ‘austerity’, a counterproductive focus on cutting budget deficits and controlling the non-existent threat of inflation. (Even if an alternative had been possible, the arrogance and incompetence of ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet ensured that no alternatives would be considered). The result has been a decade of depression in most of the developed world. Even in the US and UK, which have, on some measures recovered, living standards have never returned to the previous growth path, and the inequality of income has been ever more evident.

But just as the economic ideology of neoliberalism lumbers on in zombie form, so, until recently has the political system it supported. Insurgents of various kinds have gained support nearly everywhere, but the alternation between different versions of neoliberalism has continued.

In 2016, all of this has broken down. Hardly anyone now believes in the assurances of the policy elite that they know what is best. It is clear that things have gone substantially wrong in the global economy. What is less clear is why things have gone wrong and what can be done to fix it.

On the left, the answer to the first question is relatively straightforward: the excesses of financialised capitalism have finally come home to roost. This perception was crystalised most dramatically by the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, and by the stream of research showing that the benefits of globalisation had gone overwhelmingly to the top 1 per cent, or even the top 0.1 per cent, of the population. On the other hand, the process of developing a coherent alternative has barely begun.

By contrast, the tribalists have a clear answer to both questions. The problem is not (or at least not primarily) to be located at the top of the class structure, among bankers and CEOs, but at the bottom, among immigrants and racial minorities who benefit from state protection at the expense of ordinary ‘people like us’. The natural response is to stop or restrict migration and, if possible, to force recent migrants, and particularly illegal migrants, to leave.

The Brexit referendum represents the first truly major victory for the tribalist opponents of neoliberalism. Although a wide variety of issues were canvassed, the central focus of the Leave campaign desire to reassert national control over migration policy, particularly against migrants from poorer EU countries in Eastern Europe. Against this, the neoliberal supporters of Remain painted terrifying pictures of the damage that would be done to business and particularly the financial sector by a break with the EU.

The vote for Britain as a whole was quite close. But a closer look reveals an even bigger win for tribalism than the aggregate results suggest. The version of tribalism offered in the Leave campaign was specifically English. Unsurprisingly, it did not appeal to Scottish or Irish voters who rejected it out of hand. Looking at England alone, however, Leave won comfortably with 53 per cent of the vote and was supported almost everywhere outside London, a city more dependent than any other in the world on the global financial system.

Given the framing of the campaign, the choice for the left was, even more than usually, to pick the lesser of very different evils. Voting for Remain involved acquiescence in austerity and an overgrown and bloated financial system, both in the UK and Europe. The Leave campaign relied more and more on coded, and then overt, appeals to racism and bigotry, symbolised by the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, stabbed to death by a neo-Nazi with ties to extreme tribalist organizations in both the UK and US. The result was a tepid endorsement of Remain, which secured the support of around 70 over 60 per cent of Labour voters, but did little to shift the sentiment of the broader public.

The big problem for the tribalists is that, although their program has now been endorsed by the voters, it does not offer a solution to the economic decline against which most of their supporters were protesting. Indeed, while the catastrophic scenarios pushed by the Remain campaign are probably overblown, the process of renegotiating economic relationships with the rest of the world will almost certainly involve a substantial period of economic stagnation.

The terms offered by the EU for the maintenance of anything like existing market access will almost certainly include maintenance of the status quo on immigration. In the absence of a humiliating capitulation by the new pro-Brexit government, that will mean that Britain (or England) will face a long and painful process of adjustment.

And, even supposing a successful reassertion of control over migration policy, many pro-Brexit voters may find that the negative personal consequences of leaving Europe outweigh the abstract satisfaction of having excluded anonymous foreigners. At a relatively trivial level, there will be the need for a visa to visit Europe (which in this context will probably be as close as Edinburgh). More serious consequences will arise for people whose sons or daughters meet their partners while travelling in Europe, as so many young people do, or even in an independent Scotland. If they are to live together, the English partner will be forced to emigrate and seek citizenship under more liberal EU laws.

Nevertheless, in the absence of something better, tribalist sentiment is only likely to grow. The great tragedy of the period since the GFC has been the failure of the left, broadly defined, to articulate a coherent alternative to, or even a clear critique of, the zombie ideas of neoliberalism. There are, to be sure, some signs of such an alternative, from Syriza in Greece to the Sanders campaign in the US, but so far none of these have been more than modestly successful. Nevertheless, if we are to avoid the dead end of tribalism, there is no alternative.

{ 320 comments }

1

bruce wilder 06.26.16 at 9:59 pm

Very nice summary overall. Well done.

2

Placeholder 06.26.16 at 10:16 pm

A recent thesis has gone round making precise what has been repeated generally can be stated in these metrics: after financial crises, quite unlike others, the parliamentary system fragments and distorts, the number of parties represented in parliament markedly increases. The people feel the wounds inflicted on them keenly but feeling it is far from the cure but people who spent the belle epoque under the New American Century are going to every one of its ‘Decent’ solutions before those it declared obscene when capitalism was unimpeachable.

http://voxeu.org/article/political-aftermath-financial-crises-going-extremes

Really the idea that voters would respond to the dramatic collapse of the finance system by systematically supporting those who support reforming that system is…optimistic. Perhaps the left will one day in the near future for another sunny uplands of the post-war consensus…after another war.

3

Cranky Observer 06.26.16 at 10:24 pm

Excellent piece. Thanks.

4

milx 06.26.16 at 10:34 pm

I suspect that the left’s failure to articulate a reasonable alternative to neoliberalism is that they don’t have one. The Marxist critique made sense in the context of pre-industrialized Russia, but not in a world where all of the institutions that give us comfort and high quality of life have emerged from Capitalism. You simply cannot tell people to reject the entire basis of their lifestyles no matter how many promises you make about the utopia that lies on the other side. It strikes people as apocalyptic and too frightening to endure (and for others it sounds delusional and out of step with the pragmatic needs of reality). That’s why the left has had some success with third-wayism and ‘soft neoliberalism’ which at the very least promises to conserve the systems upon which we rely and soften the rough edges.

Due to its particularities (and the way history unfolded) the Soviet Union was never going to be a persuasive alternative model but the little that it could dissipated into smoke with its collapse and the grip that Capitalism now has on even those last bastions of leftist governance – China and Russia. Any non-psychotic leftist would prefer to live in one of the strongholds of Western Capitalism than anywhere else in the world, even with all its flaws.

Syriza ended up folding on the Grexit when confronted with the sheer weight of the Eurozone and Bernie Sanders for all his supposed radicalism is just a slightly softer neoliberalism than the normal Democratic alternative. So how can the left articulate a new, convincing model that is not just third-wayism? My own personal opinion is that it’s time to take Marx’s historical model seriously and begin to demonstrate ways that we can get from here – neoliberalism – to there – communism – in incremental steps that do not jeopardize the stability of the current order. This is essentially third-wayism in practice (incrementalism, Menshivikism, SPDism, etc) though radical in aim and ideology. Essential industries (for national security, for survival of the citizenship) could certainly use more nationalism, but the left may also discover that an honest accounting of history indicates that planned economies have their own, perhaps more significant, flaws. The point is that the thing is going to look like a hybrid – just as it is now – but hopefully more on the socialist side of the ledger. The trick is to keep beating down the fascists and nativists who contain the most systemic political risk.

5

T 06.26.16 at 10:41 pm

Nice job. But the outcomes are more contingent than one suspects. I have little doubt that Warren would be the next US president if she had ran but we’re stuck w/Hillary. Opportunity lost. Similarly, Bill Clinton never would have been president if Mario Coumo had run in the primary or if Ross Perot hadn’t run in the general.
But your main point is well taken. There is not a well articulated baseline progressive economic agenda as compared with neoliberalism, soft or hard. And so the left can be pigeonholed on social issues and their economic agenda characterized as giveaways from the middle and working class to the poor.

6

engels 06.26.16 at 10:46 pm

Really interesting.

7

Darryl 06.26.16 at 10:54 pm

Perhaps the left’s “reasonable alternative to neoliberalism” is “technoprogressivism”? I would define that as a movement intending to use advancing and spreading technology to obsolete the ills of the world, rather than address any underlying inequities through changing human behavioural priorities.

For example, population increase and disease is opposed by spreading and advancing birth control and pharmaceutical technology. Starvation is opposed by spreading food technology. Pollution by clean energy, energy costs by solar/wind power, access to education by the spread of the Internet, cruelty to animals by meat substitutes, gender and race inequality by equal access to user-background-independent technologies, etc etc.

To the extent that the world does not resemble Iain M Banks’ Culture novels, or similar post-scarcity utopias, it is the mission of the technoprogressivist to change the world.

The narrative has the advantage of being morally compelling, aesthetically appealing, and has at least as great a claim on inevitability as Marx ever did.

8

bob mcmanus 06.26.16 at 11:00 pm

Very good summary

9

Rich Puchalsky 06.26.16 at 11:13 pm

JQ: “The Global Financial Crisis, and the responses of the policy elite proved fatal to neoliberal dominance. “

It did? Fatal in what way? On a policy level I see no change at all. Otherwise, I agree with this.

10

Kevin Cox 06.26.16 at 11:25 pm

Tribalism is an emotive word. A better way to describe the phenomena is distributed control versus centralised control. This has less emotion and appeals to our experience of the world.

What is at play is a reaction to the failure of centralisation. Centralisation is too expensive.

The centralists say that unless we have centralised control we will have chaos and free riding and waste. It can give us control but it is very very expensive to maintain and operate. Distributed control via cooperating autonomous agents is cheaper. Close to two orders of magnitude cheaper.

11

T 06.26.16 at 11:32 pm

RP@8
Maybe dominance of conventional wisdom? They still control the levers but no one is convinced they know what they’re doing.

12

js. 06.26.16 at 11:33 pm

I’ll add a note of dissent. Mostly, I think this is very good and I agree with a lot of it. Where I do disagree is in the separation of “economic” and “social” issues. And I think this matters because when people make this distinction, it almost inevitably accompanies a suggestion that the left needs to organize—conceptually and in practice—around “economic” issues. I think this is a mistake both in principle and practice. To take the most obvious example, consider reproductive rights, including but not limited to effective access to abortion. In terms of the analysis of this post, that presumably ends up as a “social” issue, distinct from the “economic”. For reasons I hope I don’t need to explain, I think that’s insane. And I think the almost universal distinguishing between the so-called economic and the so-called social is part of the problem as far as the emergence of a coherent left alternative is concerned.

13

Clay Shirky 06.26.16 at 11:36 pm

John, this is fascinating, but I do want to quibble with one point, where I think you assume that which is to be proved:

You say The big problem for the tribalists is that, although their program has now been endorsed by the voters, it does not offer a solution to the economic decline against which most of their supporters were protesting.

It’s not clear that how many of them were in fact protesting economic decline so much as cultural decline, nor is it clear how many of them made the target of their ire the elites of Brussels as opposed to London. (People like Paul Mason, who I generally admire, are alarmed that the vision of Leave as a principled blow against neo-liberalism is being sullied by abundant evidence that anti-Polish sentiment helped get it voted in.)

Will Davies has a fascinating piece up on the sociology of Brexit (read the whole thing, as they say), which includes this observation:

More bizarrely, it has since emerged that regions with the closest economic ties to the EU in general (and not just of the subsidised variety) were most likely to vote Leave.

While it may be one thing for an investment banker to understand that they ‘benefit from the EU’ in regulatory terms, it is quite another to encourage poor and culturally marginalised people to feel grateful towards the elites that sustain them through handouts, month by month. Resentment develops not in spite of this generosity, but arguably because of it. This isn’t to discredit what the EU does in terms of redistribution, but pointing to handouts is a psychologically and politically naïve basis on which to justify remaining in the EU.

http://www.perc.org.uk/project_posts/thoughts-on-the-sociology-of-brexit/

The vote was — is — a huge problem for protest voters, as with this ‘Bregrexit’ article making the rounds. (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/i-bregrexit-i-voted-for-brexit-and-now-i-realise-what-a-terrible-mistake-i-made-a7104181.html) We don’t know how many people feel this way, but if it’s even 1 in 50, it would have been narrowly Remain.

However, per Davies, I don’t think the outcome of the vote was a problem for genuine tribalists, because their country will be more tribal now. How could it not be? And if tribal affiliations, from CoE to damson jam to not having to endure the scourge of foreign languages being spoken on the bus, are an important part of your identity, you’d be willing to trade off other goods, like, say, a 1% drop in GDP growth.

So I don’t think you can conclude that the lack of a solution to economic decline is a universal weakness in the Leave voters’ worldviews.

14

Sandwichman 06.26.16 at 11:44 pm

“…the term ‘neoliberal’ is used, outside the US, to refer to the revival of 19th century free market ideas…”

I would disagree with this characterization, although I’m not sure if you are making it or simply reporting it, John. The epitome of neoliberalism, in my view, goes under the euphemism of “labour market flexibility.” Superficially this comes down to the same kind of policy prescription as 19th century laissez faire but with an entirely different — and pseudo-Keynesian (“New Keynesian”) — theoretical rationale. Not the Chicago School and Mont Pelerin Society but Joseph Stiglitz, Richard Layard, Olivier Blanchard, Lawrence Summers, Paul Krugman et al.

M… I… T… (“tee you off soon”) k…e…y…nes (“why? because we LOVE you!”) L… owe… you… S… E.

Yes, Friedman and Hayek, Thatcher and Reagan may have started the ball rolling but it was the New Keynesians with their stinking “sticky wages” claptrap who gave it progressive street cred. I could go on but why bother?

15

William Timberman 06.26.16 at 11:46 pm

milx @ 4

Absent other pressures, a re-thought hybrid such as you describe might seem as possible as it is desirable. The difficulty is that such pressures already exist in abundance. The ambitions of an Erdoğan or Putin. The bloody-mindedness of the U.S. foreign policy establishment (and its likely next President.) The intransigency of the Germans, embodied in the likes of Jens Weidmann and Wolfgang Schäuble. The magical realism of the Chinese Communist Party. Mass migrations due not just to tribalism, proxy wars and the resultant failures of national governance, but even more significantly, to the consequences of global warming. Stupefying technological shocks to the cultural balance of the developed world, which so far hasn’t even managed to recover from those of older technologies like television or the automobile. And if we want to manage your hoped-for transition somewhere short of the catastrophe/apocalypse which even our elites must sense is creeping up on us, time is short — very short.

I agree that the Left has failed to articulate a reasonable alternative, but I ask you, is there anyone else who can credibly claim to have done so?

16

T 06.26.16 at 11:48 pm

Clay@11
How do you explain Trump? Other than immigration which has both an economic and cultural element, the revolt against mainstream Republicans seems to be economic. Trump is anti-abortion, has recently found Christ (who knew) and has adopted most of the cultural trappings of the “base.”

17

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.16 at 12:01 am

I think that the alternative is to change hearts and minds. People want to know that a new path is possible, responsible and grounded in reality. Most people rather doubt this at the moment. The way to do that is to present the simple theory that we will always need a set of narrow institutions which are redistributive, alongside market transactions. We already know the names of these, and many countries have one or more of them: universal healthcare, free education, retirement security, public employments, etc. These should be understood as separate institutions, narrowly targeted at specific eternal needs. They could of course be bundled into a package, but that is not necessary. These nonmarket institutions are efficient and create economic growth because they reduce costs and risks (Coase). Some of them also answer certain constant failures of supply and demand in the market (market failure). Because they are not to be determined by prices, they must be designed by Ostrom’s rules for good institutions: easy to understand, tight focus, low overhead and small bureaucracy, allows for heterogeneity, no moral hazard, no free riding, monitoring and accountability, easy rules, easy dispute settlement, small penalties. These institutions can be funded by taxation or printing the money, though it’s important to always design it so that everybody understands that they are in some way paying into it. The providers must accept steady incomes with income ceilings. The rest of the goods and services of society would still be provided by the market system, including additional non-mandatory healthcare, education, pensions, etc. for those who want it. The point is to get people to see that these are not temporary programs to be done away with, as soon as conditions “get better”. They are the normal way the whole system has to work. The current political economic climate is very auspicious for such a development, due to the manifest problems of business-as-usual. The failure of some on the Left, as I see it, is the felt need for some big scheme to change the whole system before doing anything at all about it. But getting a few things to work now, will pave the way to change the future. Bernie Sanders showed that you can just pick a couple of big things and get an enormous response.

18

arcseconds 06.27.16 at 12:01 am

Hi John,

This is the best article I’ve read so far on Brexit.

You have an uncompleted parenthetical remark:

(in the Australian context,

Fixed now, thanks

Until you close that parenthesis, I have no option but to read everything on CT that follows as a very long remark about the Australian context!

19

JMG 06.27.16 at 12:02 am

Deat T@14: Trump’s appeal is hardly economic, except for the powerful American belief that rich people must know all about how to make them richer too. He just says what are supposed to be the quiet parts loud. The broadest part of his base are people anxious to be able to be assholes in public again with social sanction.

20

David Brain 06.27.16 at 12:02 am

This was clearly wholly a tribal argument on both sides – you could tell this because the campaigns were not concerned with persuading others, they were almost entirely concerned with reassuring their own members that they had “picked” the right side and by demonising the other side, with absolutely no actual ideas offered anywhere and the occasional nonsensical sight of the same argument being deployed by both sides (as though it supported their case), sometimes on the same day! – but I think it’s a little unfair to say that only London stood out in the English Remain results.

Indeed, I think that perhaps the best predictor of the result was, oddly, the result of the AV referendum campaign, in which the geographic spread of the result was pretty much the same as it was here (albeit clearly with lower positive percentages): London and other major cities (and, notably, the key university “towns”) showed much stronger support than anywhere else, with the few areas that clearly voted Yes to AV also voting very strongly for Remain.

21

JMG 06.27.16 at 12:02 am

Put without in place of with in that last sentence, please.

22

Ben Alpers 06.27.16 at 12:04 am

T@5:

A minor quibble but there’s no evidence at all that Perot cost Bush the ’92 presidential election. All the polling data suggests he drew support equally from Bush and Clinton.

23

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 12:07 am

I don’t think the revolt against mainstream Republicans is economic. I think the revolt is against mainstream Republicans, period. In Trump’s case, his single most popular proposal is the insane, unworkable and staggeringly expensive deportation of 11 million people in the U.S., accompanied by an equally i.u.w.&s.e. plan to build a wall with Mexico. It’s hard to believe votes animated by that vision have economics in mind.

My base assumption is that the changed media and financial landscape of running for President has so weakened party structure that people who would previously have run as third-party candidates can now run their insurgencies from within the two main parties. (https://storify.com/cshirky/republican-and-democratic-parties-are-now-host-bod) and third-party candidates are almost always a protest against the existing system, more than they are an affirmative embrace of a set of policies.

24

Andyb 06.27.16 at 12:10 am

Very interesting post. You got one number slightly wrong: about 63 percent of Labour voters voted for Remain, not 70

25

T 06.27.16 at 12:10 am

JMG@17
Just checking to see how many of your relatives used to be autoworkers in Michigan. Do you actually know anyone who voted for Trump? Are you American?

26

merian 06.27.16 at 12:18 am

This is a very interesting article — thanks, JQ!

I’m aware that the brush strokes are broad, but some minor thoughts

During the decades of neoliberalism that began in the 1970s, the, the political system, nearly everywhere, was based on electoral competition between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ versions of neoliberalism, focusing on marginal differences in economic policy, and on more heated divisions in social policy (the so-called ‘culture wars’).

How do the — small, but occasionally significant — acts of economic policy that may look like they’re deviating from this dogma fit in? For example the introduction of the 35 h work week in France, or the overall preservation of employee-representation and joint decision-making structures in Germany? Are they just small patterning on the overcoat of the neo-liberal orthodoxy or something that feeds into a “new path” sort of way?

Some of your “non-represented left” groups have, of course, developed into political forces, such as the Green party at the very least in France and Germany. It’s no wonder that initially, economic policy was a terrible weak spot of theirs. Now, of course, there’s some danger of the Greens losing their left-wing orientation. There are functioning Christian-Democrat + Green coalitions in Germany, sometimes with the Liberal Democrats.

I’d look over your numbers and make minor adjustments. I don’t think Labour voters voted for Remain quite at 70%. Also, the same forces you describe are at work in Scotland, too, but it’s just that the overall level of voters willing to go with the tribalist option was lower. (Correlations are the same as in England, though.) And I’d doubt that Brits will need visa for at least the Western EU countries any time soon, just as no visa is needed to travel between Iceland, Switzerland and Germany. Not much of a consolation, of course.

27

Yeselson 06.27.16 at 12:18 am

Seems like a good time to repost my CT essay from April, 2015 (pre-Trump):

http://crookedtimber.org/2015/04/30/is-cosmopolitan-communitarianism-still-possible-was-it-ever/

We should favor redistributive policies because they are the right thing to do–they are normatively just and humane, period. But we shouldn’t necessarily believe they will engender cosmopolitan solidarity. White workers have social democratic alternatives in Scandinavia and they are anxiously moving toward tribalism there, too. The most hopeful sign is that this is more age-related than anything else and that the shoots of cosmopolitan leftism among young people in major cities in North America and Canada will be the harbinger of a politics that honors both demographic difference and economic and social egalitarianism.

28

Omega Centauri 06.27.16 at 12:22 am

Thanks, its pretty clarifying to have the view from orbit, rather than that of someone stuck in the forest.

T @14. Well Trump is riding the tribalism wave. He is what some have termed a political entrepreneur, going after the opportunities he see’s. In many ways he and his supporters are motivated by sticking it to the man, in this case the economic/political elite. That was probably a big part of Leave as well, sticking it to both the EU, and those financial manipulators who have gentrified London, and driven the “real” people out. In a very real sense, these movements seem to be first about getting even. Thinking about what follows, comes later (when it will be too late).

29

T 06.27.16 at 12:32 am

Clay @20
I think we agree that they are voting against mainstream Republicans and not for a coherent economic alternative. But go through the list of policies supported by the mainstream and compare to Trump. They’re almost identical on social issues — abortion, guns, religion, education, sex ed, and on and on. It’s the economic issues where he gets traction — immigration and trade — although he does it by kicking down. His supporters voted for neoliberal Republicans for nearly 40 years and, to say the least, it hasn’t worked out too well. Six million manufacturing jobs were lost under W. Median incomes have been stagnant since the late 70s. For what it’s worth, I think all this would go away with 3% growth. But I also think the concentration of wealth has created an economy of rent seeking suppressing productivity and making sustained 3% growth unreachable under the current economic regime.

30

merian 06.27.16 at 12:33 am

Clay Shirky @20: not sure.

1. Attentive journalists with a better stomach than mine report that Trump hammers trade, trade, trade. And people go for it.
2. The thought that I can’t shake is that conservatives/Republicans don’t actually like ineffectual politicians. Trumps like he’s a symptom of the backlash against the approach, so widely practiced by Republicans everywhere right now, to prove that government is ineffectual by getting into government and then electing to not get anything done, whatsoever. Citizens, even right-wingers, actually like people who get shit done. Trump claims (ridiculous, I know) that he’s this kind of guy.

31

merian 06.27.16 at 12:33 am

*Trump looks like (in 2.)

32

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 12:52 am

Merian #25, on your first point, that’s fair enough.

What political analysts and journalists both want is that candidates have a list of discrete positions and that voters align themselves with those positions. That’s not true in most years, and even less so in this election — Trump offers a worldview, which is that ‘ordinary’ (which is to say white wage-earning) Americans have suffered because no president since Reagan was man enough to negotiate a better deal.

Within that worldview, immigration and trade are not policy positions so much as they are part of a bundle of use-vs-them. This affiliational logic shows up in all sorts of ways, with the well-known test during the primaries, where the single question that most identified a Trump voter, out of the larger group of GOP voters, was a belief that the President, a lifelong Christian, believed in Islam.

This is a larger problem for both political science and for politics generally — Trump voters are no more voting for his ‘trade’ or ‘immigration’ policies, as if those were discrete and executable, than Leave voters were voting for ‘sovereignty’, even when they responded positively when U.K. pollsters asked them that question.

About #2, I think there’s a democratic trilemma of some sort here: Ideologically coherent parties; transparent democratic processes; gains from compromise. The parties sorted themselves out into ‘multi-racial coalition pursuing civil rights’ vs. “How ’bout them white people?” between 1964 and 1984, which, interacting with the transparency enacted after Watergate, sticks us with politicians who can no longer say one thing to the public and another in committee (the grease on the skids 1789-1976.)

So, to take the economists’ view, I am willing to believe that R voters want an effective government in the abstract, but I am not at all convinced that they would trade either ideological coherence of the Red tribe or transparent oversight of the Blue tribe to get it.

33

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 12:52 am

use-vs-them -> us-vs-them

34

William T 06.27.16 at 1:04 am

I would vote for Lee A Arnold’s utopia @15. A clear vision of what a healthy well functioning society could be, and a framework for actually establishing it from the presently existing economy.

35

cassander 06.27.16 at 1:21 am

The idea that the left or the ne0-liberals are free of tribalism is patently absurd, and this is more than demonstrated by the frankly hysterical response both groups have demonstrated in response to the Brexit. A week ago if you said I’d spend this weekend watching the the left weep crocodile tears on behalf of the of international finance, I’d have laughed you out the door, but that’s precisely what I’m seeing from numerous quarters.

>The full program of neoliberalism in this ‘hard’ sense involved the dismantling of the 20th century welfare state and the associated mixed economy.

The idea that the welfare state is being dismantled is demonstrably false as I’ve pointed out to you before. At the most extreme, the welfare state was re-organized to be less socialist, in the traditional sense, and its rate of growth decreased. Nowhere has it been abolished in any meaningful sense and in precious few places was it ever actually cut. Please do not make such hyperbolic statements.

>The project of European unification, embodied in the European Union and its associated institutions was, in its origins, a classic example of soft neoliberalism.

Relative to Italy, the EU is neo-liberal. Relative to the UK, it’s definitely not. Trade, finance, etc. were to be “free” in the sense that they were be centrally managed from Brussels rather than by 25 national governments. In some cases, that’s meant neo-liberal reform, but the opposite at least as often.

36

jake the antisoshul soshulist 06.27.16 at 1:33 am

Anti-globalization may be the primary driving force behind Trumpism, even moreso than immigration, though for many immigration is part and partial of globalization.
Often the concerns are directed toward crony-capitalism. There may be some basis for this claim, but they blame this on the left, even though the swinging door between government and business is an ecumenical problem.

37

merian 06.27.16 at 1:34 am

Clay Shirky @32: Tribalism, in some attenuated form, is, I think, overlaid much voter decision-making. Sometimes it’s even nothing but loyalty to those one felt traditionally associated with, as long as they don’t fuck up too badly. Here it’s the newcomer celebrity with the loudest mouth. There’s another study that associated Trump support with traits that supposedly characterised reliance on a more authoritarian parenting style.

I don’t think Republican voters actually want government to work — they want to see proof that government CAN’T work. But they are able to recognize sheer refusal to perform one’s job, if not for what it is, at least for something not appetising enough to give a candidate the mark of a good presidential choice.(*) Now Trump wants to get things done by means other than the triangle you describe. So he doesn’t “small” of government — he smells of strong man (“I’ll MAKE them pay”).

(*) There’s some sort of interesting lesson going on in Alaska at the moment. Voters ousted the (absolutely abysmal, refuse-to-do-your-job, here’s-your-money-dear-oil-company) R governor for a non-crazy Republican (who lost the R primary, and ran as an Independent in the gov. election) with the D candidate (who’s furthermore Alaskan Native) as Ltd Governor. So this was with the D votes, but also some of and the non-crazy R. Then the state revenues collapsed with the oil price. New governor is trying this damnedest to put together a budget. Crazy-R legislature is absolutely stonewalling. (No taxes. No reduction of oil subsidies. No tapping the permanent fund. No realistic, effective suggestion for even more cuts.) It’s going to be interesting if some of them get at least somewhat challenged.

38

derrida derider 06.27.16 at 1:46 am

“Voting for Remain involved acquiescence in austerity and an overgrown and bloated financial system”

The second, yes, but I can’t see the first – after all austerity is precisely one thing the City and the Eurosceptic Tories are agreed on, though perhaps for differing reasons.

Plus a great percentage of the Eurosceptic objections came and comes from the SOFT, not hard, neoliberal features of the EU – the French “social model”, the convention on human rights, overriding British adversarial legal principles with civil law features, etc. That’s why the Tory party was so split – the City people being hard pro-Europe and the genuine reactionaries hard anti-Europe. But a Boris Johnston government is likely to be at least as keen on cutting the welfare state as a Cameron one, and rather less keen on respecting the limits of state coercive power over individuals. Boris will be happy to encourage the “wogs begin at Calais” mindset and unleash the security forces.

“the process of renegotiating economic relationships with the rest of the world will almost certainly involve a substantial period of economic stagnation”
Indeed – the only thing worse than globalisation is rolling back globalisation.

39

cassander 06.27.16 at 1:53 am

@merian

> overlaid much voter decision-making. Sometimes it’s even nothing but loyalty to those one felt traditionally associated with, as long as they don’t fuck up too badly.

People don’t go into voting booths and think “what’s good for my tribe”, the effect is much more subtle than that. It affects you you trust, who you consider moral, what issues you consider important, etc. People don’t usually vote for naked self (or tribal) interest, what they do is let their brain convince them that “what’s good for my tribe” is the same as “what’s good for everyone”

>I don’t think Republican voters actually want government to work — they want to see proof that government CAN’T work

This assertion is lazy and amounts to nothing more than demonizing people who disagree with you. Republicans absolutely want government to work, they just have a very different definition from you of what working constitutes.

40

RNB 06.27.16 at 2:03 am

OP: “Most people aren’t systematic thinkers and many combine a mixture of these views.”

Yes as I have noted before tribalist Donald Trump supports the neoliberal position of repeal of Dodd-Frank; the leftist Bernie Sanders drew some unknown level of support for his tribalist positions on trade and possibly immigration; the neoliberal Clinton supports some leftist policies. Brexit supporters included tribalists of course but also some who opposed the EU on radical democratic grounds as Richard Tuck has argued in Dissent as well as some who are neoliberal in economic policy.

As Bourdieu once roughly put it, we should never confuse ideal types of reality with the reality of those ideal types.

41

merian 06.27.16 at 2:15 am

@38 cassander

ad first point: Good to see you agree with what I wrote.

ad second point: I didn’t mean it in any way demonising and don’t believe I’m being lazy. I’m honestly trying to paraphrase what I hear from those who support the more iconoclastic, libertarian wing of those who dominate the debate on the R side. Take stock of the R presidential candidate list. The only two who fit the more traditional model (conservatives who want to make politics work) were Jeb Bush and John Kasich, and they tanked. Many R voters here where I live tell me that public services aren’t something taxes should pay for. I live in a place where having fire service is considered too much of a socialist thing for many.

42

Ed 06.27.16 at 2:17 am

This is why I keep coming here. Excellent essay, however I have nothing illuminating to add so I’ll keep quiet.

43

Raven Onthill 06.27.16 at 2:18 am

I wrote a post yesterday that might at least point to “a coherent alternative to, or even a clear critique of, the zombie ideas of neoliberalism.” I think I will reproduce it here; it is relatively short, and I hope it will generate some discussion.

“We so quickly forget that the purpose of the European Union was not to promote the economic interests of countries whose names begin in G and end with Y, nor to raise Northern European values over Southern. The point of the European Union was to make and keep peace.

“The EU is not keeping the peace, not even trying hard. If they were trying, the ECB would be forgiving Greece’s debt, while urging Britain to reconsider. In the long term, to keep the peace, the EU would be promoting Keynesian macroeconomic policies intended to reduce income inequality, and taking in the Syrian refugees, because the alternative is both too horrible to contemplate and shutting them out will breed future conflict.

“I would like to see a return to the internationalism that the EU was founded on. The business of the EU is not promoting the interests and ideology of Germany and, to a lesser extent, France. It is to make peace and create and maintain prosperity in Europe.”

44

js. 06.27.16 at 2:19 am

In the comments to the “three party system” post linked in the OP, I noted that I don’t think “tribalism” is actually a thing. Roughly, going by memory here. Meaning, I don’t think it’s at all a useful frame. This thread is confirming my suspicions.

45

RNB 06.27.16 at 2:26 am

How would Abenomics and Obama’s Affordable Care Act count here? Is the former primarily neoliberal and what other elements does it have; is the latter neoliberal as well or does it count as left?

46

T 06.27.16 at 2:33 am

Clay and merian
1) The areas hurt most by trade and declining manufacturing are the biggest Trump areas.
2) In addition to opposing the mainstream Republicans on trade and immigration, Trump also opposes them on SS and Medicare. The mainstream, through Ryan, has been trying to gut both through privatization. Trump is an avid supporter.
3) Clay –“So, to take the economists’ view, I am willing to believe that R voters want an effective government in the abstract, but I am not at all convinced that they would trade either ideological coherence of the Red tribe or transparent oversight of the Blue tribe to get it.”
I’m not sure what you mean. R voters are the Red tribe. (Did you mean Trump voters?) The question is why we’re seeing the potential disintegration of the tribe — a 160 yr old political party.

47

Frank Wilhoit 06.27.16 at 2:38 am

“What went wrong?” is not exactly the same question as “what is wrong?”, and “what to do?” does not emerge, as we might wish it would, from either one.

What is wrong is that institutions, in the US and the EU and the UK and doubtless elsewhere, have lost the courage to hold business accountable under the law; and have thereby discredited themselves. (“Elites” in this context is a misdirection for “institutions”.)

Abstractly, what must be done is to restore accountability, but in practice, there is no incremental way to do that. There may not even be any catastrophic (in the technical sense of the word) ways to do it

48

js. 06.27.16 at 2:48 am

Also curious to me is the fact that, e.g. so much virtual ink is spilt on whether Trump’s appeal is “economic” or “cultural”, but the idea that the two aren’t really distinct in the way people seem to think—that e.g., Trump’s appeal has in large part to do with his misogyny and brown-bashing, which are inextricably “economic” and “cultural” at the same time, this is evidently totally unthinkable to people here. And then people wonder why the left is toothless.

49

RNB 06.27.16 at 2:56 am

One problem may be that the left stands so resolutely opposed to”trade” deals such as TPP that it does not get involved in hammering out agreements from which workers could benefit more than not having them at all. Led by Sanders the American left wants all trade deals rejected, but that may mean ceding markets and economic opportunities to rising powers such as China and India. The left has merged with tribalism, protectionism, retreat and isolationism; I think it would be better to identify with globalization and then shape it in the interests of workers, e.g. strengthening worker and environmental protections in emerging economies in exchange for the US not insisting on a strong IPR regime. Plus, the left needs to insist on a strategy for workers hit hard by globalization but not be opposed to globalization as such as the Sanders campaign has been.

50

RNB 06.27.16 at 2:59 am

This will rub the British readers the wrong way, or maybe not. But I think Blair speaks more eloquently of the benefits of immigration and a multicultural society than Hillary Clinton who probably believes more strongly in them than Blair does. She is certainly as capable as Blair, but she hasn’t had the toughness to challenge the tribalism in her own party.

51

rootlesscosmo 06.27.16 at 3:02 am

What nags at me, about to turn 74, is how familiar the tribalist (which seems to me a useful descriptor) arguments sound. Watch an old episode of “All in the Family” and see if you think Archie Bunker was expressing the same grievances, the same sense of being under siege, that the Leave voters and the Trump admirers express now. Trump’s alarmism may be baseless but then Nixon was genuinely scared by McGovern and the antiwar movement: for a while there were serious people who thought he might cancel the 1972 election and suspend Constitutional guarantees. What I mean is that there was an air of crisis–“this can’t go on”–that I think was as strong as the present one.

But I don’t think this is reason to be complacent. Can the two periods be connected (staying in the terms of John’s analysis) by saying that neoliberalism–Reagan, Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Blair–was a way elites managed that earlier crisis, but it stopped working in 2008, leaving only an incoherent “tribalism” or more of the same (neoneoliberalism?) as options with any political weight? I tend to fall back on a line from Edward Gorey: “Things do not get better, but worse.”

52

William Bedry 06.27.16 at 3:03 am

The Global Financial Crisis, and the responses of the policy elite[,] proved fatal to neoliberal dominance.

Really? And all along I thought that neo-liberalism was just an iteration of the ideology of legitimation of global elites.

It seems to me that the klepto-plutocracy of international capital is still firmly entrenched.

Their well-paid lackeys in the “profession” of economics will produce an updated version in short order.

53

William Berry 06.27.16 at 3:06 am

Well, William Berry, actually.

54

cassander 06.27.16 at 3:10 am

>I didn’t mean it in any way demonising and don’t believe I’m being lazy. I’m honestly trying to paraphrase what I hear from those who support the more iconoclastic, libertarian wing of those who dominate the debate on the R side.

There’s a difference between believing that the current republican party has failed and being an anarchist. If you believe that there should be lower levels of government spending, regulation, taxation, whatever, it’s perfectly sensible to stop trusting a republican party that has manifestly failed to deliver any of those things, and to be willing to reach for something that will, at the least, shake things up. I’m manifestly not a trump supporter, but I can see why people are, and the hysterical reaction the left has towards him makes me sympathize with them, much against my will.

>Take stock of the R presidential candidate list. The only two who fit the more traditional model (conservatives who want to make politics work) were Jeb Bush and John Kasich, and they tanked.

There were, what, a dozen republican candidates? It was a lot and almost all of them tanked. I’m not sure that can be said to prove anything, particularly following only 4 years after the party nominated Mitt Romney, the very definition of traditional republican.

55

bad Jim 06.27.16 at 3:12 am

A masterful piece. Thanks.

American politics is strongly flavored by its history, most notoriously by the original sin of slavery, but crucially by its distance from the rest of the developed world. Within my lifetime it was the dominant economic force, the unquestioned giant of manufacturing, simply because its competitors had been devastated by World War II. This was a privileged situation as unsustainable and undesirable as slavery had been, but its loss is still keenly felt, although nowadays we’re blaming the Mexicans and Chinese instead of the Germans and Japanese.

America’s inequality is worse than even the U.K. We tolerate far higher levels of executive compensation than anyone else. Low levels of taxation for unearned income are more likely its result than its cause. The decimation of unions is certainly a major factor, but even that appears to be as much culture as calculation; not many members of my liberal family are pro-union, even though my father and grandfather were union members.

At least we honor the memory of Roosevelt, and a weak Keynesian stimulus is our traditional response to economic upheaval.

56

DMC 06.27.16 at 3:26 am

Good over all, especially in presenting a counter narrative to the overwhelming MSM meme(or is it a trope) of “the hordes of drooling blackshirts and football hooligans propelling the Leave vote”. Hard or soft, the EU was a neo-liberal cake when it was baked and the ECB was going to serve the bond holders and not the member states. There are reasons perfectly serious, liberal people preferred Brexit. Not all arguments about national sovereignty are about immigration(though they are readily hijacked in that direction). With the example of Greece fresh before their eyes and the EU South(Spain Italy, Portugal) teetering on the brink of insolvency, I can well imagine any number of voters concluding that it was time to jump ship while the jumping was good.

57

merian 06.27.16 at 3:45 am

Apologies I let myself be dragged into participating in a thread derail by cassander, who keeps misrepresenting what I’m saying — as usual, while we’re discussing Europe, the debate turns to the US. Sigh.

To return to tribalism and neoliberalism in the light of what’s going on, I still believe that JQ is basically quite right — and that the behaviour of whoever represents the hard-neoliberal option (US Republicans, Tories…) has set parts of their own constituency onto the “tribalism” course. For example by stopping to do their legislative duty, not voting on budgets, not holding confirmation hearings for supreme court judges in the US; or blatantly serving the interests of hereditary moneyed families and just implementing policy after policy that doesn’t work in the UK and France; etc. And the soft-neoliberals have lost part of *their* traditional constituency to the tribalists because they correctly perceive that these leaders don’t work in their interest.

58

cassander 06.27.16 at 4:09 am

@merian

A derail? You’re the one who brought up republicans, not me. And in what way did I misrepresent you?

>For example by stopping to do their legislative duty, not voting on budgets,

That was the leftist party doing that in the US, not the republicans. Or is mentioning that your facts are wrong an attempt to de-rail the conversation?

59

Frederick Arehart 06.27.16 at 4:25 am

It’s simply hard to take seriously anyone who claims the Leave people were all racists and xenophobes. Like the people who voted to Leave, Islam is a spectrum of believers. The problem is the group that is radical and violent is seen by the clerics to be a legitimate part of the spectrum and is Wahhabi in it’s source.

The Saudis are of the Wahhabi sect. For years they have funded Wahhabi schools and the exporting of their graduates.

What seems to be forgotten is that ISIS is Wahhabi in nature. Wahhabis are the radical conservatives. How many Wahhabi Imam’s are in Britain? That’s the scary question.

Again, most Muslims if left alone would assimilate nicely; just like other groups have.
Unfortunately, they are not left alone and since Wahhabism is viewed as a legitimate part if not THE greatest part of the Sunnis, they are not condemned.
Sharia is their end game.

60

merian 06.27.16 at 4:29 am

@cassander – I apologized for contributing to derailing this thread, and I’m not responsible for your contribution, so why are you being rude now?

Yes, in your representation I don’t recognize my own words any more, and given that I’d continue to derail if I dug deeper, I’m not.

Last, what on earth do you mean by “the leftist party”? The Working Families’ Party? I’m referring to the inaction of the US Congress, mostly.

61

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 4:36 am

T #45 point 1: I’m surprised by that. My memory from the primaries, back when there were other candidates, is that e.g. Louisiana was far more Trump country than Michigan, but I don’t know which figures you are looking at?

62

merian 06.27.16 at 4:44 am

RNB @48 – Is there a way how a bi-partisan (or multi-party) parliamentary group, or for that matter a group of elected representatives in the majority, in a transparent process that has at least some hallmarks of democracy, could become involved in hammering out trade deals? Really? The Occupy-left and some of the ecologist-left in Europe recently clamoured loudly for such a thing and brandished leaked versions. It was accused by the institution of some sort of treason.

It’s the very secrecy of where EU directives come from, the missing feedback loop to debate among citizens, the toothlessness of the EU parliament, that is quite germane to the problem we’ve got right now.

63

merian 06.27.16 at 4:45 am

T@45 – I wouldn’t ascribe to Trust a position on SS and Medicare, TBH.

64

Howard Frant 06.27.16 at 5:28 am

Thank you for finally giving CT a reasonably clear statement of the difference between the American and the metric-system senses of “neoliberalism.” However, the American sense had only a brief vogue in America, and now there is complete confusion about how to apply the term there.

” It involved an attempt by former liberals (in the US sense) and social democrats to accommodate to the demands of financial markets while still softening the edges of capitalism and maintaining a more active role for the state in filling the gaps left by market provision of services. This ‘soft’ neoliberalism was exemplified by the (Bill) Clinton administration in the United States and the Blair government in the UK and was prefigured, in important respects, by the Hawke-Keating government in Australia.”

I’m not really sure what this means. It wasn’t the demands of financial markets that Bill Clinton was trying to accommodate. It was the demands of voters. People on the left who condemn Clinton as a sellout conveniently forget that before 1992 the Democrats had lost *five of the last six* Presidential elections (the sixth was won by a conservative Democrat). Those five elections included two absolutely crushing electoral-college landslides, the first (1976) involving a candidate from the left wing of the Democratic Party, the second (1984) involving the epitome of New Deal liberalism. By any reasonable standard the voters had decisively rejected what the Democratic Party had to offer. (Something similar before Blair, no?) So Clinton tried something else. Not only did he preside over what working people remember (I think) as a good time in US history, he also is the reason that liberal are near a majority on the Supreme Court instead of an irrelevant minority.

There’s this itch on the left to refer to H. Clinton as a “neoliberal” (though the term has only recently come into use in the US), but this seems to be nothing more than invective. When you get down to policy positions the differences between Clinton and Sanders seem to be pretty small; Sanders has done his best to magnify hem, presumably so he can make the case that she is a tool of Wall Street or some other oligarchs (though he never quite says that she is). So Clinton’s support for Dodd-Frank, which certainly puts her at odds with Wall Street, is treated as trivial compared to he failure to endorse restarting the Glass-Steagal Act. Clinton doesn’t just differ with Sanders about fracking; she differs with him (it is implied) *because* she is in the pocket of the energy industry. And so on. So I would advise caution about trying to fit American politics into the Procrustean bed of theory.

65

Geoff Mosley 06.27.16 at 5:51 am

This is a great opportunity for the people to free themselves from the toxic objective of endless economic growth. The alternative of the steady state economy has been with us for 168 years and the change is long overdue. We can do it by means of incremental steps but it is important above all to have a clear idea of the destination. To find out more go to http://www.steadystate.org

66

b9n10nt 06.27.16 at 5:56 am

Good piece, thx.

Regarding a way forward:

One way leftists have wielded influence within broader society has been to make the personal the political: Race and gender activists demonstrated a personal transformation (nonviolent resistance, pride) and have compelled most of their former oppressors to likewise transform themselves (from bigotry to “PC” decency).

Can this be a template for a similar transformation toward economic freedom and equality? Those who pursue status in finance, marketing, extractive industries, and politics would come to understand that they are personally exhibiting antisocial behaviors just as racism, sexism, and homophobia are now seen as pathologies? Those who would pursue economic democracy would have first transformed themselves (away from consumerism and status-seeking) and practice what they preach?

I can’t imagine changing hearts and minds through mass politics: that system has been thoroughly gamed.

67

Tabasco 06.27.16 at 5:56 am

The OP says UK nationals will need a visa to enter the EU. This is unlikely. Non-EU nationals, at least those from the OECD countries, don’t need one now. But the British will need to line up in the slower non EU line at immigration, with the Americans, Canadians and other riff-raff.

This will have the odd consequence that a Northern Irish national flying in to Dublin will be in “Others” line , while the EU nationals waltz through.

68

Hidari 06.27.16 at 6:01 am

‘The surprising decision by English and Welsh (though not Scottish and Northern Irish) voters to leave the European Union can only be understood in the broader context of the breakdown of the ideological consensus that dominated politics throughout the world until the Global Financial Crisis.’

Just a little note to back up your point: there was an article in the Independent which I can no longer find which pointed out that in the Welsh speaking areas of Wales (where Plaid Cymru is strong), Remain won.

In other words, in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the nationalist parts of Wales, Remain won. In other words again, where there was a strong, coherent, counter-narrative to the dominant one of Brexit (which was framed very strongly in terms of English nationalism), remain won. But in all these cases the counter-narrative was also framed in nationalist terms.

What we should infer from this is a cliche, but nevertheless true. ‘Man does not live by bread alone’. People need narratives to make sense of their lives. Throughout most of the capitalist/industrialist era, for working people this was either religion and/or socialism/communism/marxism/social democracy…call it what you will. With this gone (and in the United States it was only weakly there) religion has resurged (in ‘immigrant’ communities) and, of course, nationalism has stepped in to fill the void in non-religious (i.e. mainly white) communities.

In a more extreme form, of course, we can see this in the middle east where as marxism has declined, religiosity has increased, and in the United States, with the appearance of Trump (‘left wing’ concerns over jobs etc, an isolationist foreign policy, and white nationalism/racism).

Blairism/Clintonism was an attempt to paper over the cracks and create a sort of non-left wing left wing (i.e. essentially right wing in terms of economics but with a patina of social liberalism). For a long time it looked succesful, but ultimately it failed because it lacked the emotional substance that religion, nationalism and socialism/marxism could provide.

69

Z 06.27.16 at 6:07 am

The three-party system is a masterful contribution and it fits perfectly the Brexit referendum.

Because labels inherited from the former period are bound to be ill-adjusted for the new one, I personally came up with the following tripartition in terms of ideology: the first group is roughly characterized by its giving priority to the mitigation of inequalities on the socio-economic front, the rise of which it considers of paramount of importance, and the mitigation of the impact of humanity on the ecosystem on the global front; the second considers the competitiveness and efficiency of the economy to be the most important topic while the third gives priority to the enforcement of reactionary modes of dominations (reactionary rather than traditional because, in 2016, it is clear that any reference to a traditional past is purely rhetorical and bares little ressemblance to any actual past).

The addendum I would like to add to the three-party system theory, and one which goes a long way to explaining why “the process of developing a coherent alternative has barely begun” on the left, is that these three distinct and coherent ideologies do not correspond to three stable, coherent social groups.

The core of the third group is formed of uneducated workers occupying intermediate job positions in peripheral areas. Under the current organization of the economy and society of western democracies, this is a highly stable group: in the absence of significantly more financial or intellectual capital than typically possessed by members of this group, social mobility is far too low for the statistical significance of someone or her children reaching a higher social position.

The second group is also pretty stable: its core is formed of dynamic, educated professionals in economically favored central areas; a tiny group but with a very high aptitude to reproduce itself (for exactly the same reason that the third does).

However, the first group-whose core is formed of educated people in dynamic areas with middle wealth-is not stable: they are educated enough to be able to reach in significant proportion the second group and share enough of their life conditions (starting with the geography) to feel a real proximity to them. Under current situations, a frank political breaking with the second group thus seems to me unthinkable: young college-graduate enthusiastic Sanders supporters will vote for Clinton en masse, young educated Scotts will probably vote to secede from the UK to remain in the EU and perhaps rejoin the eurozone… two choices which are probably vastly preferable to their most credible alternative (a Trump presidency and a brexit UK) but which will also probably lead to ever rising inequalities and ever threatening anthropogenic climate change.

If this somewhat depressing analysis is correct, it is high time that the core of the first group (i.e us reading CT right now) seriously and forcefully starts thinking about how to drastically change the material life of the core of the third group: yes, they vote for absurd and scary policies based on crude nativist arguments; yes, they are out to smash every institutions dear to the first group, but that does not change the fact that the current system offers them no realistic way of improving their lives or that of their children.

70

bad Jim 06.27.16 at 6:10 am

Charles Peters of the Washington Monthly wrote “A Neoliberal Manifesto” back in the 80’s. It was the sort of good-government stuff to be expected from that venerable publication, rather more liberal than the DLC tendency approximated but not exemplified by the Clinton administration.

It’s frustrating to try to define Democratic presidents, because they only have two years to shove their communistic tendencies down the throats of the public before the reaction sets in, which is why we’re still on tenterhooks hoping to keep Obama’s feeble advances alive. Bear in mind that many of our sovereign states continue to refuse to accept free health care for poor people.

71

Val 06.27.16 at 6:12 am

JQ
The project of European unification, embodied in the European Union and its associated institutions was, in its origins, a classic example of soft neoliberalism. Its central aim was the removal of barriers to the flow of goods, people and money across national borders within Europe.

Raven Onthill @ 42
The point of the European Union was to make and keep peace.

I have been around long enough to think that JQ may be right about ‘what actually happened’ but Raven Onthill is right about the leftwing, internationalist ideal of peace. The EU may have strayed far from that – but that is the ideal that Corbyn could have defended with a passion.

There are children whose grandparents or great grandparents fought on the opposite sides in the second world war in Europe. There are delicacies even now in those family relationships – I know from my own experience – but we do the best we can, with goodwill. That, in human terms, is an example of what the ideal of the EU means, and why people might feel so hurt at an apparent betrayal of it.

72

Z 06.27.16 at 6:15 am

Seconding Hidari @64, in the original thread on the three-party system, I wrote

The reality of the world today is that whatever converging trend between advanced societies which might have existed in the 1945-1980 period has now come to an end and has been reversed, with the norm being increasing divergence alongside cultural, historical and anthropological lines which coincide roughly with national borders.

[…]

[T]here are no left policies anymore: there are German left policies (inspired by German values, social conditions, history…), British left policies (ditto, and they differ from Scottish left policies), American left policies (ditto), French left policies (ditto)…

The results of the Brexit referendum, with England alone choosing to secede from the EU, is as clear an empirical illustration of this thesis as one could possibly imagine.

73

bad Jim 06.27.16 at 6:42 am

It would be a stretch to ascribe all the blame for America’s stark inequality to slavery and genocide, but given the size of the Confederacy, and its history as the bulk of the Democratic party, reliably opposed to Wall Street, it’s not that hard to understand why, given the challenges and the opportunities of the Depression and the Roosevelt administration, our social infrastructure wound up being so limited and mean-spirited.

Why don’t we have universal health care? Every Democrat since Roosevelt has attempted it, but they also did things to ameliorate racial discrimination, and that was the end of any further progress. It’s no coincidence that only our first black president could finally cobble together a pathetic collection of health care reforms, barely a first attempt at the state of affairs taken for granted in most competent countries, and get it passed. This is a big fucking deal, as Biden said. It’s not very good, but after fifty years of failing, I’m gratified.

If we can win another couple of elections it might become as much a part of our lives as Social Security and Medicare.

74

relstprof 06.27.16 at 6:46 am

64: “Blairism/Clintonism was an attempt to paper over the cracks and create a sort of non-left wing left wing (i.e. essentially right wing in terms of economics but with a patina of social liberalism). For a long time it looked succesful, but ultimately it failed because it lacked the emotional substance that religion, nationalism and socialism/marxism could provide.”

I agree. The emotional substance of “meritocratic winners will be handsomely rewarded, losers will still benefit from the hearty crumbs” is pretty powerful in its own narrow way, until the cronyism, abject subservience to corporate interests, and abandonment of the public sphere become apparent. The losers vastly outnumber the winners. It took a couple of decades of bubbles bursting and a shrinking middle class for that to sink in. And a little help from OWS and Citizens United (at least in the US).

I’m encouraged by the many US students who don’t blink at the word “socialism” and seem uninterested in Trump’s version of nationalism. There’s some kind of emotional valence in socialism for many of them. Understandably so, given the debt crisis and brutal job market (unpaid internships, for starts).

Great OP.

75

relstprof 06.27.16 at 6:49 am

Sorry, I quoted 68, not 64. Hidari’s comment.

76

Sebastian H 06.27.16 at 7:09 am

Well done. I read this immediately after I had published a similar post on ObsidianWings and was stunned by how similar it was to what I was thinking, only from an economists perspective. Agreeing with you so completely almost has to make me reconsider. ;)

77

Christopher Phelps 06.27.16 at 7:46 am

Excellent post by JQ.

It seems to me that the program of the left most in need of clarity–or at least greatly in need of clarity– is immigration, for that is the one the tribalists (not sure about this term but running with it) gain most traction on, and therefore helps to explain why the tribalists rather than the left have been the main beneficiaries of the disenchantment of neoliberalism. If the left stands for a world without borders, the old internationalist ideal, it can seem to be oblivious to the threat to wages, living standards, etc., that can pose for those in countries that attract labor. This is so even if one does an analysis showing that immigration sparks growth, that the kinds of jobs immigrants take are not necessarily ones others want, and so forth. If the left argues for immigration controls, however, it seems to be making concessions to racial-ethnic-national-or-whatever bigotry. So what is the proper approach to take? Some policy expertise informed by egalitarianism and internationalism in equal measure would be pretty valuable. There must be some somewhere. Recommended readings?

78

Christopher Phelps 06.27.16 at 7:47 am

Ze K, we posted simultaneously, with the same issue in mind, but different instincts as to dangers.

79

Peter T 06.27.16 at 8:32 am

Along the lines of Hidari’s comment, I think it helps to distinguish the causes and flavours of prejudice involved. The O/P uses, I think, “tribalism” to cover two distinct relationships. One is nationalism or, more broadly, group solidarity that encompasses class. It’s people feeling that, however different their economic or other circumstances, they are part of the same group. There’s a fair amount of prejudice involved and some hostility to large-scale in-migration, but the stress is on the ideal of equal sacrifice in the face of common threats. It’s as much a Labour/left-wing tradition as a right-wing one.

The other tribalism is party partisanship. This can be class or other group solidarity but, in current times, it has more the flavour of rather desperate patronage-seeking. The Republican base, or the British lowest class, don’t have much time for “elites”, but they have less time for each other. And they follow the basic rules of clientelism – hold tight to the patron you have (because any patron is better than none), but jump ship if a competing patron makes a better offer. Trump/Johnson/Farage are making a better offer. To this group, boorishness signals that the patron shares at least some appreciation for their folk-ways. And the patrons make much use of crude appeals to race/gender etc. They could hardly make sophisticated appeals – they lack anything else in common.

Of course, if the patron fails to deliver too often, you burn the manor down in a fit of rage, abuse the local immigrants and then shop your neighbours to the police.

80

Alex K--- 06.27.16 at 8:37 am

@milx(4): “The Marxist critique made sense in the context of pre-industrialized Russia…”

Not the Bolshevik approach – a Marxist heresy contradicting Marx’s view of mature capitalism as a prerequisite for the ultimate social revolution. Russia’s orthodox Marxists always maintained that the 1917 revolution should have ended in March with the overthrow of the monarchy, which had impeded the development of capitalism. The Menshevikism you mention in your comment as an example of third-wayism is merely orthodox Marxism as applied to a country where capitalism had yet to develop to maturity, such as Russia was in 1917. This is clearly not the case with the first-world West, where capitalism has evolved in ways Marx did not expect and has worked technological wonders far beyond those that so delighted the authors of the Manifesto.

81

Stephen 06.27.16 at 9:06 am

Re immigrants as analogous to scab labour: it’s maybe worth looking at the Bank of England Staff Working Paper No. 574, “The impact of immigration on occupational wages”, which concluded that a large number of unskilled immigrants has, as might have been expected, depressed the wages of unskilled workers. Also relevant is the comment by Lord Rose, formerly head of Marks & Spencer, leader of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, who said that Leave would produce a rise in wages for workers. There was a time when the Labour party would not have regarded that as a bad thing.

Tabasco@67: Re the need for visas to go from Britain to Europe: before 1973, with Britain outside the EEC, it was perfectly possible to go to France, Italy, Germany with no visa. Also, last time I flew from NI to Dublin there was one queue for passport control, for everybody. Having EU and non-EU queues would make it faster for everybody.

Re the factors that led people to vote for Leave, one of Ashcroft’s polls enquired about that, and found that the reason most often given was the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK. I’m not sure that’s tribalism.

82

Christopher Phelps 06.27.16 at 9:24 am

I’ve said that immigration is not my expertise, but labor history is, and I find the comparison of immigrants to scabs not only libelous but historically wrong. Immigrants in US labor, circa 1880-1920, and their sons and daughters after, are what built the great industrial unions (see, for example, International Ladies and Garment Workers Union, or the Lawrence strike of 1912, or any number of other examples). Furthermore they are arguably the dynamo in what’s left of the US labor movement today, immigrants rights movements being melded completely with workers’ rights movements.

83

Chris Bertram 06.27.16 at 10:06 am

Good piece, though the identification of the English (and Welsh) tribalists as “white Christians” is a bit problematic in a context where the immigrant group is just as white and far more Christian than they are.

84

John Quiggin 06.27.16 at 10:11 am

“decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK.”

But a decision on whether a person should be allowed to travel from some other country to the UK, or vice versa is not just a decision about the UK, or just about that other country. It involves both, not to mention the person in question.

@84 You’re right – I took this over from the US context

85

Chris Bertram 06.27.16 at 10:23 am

But a decision on whether a person should be allowed to travel from some other country to the UK, or vice versa is not just a decision about the UK, or just about that other country. It involves both, not to mention the person in question.

This point, with which I agree, is the basic premise of Arash Abizadeh’s argument that unilateral state control over borders is incompatible with democratic legitimacy because it involves the coercive application of the law to people who have no say in making it. Obviously, however, nativists take the view “it is our land, we get to decide”.

86

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 10:46 am

Christopher #78:

If the left argues for immigration controls, however, it seems to be making concessions to racial-ethnic-national-or-whatever bigotry. So what is the proper approach to take? Some policy expertise informed by egalitarianism and internationalism in equal measure would be pretty valuable.

This, to me, is what makes the ‘three parties’ analysis suspect, at least for ethnically mixed polities, because there is also a group of voters for whom civil rights is more important than income inequality. This group is not large enough to be a party, but it is large enough to destabilize one, and they do not want to make common cause with people advocating class solidarity if that means “concessions to racial-ethnic-national-or-whatever bigotry”.

Though Corbyn is being shellacked for his tepid support for Remain, he was stuck navigating a particularly rocky strait, having to choose between anti-capitalist-world-order and anti-immigrant stances, hence his statement that his commitment to Remain was ‘no more than seven or seven and a half’ out of ten. (https://goo.gl/5R76EW) Worse, this dilemma was strongest for the youngest voters, Corbyn’s base and the ones most attached to both commitments.

British internationalism has now been damaged as the result of the combined votes of the ‘Vote Leave, to demand that the international system be more accountable and less neo-liberal’ and the ‘Vote Leave, then leave’ camps. (Chris Bertram covered some of this back in May, in http://crookedtimber.org/2016/05/20/lefty-poseurs-and-brexit/)

It is obvious in hindsight that anything less than the public equivalent of a three-line whip from Corbyn was inadequate to secure Remain, but the structural problem is deeper: there was not, in the Leave vote, or in the larger world of contemporary politics, any way to advocate for ‘egalitarianism and internationalism in equal measure’.

To make the obvious imperfect parallel, In the U.S., there are people who regard the gutting of Glass-Steagall as a bigger catastrophe then the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and people who come to the opposite conclusion. (The existence of that latter group, even just as spoilers, is why I don’t completely buy the ‘three party’ framework.)

The tension between these groups came to the fore around Sanders’ desire to appeal to the economic interests of the white working class means advocating for the return of voters who left the Democratic party because they disapprove of the Democrats commitment to civil rights. (http://goo.gl/3aL46T) This obviously did not work, in part because the Civil Rights wing of the Democratic party is strong right now.

In the U.K. framework, this group is make up of the people who value freedom of movement more than they dislike the ECB. Prior to this year, I thought that the tensions between egalitarianism and internationalism were just the sort of thing that happens in Big Tent parties. Now I’m not so sure.

87

engels 06.27.16 at 11:06 am

T]here are no left policies anymore: there are German left policies (inspired by German values, social conditions, history…), British left policies (ditto, and they differ from Scottish left policies), American left policies (ditto), French left policies (ditto)…

The results of the Brexit referendum, with England alone choosing to secede from the EU, is as clear an empirical illustration of this thesis as one could possibly imagine.

Italy may be the next domino to fall by Wolfgang Munchau

88

casmilus 06.27.16 at 11:24 am

The Corbyn thing is simple: the Labour Right had wanted to depose him all along, this was just the big enough issue to do it over. And they couldn’t even manage it, but then they couldn’t manage their several abortive attempts to topple Brown in 2009-10 either.

It was awfully generous of Cameron to give up in the face of the Tory Right, since they’re equally hopeless and could be easily faced down by any leader ready to fight them… but then we wouldn’t be here if one of those had been in office.

89

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 11:42 am

In l’esprit d’escalier, I realize that I also believe in three parties, albeit just in the context of the Leave vote:

1. People who dislike the current economic order and dislike freedom of movement.
2. People who dislike the current economic order and like freedom of movement.
3. People who like the current economic order and like freedom of movement.

Hartlepool, Hackney, and the City, basically.

The genius (or at least successfully negotiated) strategy of the Leave campaign was to get enough voters of Type 2 to think the referendum was about their views, so they were willing to make common cause with racists. The failure of Remain was in not getting enough voters of Type 2 to hold their noses about voting with the bankers in order to preserve international integration.

90

BenK 06.27.16 at 12:17 pm

I generally disagree in many of the particulars. Those on the left are often tribalists all the same; whether it is working class warfare or liberation theology. Meanwhile, the Brexit voters weren’t so much voting against immigrants as voting against the same global financial and government elites that you seem to denounce. However, rather than handing the reins to international communism, say, or university faculty (who were often related to the financial elites), they would prefer to shift power to those who identify with them as fellow citizens.

91

reason 06.27.16 at 12:21 pm

Clay Shirky @91
Very good. There is more a shred of truth in that.

92

Dipper 06.27.16 at 12:48 pm

@91 – Clay Shirky – oh so I vote in a way you disapprove of and you get to call me racist by association?

No apologies necessary. Just a green card in the post and the right to vote in your upcoming presidential election. Or is that different?

93

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 12:51 pm

Dipper, I am not calling you a racist by association. Many people voting Leave were anti-racist. However, without the combination of racist and non-racist Leave voters, Remain would have won.

94

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.16 at 12:57 pm

One thing to remember about control of borders and/or ideological tribalism is that it automatically increases trust among the in-group members. Therefore it reduces their risks of interaction. Therefore it facilitates their trade and economic growth: growth that is possibly beyond what exterior specialization & trade could do for them even in the absence of financial rents.

This may be some sort of natural function in the brain. Perhaps it involves “Hebbian learning” in the “mirror neurons” or the “reptilian cortex”. I think it exists, or is instantiated, before any intellectual ideology from Left or Right is applied over it, later, to provide the “explanations” for their political complaints.

Now, because some prolific Crooked Timber commenters inevitably vomit forth, that explanations adverting to nature or evolution are meant to justify the resulting behaviors, because nature and evolution must be seen as “good”, I should hasten to add: that is a really stupid opinion.

My point is elsewhere: that natural tribalisms could be good and economically efficient, in small doses, yet they could be subject to poisonous excitement by reverse causation by the outside. A political-economic complaint could bring a tribalism to the fore, & result in a mass vote, as we have just seen.

That also means that the political-economic conditions in various countries may limit the applicability of the three-party theory. In the US, for example, the revolt against the elites, despite the lack of a coherent Left, is not resulting in a Right majority for circling the wagons. Or at least, it is certainly not leading at the moment. Why? It could be because the US is changing demographically. Or it could be that Trump is not a good spokesperson for his tribalism. Or it could be that he is too good: he reveals its incoherence when it is expanded beyond its reptilian purview.

95

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.16 at 1:07 pm

Howard Frant #64, I agree exactly, but for one smallish point. Bill Clinton was going to expand gov’t to help people, but Alan Greenspan visited him a month after the inauguration to explain that the bond market would never stand for it. (And his Treasury Dept. apparently believed the Randian Oracle.) The quid pro quo was apparently that Greenspan would keep the money faucet turned on, for lower interest rates to “increase business investment”.

Thus it was the “demands of financial markets” — in the person of Greenspan — that Bill Clinton was trying to accommodate. He understood the total economy no better than his own Treasury Dept. and Alan Greenspan.

The first big speech was, “The era of big government is over…” This turnabout from Bill’s campaign promises appeared to be successful — which may have further confused both Clintons into believing it. This is because it coincided with the first infotech stock bubble, with a better-looking economy, and with falling fed deficits.

Which lasted until that bubble popped upon Dubya’s ascension, and in the early ‘Aughts the financial markets cooked-up the idea of mortgage derivatives in the masturbatory search for a yield better than Treasuries.

This is perhaps one of the few times in postwar history that a Democratic administration has been able to stick a Republican administration with the public blame — however inadvertently. It usually happens in the reverse: a Republican administration runs up the deficits advertently (which appears to be Trump’s plan), and sticks the crash with the following Democratic administration.

It also successfully inoculated the Clintons from the change of socialism. As you Howard point out it is ironic that the so-called Left in the US now decries Hillary as some sort of “neoliberal” (whatever that means). In those days she was tasked with devising a system of universal health coverage and the GOP, Gingrich, and Fox News were hammering her as a socialist for the entire time.

96

Igor Belanov 06.27.16 at 1:18 pm

Ze K @90

” It’s just that the idea that the world as we know it should go to hell for the sake of an abstract thought, is not all that popular…”

I know, I hate nationalism too.

97

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.16 at 1:23 pm

T #46: “In addition to opposing the mainstream Republicans on trade and immigration, Trump also opposes them on SS and Medicare. The mainstream, through Ryan, has been trying to gut both through privatization. Trump is an avid supporter.”

NO. Careful, here. In mid-May, Trump said to Speaker Ryan, “From a moral standpoint, I believe in” Ryan’s proposed cuts to entitlements, a “source in the room” told Bloomberg News:

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-05-10/mr-trump-goes-to-washington

In related news, Trump’s budget plan adds around $10 trillion to the federal deficit in 10 years. This happens to be somewhere in the neighborhood of Ryan’s budget plan. “As Ronald Reagan taught us, deficits don’t matter.” — Dick Cheney.

Trump-Ryan are Reaganism on steroids, which in turn, was Keynesianism on steroids.

Thus it is, that if the Republicans regain power, they will pump up the economy by deficits, just as the leftwing economists are now saying is the proper course!

However, they will simultaneously attempt to cut Social Security and Medicare to “pay for it”. To try to “avoid” those deficits. And all the little old people will line up for the chopping block, in the firm belief that money must clear across the entire economy, so its their American duty to take the lashings.

Why will the GOP try to cut entitlements? Because Wall Street wants that insurance money, bad. They’ve spent a billion on public relations to make the case.

And they need “retirement derivatives” for collateral in the international repo market.

98

jake the antisoshul soshulist 06.27.16 at 1:29 pm

We could argue about who started tribalism, or a certain segment of tribalism.
Ideally, we would refrain from demonizing those we disagree with, but that is
often difficult when we are demonized for what we believe.

99

casmilus 06.27.16 at 1:40 pm

Incidentally, I live just down the road from the Polish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, which has been there for decades and contains lots of resources about Polish fighters in WW2. On Sunday morning someone scrawled “FUCK YOU OUT” on the windows. It was quickly scrubbed off and the police are aware.

Anti-immigrant anti-foriegner incidents are occurring all over the country. It seems a lot of racists woke up on Saturday under the impression that the National Front had won a general election.

100

kidneystones 06.27.16 at 1:42 pm

@99 Thanks for the hubris. So, according to you Ryan and Trump are married at the hip, the entire primary debacle was fixed from the beginning. The GOP establishment loves Trump cause he’s like secretly on their side, but they can’t possibly let anyone know it, and we suppose, the donors who now refuse to give Trump and the GOP any money are going to suddenly turn on the money-tap and get Trump elected.

Not even Trump knows what he’s going to do, but you in a positive tizzy of explanatory zeal have got it all figured out.

All the pieces fit!

101

The Temporary Name 06.27.16 at 1:46 pm

Not even Trump knows what he’s going to do

This is always true.

102

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 1:47 pm

Lee #96:

This may be some sort of natural function in the brain. Perhaps it involves “Hebbian learning” in the “mirror neurons” or the “reptilian cortex”. I think it exists, or is instantiated, before any intellectual ideology from Left or Right is applied over it, later, to provide the “explanations” for their political complaints.

That’s the view of the Heinrich’s, whose Why Humans Cooperate, a(n underappreciated) study of cooperative logic, concludes that outside of strong contractual frameworks, the greater the risks of any potential transaction, the more people rely on ethnicity as a proxy.

103

kidneystones 06.27.16 at 1:50 pm

@ 101 And all the other incidents that happened all over the country went unreported, locals discovered the horrifying incidents, and cleared up the mess pronto. Or, maybe it was the racists who cleared up the mess, kos they had second thoughts. They painted GET OUT during drunken rage, got scared, and hurried back to clean up the mess without leaving nary a trace. Removing all the videos of their asshole stunts that they’d uploaded onto the internet, was more complicated, but they managed that, too! Finally, all the big newspapers and TV stations decided individually (not collectively, cause that would be like a conspiracy) to report just the one incident because the last thing anyone in the British media would ever want to do is make the Leave camp look like a bunch of racists.

There’s no end to this, is there?

104

Frank Wilhoit 06.27.16 at 1:52 pm

It wasn’t down to Corbyn to pull Cameron’s nuts out of the fire.

It would have been, if the whole thing had been done properly, i.e. by majority vote of the Commons instead of a referendum.

HM ought to do exactly what her grandfather George V did in 1931. When Ramsay Macdonald tried to resign, the King told him, “By God, Sir, you got me into this, and you will get me out.” Make Cameron stay. Make him introduce, as Her Majesty’s first minister, the inevitable Commons resolution to bin the result of the referendum. Make him beg the world to take no notice of a load of old rubbish. Make him dissolve, campaign, and try to find a place for the Tories in the ensuing minority or coalition Government — the first of several over the next five-to-thirty years, until the party realignment is complete. THEN, and only then, he may retire.

105

T 06.27.16 at 2:05 pm

Clay @61
You have to look at more granular data than the state level to see where Trump support is strongest.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/13/upshot/the-geography-of-trumpism.html

merian@63
On SS, I would say Trump has a position but no plan. During the primaries he spent a lot of time distinguishing between himself and mainstream repubs on SS and Medicare. SS and Medicare is incredibly popular among the base. They feel they are just getting back what they put in unlike other transfer programs that go to you know who. Of course they’re wrong — they get much more back than they put in — but, hey, who cares about pesky facts.
In fact, SS and Medicare is the prime example of the base not believing in the elite mainstream neoliberal agenda. What the mainstream has found out is that the base isn’t nearly as ideological on economic issues as they thought.

106

casmilus 06.27.16 at 2:17 pm

@104

Your point is too subtle for me. Are you implying there was no graffiti at POSK? Or that it was the sole incident in the entire country?

107

Peter K. 06.27.16 at 2:19 pm

@ 97

“It also successfully inoculated the Clintons from the change of socialism. As you Howard point out it is ironic that the so-called Left in the US now decries Hillary as some sort of “neoliberal” (whatever that means). “

The Washington Post reported on the negotiations over the Democratic Party’s platform:

“”Ellison offered additional amendments designed to strengthen the document’s commitment to a $15 minimum wage and employment guidelines for federal contractors — issues championed by Sanders on the campaign trail. Both were rebuffed by Paul Booth of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, who was named to the committee by Clinton.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/unity-efforts-hit-snag-at-final-meeting-over-democratic-platform/

It’s not ironic given the wealthy campaign donors who back Hillary’s campaign. She’s not four square in favor of the job class and working people. Her loyalties are divided. She may argue a $15 minimum wage is bad politics but that’s what they always say when it comes to social democratic reforms. It’s rhetoric. Soft neoliberalism tosses in some reforms to help the medicine go down, but mostly they slow-walk any meaningful reform. And they also pass hard neoliberal reforms like welfare reform, financial deregulation and corporate trade deals like the TPP.

108

Dipper 06.27.16 at 2:21 pm

The thing that is being missed by all you nice civilised decent folk whilst you show your disgust at the outcome, is that the status quo was not on the ballot paper. the EU has been on a consistent path toward super-state hood for decades. A Remain vote would have left the UK with no way to oppose this, and we would be progressively sucked into a low-growth superstate.

And don’t go saying you would have voted Remain but worked for a reformed EU. There is no evidence, from anyone, anywhere, ever, of the EU superstate listening. Country after country has tried. Votes have been ignored and re-run, governments have been removed.

I didn’t ask for the referendum. I had a choice to make and I made it. Grandstanding by people who didn’t find themselves in the Polling booth with two choices to make is unwelcome.

109

Will G-R 06.27.16 at 2:38 pm

As impolite as it may be to say so, I’m disheartened that nobody here has pointed out how euphemistic a role the word “tribalism” is playing here, when what John and much of the commentariat clearly intend to say is “fascism”. Not to mention that “tribalism” is a term of ill repute in its own sense, carrying little to no actual rigorous theoretical content while invoking all sorts of crude conceptions of “civilized”/”cultured” vs. “uncivilized”/”barbaric” peoples. Without trying to be all PC-police here, I understand the desire to avoid argumentum ad Hitlerum, but it doesn’t win you any points if you ultimately end up invoking imperial-era stereotypes about backwards natives instead.

In any case, John’s basic point is one that the Marxian left has long understood: when faced with a stark choice between socialism and fascism, liberalism (in the classical or European sense meaning “the ideology of capitalism”) will generally align itself with fascism. This has been evident for at least a century, ever since the center-left German government of Friedrich Ebert solicited the services of reactionary proto-fascist Freikorps militias to smash the German communist revolution of 1919, invigorating the Freikorps members to subsequently organize within parties like the NSDAP and coalesce into more formal armed groups like the SA and SS. Ever since then one of the standard ways for a leftist to troll a liberal has been to repeatedly ask, “why did you kill Rosa?” which is especially entertaining when the liberal being trolled has no idea what you’re talking about.

Today this choice by the liberal establishment and ultimately by capital itself is evident in its preferred/fallback plans for the composition of the mainstream electoral political system. The clear preference is to have two major liberal parties, one of which mounts some sort of vague appeal to socialists and the other of which mounts a similarly vague appeal to fascists, but both of which organize these constituencies within liberal frameworks under the ultimate control of capital. Barring this, if anti-establishment (read anti-liberal or anti-capitalist) sentiment is ever poised to boil over and articulate itself more directly, the clear preference of capital is for this to happen in a fascist context rather than a socialist one. In the US this means a Clinton vs. Trump election rather than Jeb vs. Bernie; in the EU it means a preference for allowing reactionary movements like Brexit over allowing greater economic and social democracy within the EU’s own decision-making bodies (à la Varoufakis’ DiEM25). The upshot for UK politics is that if establishment preferences follow this template, a Blairite coup against Corbyn within Labour would take clear priority over the #StopBoris campaign among the Tories, since ultimately a Boris vs. [random Blairite toady] election campaign would suit neoliberal interests far better than Corbyn vs. May. But we’ll see what happens!

110

TM 06.27.16 at 2:43 pm

“The Brexit referendum represents the first truly major victory for the tribalist opponents of neoliberalism.”

Where is the evidence that the Brexit vote is motivated by opposition to neoliberalism? Since when does Boris Johnson count as a critic of neoliberalism?

111

TM 06.27.16 at 2:47 pm

110: “when faced with a stark choice between socialism and fascism, liberalism (in the classical or European sense meaning “the ideology of capitalism”) will generally align itself with fascism.”

Totally true. The mystery is that a socialist alternative is nowhere on the horizon and yet the system appears to move toward fascism. Why?

112

RNB 06.27.16 at 2:58 pm

So a question that has long been skirted here is what role internationalism plays in the left. js and others have insisted that internationalism is a central part of the left.

Quiggin’s typology of the left does not seem to make internationalism central to the left. In fact Quiggin notes in writing about the left that: “the benefits of globalisation had gone overwhelmingly to the top 1 per cent, or even the top 0.1 per cent, of the population.” Really so the benefits to the emerging economies simply do not count! Haven’t we all seen Milanovic’s chart of the gains made by the emerging middle classes in Asia, coupled with the stagnation (not necessarily regression) of the First World middle classes? How First Worldist can Quiggin get!

We have Josh Mason’s left Keynesian program of free international cultural exchange and movement of people with skepticism about trade in goods and outright hostility to the international mobility of money capital (we’ll see how the drying up of FDI in Britain works out!).

But this skepticism of trade is not leftist in my opinion.

113

Rich Puchalsky 06.27.16 at 2:59 pm

Will G-R: “As impolite as it may be to say so, I’m disheartened that nobody here has pointed out how euphemistic a role the word “tribalism” is playing here, when what John and much of the commentariat clearly intend to say is “fascism””

I don’t agree. In a U.S. context, at least, I don’t think that conservatives are fascists. They are both right-wing ideologies, of course. The problem with saying that conservatives are fascists is that then of course anything must be done to stop the fascists, which means that in the short term you must support neoliberalism, and the short term never becomes the long term. I don’t believe that the old/uneducated/poor people who voted Leave are really proto-fascists either or that xenophobia is well described as proto-fascism.

For that matter I don’t think that the people on the left are really largely socialists either. That’s why there is no socialist alternative on the horizon.

114

RNB 06.27.16 at 3:08 pm

js and others may have been getting at this above, and it has been noted by Kevin Drum. Do not assume that tribalism is driven by anger about the economic consequences of neoliberalism or globalization. Many people who have not lost jobs due to immigration or trade or whose own lives have improved economically over the last eight years gravitate towards right wing politicians due the cultural threat they feel of becoming minority or culturally decentered in their own countries. They worry about their white children’s relative standing.

115

Igor Belanov 06.27.16 at 3:09 pm

“@98, Igor, please, communal solidarity is an abstract thought? Seriously?”

Since when did ‘communal solidarity’ begin and end at national borders? I mean, what does a Shetland Islander necessarily have in common with someone in the Isles of Scilly compared with someone in the Faeroes?

116

M Caswell 06.27.16 at 3:19 pm

“So a question that has long been skirted here is what role internationalism plays in the left. “

I took it that the reason “unionists, old-style liberals and social democrats” were “threatened by white Christian tribalism” (OP) was because the former tended, implicitly or explicitly, towards multi-ethnic and even international solidarity. What other reason would account for the opposition between the two?

117

Marc 06.27.16 at 3:25 pm

@116: Unless they live in Scotland, for example, in which case they suddenly don’t worry about their “white childrens prospects”. I truly despair about the degree to which people project US politics everywhere, regardless of whether it makes sense in completely different contexts.

I’m with JQ and Sebastian H here: somehow working class voters used to be able to vote for things like the EU, and they’re now reluctant to do so. Given that society in general was substantially more racially prejudiced in the past than it is now, it seems unlikely that they just discovered racism. Other factors are at play.

118

Will G-R 06.27.16 at 3:44 pm

@ Rich Puchalsky: “The problem with saying that conservatives are fascists is that then of course anything must be done to stop the fascists, which means that in the short term you must support neoliberalism, and the short term never becomes the long term.”

Here I’d echo Slavoj Žižek’s response to the question of which is worse, neoliberalism or fascism (quoting Stalin’s response to a similar question): “they’re both worse!” What good does it do here to say that the only reason we’re not obliged to support neoliberals against fascists is because “conservatives” (a hollow designation in any case, as the Trump campaign makes clear) aren’t really fascists? Does that mean all they’d have to do is become real fascists in order to force those of us on the left to embrace neoliberalism? Actually this is precisely the “double blackmail” Žižek refers to in his newest book Against the Double Blackmail, against which IMO the true leftist position is that supporting neoliberalism against fascism doesn’t actually stop fascism, it merely perpetuates or even accentuates the very conditions that give rise to fascism in the first place.

“I don’t think that the people on the left are really largely socialists either. That’s why there is no socialist alternative on the horizon.”

Well here we have the Third-Worldists’ classic “Marxism vs. Euro-Marxism” debate, i.e. whether it’s even possible to build socialism among the Western working class given how thoroughly they’ve been persuaded that capitalism can lead to some sort of shared prosperity as long as they disregard the interests of their non-Western fellow workers. In this sense, to the extent that the Western left consists of Euro-Marxists (i.e. people who haven’t thoroughly embraced internationalism re: the “developing world”) then you’re right that people on the left aren’t really socialists. My instinct is that this view is too essentialist, and that even the most propagandized Western workers possess the potential to see through even as thorough a mystification as nationalism/patriotism/fascism/racism, but since the last true international socialist revolution in an advanced Western country was defeated almost a century ago I guess it’s possible this could be wrong.

119

Seth Largo 06.27.16 at 3:46 pm

The big problem for the tribalists is that, although their program has now been endorsed by the voters, it does not offer a solution to the economic decline against which most of their supporters were protesting.

Yes it does. Fewer immigrants (both skilled and unskilled) = smaller labor pool = more power for labor. This is the same thinking that drove Cesar Chavez to be anti-immigration before he sold out to Reagan.

Now, that thinking may or may not correspond to reality. There are many factors that will complicate the formula above, and it’s right to point out those problems. But don’t pretend that the tribalists don’t have a solution (as they see it) to economic decline. The other part of the formula, of course, is Trumpist protectionism and bring-back-the-factories-ism. If you want to win over the tribalists, start explaining why this formula is wrong and stop calling them racists and bigots. That definitely won’t work.

120

Will G-R 06.27.16 at 3:50 pm

@ RNB 113: You and Marx are in agreement here:

Do not imagine, gentlemen, that in criticizing freedom of trade we have the least intention of defending the system of protection.

One may declare oneself an enemy of the constitutional regime without declaring oneself a friend of the ancient regime.

Moreover, the protectionist system is nothing but a means of establishing large-scale industry in any given country, that is to say, of making it dependent upon the world market, and from the moment that dependence upon the world market is established, there is already more or less dependence upon free trade. Besides this, the protective system helps to develop free trade competition within a country. Hence we see that in countries where the bourgeoisie is beginning to make itself felt as a class, in Germany for example, it makes great efforts to obtain protective duties. They serve the bourgeoisie as weapons against feudalism and absolute government, as a means for the concentration of its own powers and for the realization of free trade within the same country.

But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.

121

Peter K. 06.27.16 at 3:54 pm

@ 97

“It also successfully inoculated the Clintons from the change of socialism. As you Howard point out it is ironic that the so-called Left in the US now decries Hillary as some sort of “neoliberal” (whatever that means). “

It should be noted that Jim Messina who ran Obama’s campaign in 2012 also helped Cameron win in 2015 which led to Brexit. (A “soft” neoliberal helping out a “hard” neoliberal.)

Hillary’s comments on Brexit have been muted at best.

At the very least we need international solidarity among social democratic parties.

122

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 4:07 pm

T #106, I don’t think that article says what you think it does.

Here are the top 5 strongest correlations for voting for Trump:

VARIABLE – CORRELATION
White, no high school diploma – 0.61
“Americans” ancestry on the census *- 0.57
% Mobile homes – 0.54
“Old economy” jobs – 0.50
History of voting for segregationists – 0.47

Three out of the top three and four out of the top five correlations are about culture or outlook, vs. one that’s about occupation.

* The best description I know of of the significance of reporting one’s ethnicity as ‘American’ comes from Michael Lind’s “The White South’s Last Defeat” http://www.salon.com/2013/02/05/the_white_souths_last_defeat/

123

engels 06.27.16 at 4:24 pm

I have been reading Crooked Timber for a decade I don’t think I’ve ever once seen Ze K say anything critical of racism, fascism or nationalism, etc or any racist, fascist or nationalist politician or position. His version of anarchism or post-Marxism (or whatever it is meant to be) simply does not include opposing them afaict. I’d be very happy to be proved wrong.

124

bmore 06.27.16 at 4:33 pm

@123

Please explain how % of mobile homes and % of white’s without a highschool diploma about “culture” and not, I don’t know, poverty.

125

Raven Onthill 06.27.16 at 4:35 pm

Val@71: “There are children whose grandparents or great grandparents fought on the opposite sides in the second world war in Europe. …”

Perhaps, just perhaps, a European national identity can be forged on this basis.

(Is there a difference between “tribal” and “national,” once the confusion of nation and state is removed?)

126

Daragh 06.27.16 at 4:38 pm

Not sure if anyone on the thread is aware, but embittered, Blairite, neo-liberal hard-rightist Richard Murphy has joined the anti-Corbyn coup.

127

Lupita 06.27.16 at 4:43 pm

How First Worldist can Quiggin get!

Very. He totally omitted the gains made by the real left, which is non-Western, anti-imperial, and anti-capitalist, yet mentioned the timid and ineffectual Western left such as Syriza, Occupy, and Podemos.

Alternatives to the current neoliberal global order can be seen in the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC), in Argentina’s moratorium, Brazil’s production of generic AIDS drugs, and the defeat of the WTO in Cancún, to note a few.

Of course there is an alternative and it is proceeding quite nicely. Proof is that the Western empire is crumbling.

128

RNB 06.27.16 at 4:44 pm

@121 Thanks for this. I have long read Marx’s defense of free trade as tongue-in-cheek, though; for example: “The brotherhood which free trade would establish between the nations of the Earth would hardly be more fraternal. To call cosmopolitan exploitation universal brotherhood is an idea that could only be engendered in the brain of the bourgeoisie. All the destructive phenomena which unlimited competition gives rise to within one country are reproduced in more gigantic proportions on the world market.”

I note however that the “leftist” Sanders apparently thought that China should never have been allowed to enter the world trading system. Is that a leftist position? Though a self-proclaimed socialist he also did not want to nationalize insolvent banks but let them go bankrupt in accordance with free market principles.

I don’t think the OP claim that Sanders represents leftism is clearly true. From a leftist perspective I prefer Clinton’s soft neoliberalism or liberal technocraticism to Sanders’ putative leftism. There is much to weigh against his program for free public college and national health insurance.

I think a left should also have some international solidarity, for example a left would be interested in what millions of Syrian refugees think should be done about Assad who is using barrel bombs and has killed many times the civilians than Daesh has.

129

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 4:52 pm

Michael Lind, in the article Clay Shirky links to, misses a key distinction concerning those who report their ethnicity as “American”. They tend to belong to Greater Appalachia rather than the low-land, Plantation Deep South. Greater Appalachia, historically, was unionist and their racism translated into antislavery sentiment. In 2008, they were possibly the most morally outraged by the bank bailouts and least supportive of Obama.

130

milx 06.27.16 at 4:55 pm

“In any case, John’s basic point is one that the Marxian left has long understood: when faced with a stark choice between socialism and fascism, liberalism (in the classical or European sense meaning “the ideology of capitalism”) will generally align itself with fascism.”

I thought the “social fascism” bullshit had been discredited after Hitler came to power but I guess everything old is new again. This line didn’t make sense in 1925 though and it doesn’t make sense today. Liberalism is diametrically opposed to fascism on the republic v. monarchist axis and only loosely (if even) aligned on the socialist v. capitalist spectrum. The problem is only paying attention to the latter and missing the former – especially since what makes fascism unique and not just superpowered conservative is the authoritarianism. Anyway, just read this over the weekend and thought it was very comprehensive (and made me sad that Commentary does not run things of this quality any longer): https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-ghost-of-social-fascism/

131

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 4:56 pm

bmofe #125, I meant more in the sense of environment rather than values. I’d be happy to adopt another word.

My objection to T is that the article he pointed to does not back up his assertion — “The areas hurt most by trade and declining manufacturing are the biggest Trump areas” — both because the data is not broken down by geography, and because labeling your ethnicity “American” or voting segregationist don’t correlate with being hurt by trade.

132

awy 06.27.16 at 5:04 pm

this trend of turning towards labels and ideological pogoms is misguided and wastes a lot of productive energy that could be devoted to a better defined set of enemies/policies.

a centralized state directed economy is far from perfect, and neither are markets or market actors. you probably want to have as many people doing productive things and receiving a just return as you can, and that outcome involves mostly markets but guided by government and legal structure so as to prevent bad behavior/emergent properties that go against the good outcome you want.

in a world where all markets are evil, there would be no sense in trying to make markets perform better. at the end of the day, what are you trying to fight for, the ideological vision of socialism or a better society and world.

133

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 5:05 pm

Bruce #131, agreed on Appalachia vs plantation, and at the risk of side-tracking (and USAizing) the conversation, this is why the Sanders’ supporters use of West Virginia’s voting for Sanders’ and distaste for Clinton as evidence that the white working class is yearning for socialism is problematic.

They voted for Sanders this spring; three and a half years earlier, they voted for Romney in a landslide. In that year’s Democratic primary, 40% of them, mostly Democrats, voted for an incarcerated felon instead of a sitting Democratic president. In 2008, they voted for McCain, and, in the Democratic primary, voted for Clinton, also in a landslide.

There is no coherent political ideology there — no one goes from wanting to elect Thurston Howell IV to Feeling The Bern in 40 months based on ideology. The simpler explanation is that they voted for whoever was most opposed to the black guy, and when the candidate they loved in 2008 aligned herself with him, well, that was it for her.

In the essays on American socialism I see, there is a touching faith that white wage earners are ready to make common cause based on class, and that things like racial preference (one of John’s tribalisms) are somehow imposed by elites wanting to keep that from happening.

134

Stephen 06.27.16 at 5:05 pm

Will G-R@110: “liberalism (in the classical or European sense meaning “the ideology of capitalism”) will generally align itself with fascism”. For some values of “generally”. I don’t remember that capitalist Britain or France aligned themselves with fascist Germany against socialist USSR. The socialist USSR, on the other hand …

135

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 5:11 pm

Just saw a map of the Top Ten Richest and Top Ten Poorest areas in Northwest Europe.

Central London is number 1 on the rich list.

One place in Belgium makes number 9 on the poor list. The rest of the poor list number out Cornwall, west Wales, Northern Ireland and six places in northern England and Midlands.

136

T 06.27.16 at 5:24 pm

@123
I read it a little differently. Living in a mobile home is about culture? No high school diploma is culture? My guess is that if you match up Autor’s locations most affected by Chinese trade and Trump support you’ll find an overlap.

No HS diploma/mobile home/old economy markers are the white, rural/exurb, working class and poor. These folks felt betrayed by the mainstream Republicans before Trump arrived. There was a noticeable shift in conservative talk radio, formally the lickspittles to the Bushes, that preceded Trump as well. It isn’t all about Trump — his supporters were ripe for the picking. Look what happened to Cantor in rural Virginia in ’14. Do you think Sanders is all about culture too? Neither him nor Trump would have had this support in the ’90s. My two sense.

Many liberals don’t know these people at all especially since assortative mating increased. It’s worth

137

Peter Dorman 06.27.16 at 5:31 pm

I’m with JQ most of the way, but I have a couple of qualifications. First, I think he understates the neoliberal function of the EU, which provided a supernational venue for forces trying to unravel the post WWII compromises in their various countries but couldn’t get traction nationally. I don’t have any direct evidence for believing this, other than the extraordinary attachment of Eurocrats of nearly all stripes to “structural reforms”, which always means privatization, deregulation of labor markets, etc. Even Germany is supposed to put its public banks on a purely market trajectory, but Brussels can’t get far with this because Germany runs a surplus.

I think the *active* neoliberalism of the EU played a central role in the economic debacle post 2008. Countries couldn’t be given solidarity or leeway to take expansionary action unless they “reformed” first. The ECB has been particularly brutal in this regard. Brussels and Frankfurt would rather see the whole thing come crashing down than give up on the strategy of using the EU against national systems that embed and constrain capital. It looks like this may actually happen.

The second (minor) quibble is that I don’t think tribalism is confined to the Right. My perception is that tribalist values and discourses have regained the initiative against cosmopolitanism across the board — and across the political spectrum. Identity politics, which has far more clout and dynamism on the left than old fashioned welfare state enlightenment, is distinctly tribal in tone and substance. Of course, there’s something to be said for tribal assertion on the part of the marginalized and disenfranchised. I’m not a complete curmudgeon. But tribal is tribal.

138

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 5:32 pm

The simpler explanation is that they voted for whoever was most opposed to the black guy, . . .

The political problem — in an USAian context, of course — is that the simpler explanation becomes a shibboleth for another tribe. Pretty soon our socialism consists of taking Woodrow Wilson’s name off buildings at Princeton.

Most people do not understand politics let alone economics even a little. The racism of Appalachia is fierce, but it functions without actual blacks in residence. That makes it a very different political creature from the racism of the Deep South, where blacks are numerous members of local communities and racism enforces a caste system.

Anti-immigrant sentiment is a rallying cry for Leave, but it is inversely correlated with actual immigrants. I think we have to leave open the possibility that the effectiveness of anti-immigrant rally cries relates to economic conditions and experiences that do not actually feature immigrants. It is symbolic communication amid incoherent political understandings.

139

Lupita 06.27.16 at 5:33 pm

From the OP:

living standards have never returned to the previous growth path

the process of renegotiating economic relationships with the rest of the world will almost certainly involve a substantial period of economic stagnation.

The big problem for the tribalists is that, although their program has now been endorsed by the voters, it does not offer a solution to the economic decline against which most of their supporters were protesting.

Nevertheless, if we are to avoid the dead end of tribalism, there is no alternative.

I sense a very unhealthy and non-leftist obsession with GDP growth. The alternative for Western countries with declining populations and exploding private and public debt in the context of a world with climate change, dwindling resources, new power centers, and a revolution in robotics is, of course, no growth. Once that reality sinks in, alternatives begin to emerge.

140

Stephen 06.27.16 at 5:33 pm

Probably relevant: a partial quote from Kevin Meagher (long-term Labour supporter, formerly SPAD to Shaun Woodward) in Labour Uncut (Labour-supporting website)

“‘We need immigrants to come here and do the jobs our own people won’t’ is the most pernicious lie.
Despite repeated assertions to the contrary, there are no labour shortages in this country. Last week, the Office of National Statistics reported there are still 1.67 million people unemployed and looking for work.
In addition, there are 8.5 million in part-time work, many of them on zero-hours contracts and desperate for better-paid, more secure full-time work.
It’s not like the post-war boom years when we genuinely did have labour shortages and sucked in much needed migrant workers from Ireland and the Commonwealth.
Of course we have skills shortages, but that’s because, as the Commission for Employment and Skills consistently reports, a third of employers spend nothing whatsoever on training their workforces.
Ironically, it is George Osborne and his apprenticeship levy which is due to come into force next April that will do what the last Labour government should have done and help price migrant labour out of competition by forcing employers to train British workers instead.
So this is why so many Labour voters chose to leave the EU. Their motives were not about race hate, they just wanted to protect what they have.
This is perfectly laudable and entirely reasonable.
My dad is a bricklayer and still working at 71. Fifty-five years of working outdoors, every single day. Like many more, he has no choice. He doesn’t have a cushy public sector pension to fall back on. He’s a victim of the recessions of the 1980s when there simply was no work for people like him in the north of England, rendering the concept of saving for a pension purely academic.
Then he fell foul of New Labour’s bizarre aversion to building houses when it had the chance. The party’s biggest and most shameful failure. Then 2004 came and with it the mass migration of lower cost building workers from Eastern Europe. His wages and the incomes of many more like him have been flat ever since then. Last Thursday he voted to leave the EU, but did so out of rational economic self-interest – and he was entirely right to do so.
So this is the state the Labour party finds itself in.
The impulse – the instinctive belief that Labour has the interests of working people at heart – no longer holds for millions of British workers. A solemn contract has been broken. Not with everyone, of course, but that’s the point.”

It might require a little effort to denounce Meagher as being essentially fascist and racist. Leave alone a Trump supporter.

141

None 06.27.16 at 5:36 pm

Dipper@94 – “No apologies necessary. Just a green card in the post and the right to vote in your upcoming presidential election.”

You want a green card ? Well, all you have to do is beat out the competition to get a job with an American firm & they’ll sponsor you for a green card. I’m sure you have the relevant skills. And secondly, a green card does not grant you the right to vote in any election in the USA, none whatsoever.
I take it you are still feeling sorry for yourself ?

142

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.16 at 5:45 pm

Clay #103,

Thanks I will read that book.

143

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.16 at 5:47 pm

Peter K. #108 & 122,

A $15/hr. min. wage won’t make it to President Hillary’s desk, unless first, a lot of red House districts go blue in Nov.

That is going to be difficult in any case, but having a symbolic platform that angers conservative voters in those districts makes it even less likely.

Meanwhile, I bet that Brexit has just given the soft neolibs a wake up call. Not to say they won’t need continuous pushing by We the Pipples, even after the election. But if they don’t change, it will be the fire next time.

144

Lee A. Arnold 06.27.16 at 5:47 pm

Kidneystones #102,

You are drunk and disorderly.

Or you are a Trump campaign operative, because nobody else sober is so imbecilic.

Forget the nom de plume and use your real name, so we know where to send the flowers in November.

145

Will G-R 06.27.16 at 6:03 pm

Clay @135: “In the essays on American socialism I see, there is a touching faith that white wage earners are ready to make common cause based on class, and that things like racial preference (one of John’s tribalisms) are somehow imposed by elites wanting to keep that from happening.”

Most international socialists would agree that this sort of faith can be at best touchingly naive, and at worst a way for pseudo-socialists to minimize the importance of global value chains in the modern capitalist world system. But racial preference certainly is imposed by elites in at least one sense: that its logic has historically been a quite economic one (i.e. working-class citizens of the chosen Nation can attain a measure of prosperity precisely by agreeing that this prosperity should be denied to others outside the Nation) and that its white wage-earning adherents generally adhere to it to the extent that it actually seems plausible. After all, Trump’s slogan is “Make America Great Again“, which implies that this “greatness” has in fact existed in the past and could exist in the future. If the Trump/Farage/Wilders/etc. constituency for fascism could ever be convinced that this kind of arrangement is impossible in the long term–as it ultimately is, at least under the universalizing logic of capitalism–then the prospects for solidarity become somewhat brighter.

146

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 6:58 pm

Peter Dorman @ 139: I think he understates the neoliberal function of the EU, which provided a supernational venue for forces trying to unravel the post WWII compromises in their various countries but couldn’t get traction nationally.

I don’t see where you think neoliberalism could not get traction nationally.

The Euro “structural reform” program went forward with very substantial national support in every case — that’s what made it so powerful: the traditionally socialist party was typically co-opted in a grand coalition featuring the political courage to make the hard choices, as we would say in the USA. The “structural reform” program could take presumptive legitimacy from long-standing critiques of and popular contempt for the state in the southern periphery especially where the social welfare state was prone to channel thru clientelism or machine politics.

And, though they haven’t been the immediate targets of crisis, northern Europe has seen a similar process underway, as the socialist parties have weakened, often in the acid bath of grand coalition consensus politics. Britain was exceptional, when the Conservatives came to power on their own in the most recent election, but not exceptional at all in respect to the way the Labour Party lost its socialist street cred.

After their own bank crisis in the early 1990s, Sweden went full-on neoliberal with no help from Brussels, and Sweden’s income distribution has shifted dramatically. Germany has had its Harz reforms, which makes life very harsh for the young. France’s nominally socialist President is jamming thru Labor reforms with fierce conviction against great popular opposition even as we write here.

147

T 06.27.16 at 6:59 pm

Lupita @141
“The alternative for Western countries… is, of course, no growth. Once that reality sinks in, alternatives begin to emerge.”

Well, Lupita, we’re seeing exactly what alternatives emerge right now. As you’ve seen over the last years, zero growth doesn’t mean zero growth for everyone. It means increases for the very top and decreases for everyone else. Don’t know too many working class folks who’ll settle for no growth, esp. for their kids. So, Brexit, Trump, LePen and on and on. If Clinton doesn’t get the US growth rate up then she’ll be done, too, and with it soft neoliberalism. Likewise the EU. Declining societies are a not a fun place. But 2 1/2 – 3% growth spread around a bit…

148

Peter Dorman 06.27.16 at 7:10 pm

Bruce, it’s all a matter of degree. Maybe I put too much credence in it, but every time a country takes a small step along the neoliberal path the EU is there to tell them it wasn’t nearly enough. The labor law in France falls way short of what is being demanded from above, the Hartz reforms increased the dualism of the labor market but left the primary sector mostly untouched. (Although there haven’t been any complaints yet about Germany’s “rigid” labor market institutions, interestingly enough.)

Some of the “reforms” at the national level have been defensive, trying to ward off pressure for even greater measures. In general I have the impression that if the EU were actually disinterested in liberalization it would take another generation at least to make serious headway.

This (national vs supranational neoliberal intervention) is an empirical question. I haven’t seen a good empirical political economy analysis of the last 30 years of European policy. If anyone knows of one, please post. But note that I stipulate empirical, not theoretical deductivism (of which we have quite a bit).

149

phenomenal cat 06.27.16 at 7:12 pm

“Anti-immigrant sentiment is a rallying cry for Leave, but it is inversely correlated with actual immigrants. I think we have to leave open the possibility that the effectiveness of anti-immigrant rally cries relates to economic conditions and experiences that do not actually feature immigrants. It is symbolic communication amid incoherent political understandings.” Wilder @140

Jesus, it’s nice to see some analysis that could actually accord with reality. Clay Shirky might want to get out of the seminar room every now and again. Perhaps deign to mingle with some of the people whose political motivations he’s so sure about.

Good liberals: you really need to wake up. The disconnect is treacherously real. Continue to hand-wave the reasons for Brexit at your and everyone else’s peril.

150

Stephen 06.27.16 at 7:15 pm

JQ: as usual, a very perceptive post. But if you’re thinking of tribalism as “a formerly unchallenged dominant group facing the real or perceived prospect of becoming a politically weak and economically declining minority. The most important such group consists of white Christians, where ‘Christian’ is interpreted in a sense of cultural identification rather than any specific religious belief”, then I think you have to appreciate that in much of Europe, though not in the US, the group of white Christians (by your interpretation) is still a large majority.

And if the European left proclaim that their “personal or cultural identity is threatened by white Christian tribalism”, then the European left aren’t going to get very far.

151

Ronan(rf) 06.27.16 at 7:55 pm

Peter Dorfman, I havent read it (though have read some of his articles) but Anton Hemerijck’s Changing Welfare States might be worth checking out

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/changing-welfare-states-9780199607600?cc=ie&lang=en&

(He oftens argues a more proactive and positive role for Europe pushing pro welfare state policies over less willing national politics)

152

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 7:59 pm

Peter Dorman: In general I have the impression that if the EU were actually disinterested in liberalization . . .

Blanche: You wouldn’t be able to do these awful things to me if I weren’t still in this chair.

Jane: But you *are*, Blanche! You *are* in that chair!

Sure, Frankfurt plays tagteam with neoliberals at the national level. What else would you expect?

What is shocking, I think, and Quiggin draws attention to this fairly effectively, is that there is no effective opposition from the left.

Brexit, and the supposedly left Party decapitates its leadership because the PLP wants to be more neoliberal. huh!?!

I’ll offer a hypothesis: If goldbugs and Goldman Sachs refugees run the ECB, it is because no one on the left has any apparent interest in running a banking and payments system. This is a problem. If your politics leaves you focused on a transformation of consciousness with no attention left for an appreciation of the institutional mechanics of planning and managing the political economy, there’s not much to be done that’s useful.

153

Hidari 06.27.16 at 8:02 pm

Just following up from my post above, got this from Dsquared’s Twitter feed.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jun/11/plaid-cymru-leader-seeks-welsh-independence

Daniel points out that Plaid would never do this or even consider it if they thought that Labour was strong in Wales, But they are not. They are weak, and Plaid possibly could replace them, just as the SNP replaced Labour in Scotland.

This is not the 1990s/1980s. Then Labour could move to the Right and no one had anywhere to go. Now, if the putsch against Allende Corbyn succeeds, Labour will never get Scotland back in a million years. They might lose Labour to Plaid. The Northern working class may go to UKIP or son of UKIP. The intelligentsia will go the Greens.

And this would be part of long term trends of the move from class based politics to nationalist/religious/environmentalist based politics (along with single issue campaigns and activism).

I know it’s alarmist sounding, but I can see there never being a Labour party victory ever again. Also the very existence of the United Kingdom in any shape or form is now threatened.

154

RNB 06.27.16 at 8:04 pm

From Buzzfeed h/t Daniel Drezner:

“But officials have privately expressed bewilderment at why the UK would go though a referendum, and a cumbersome negotiation, to ultimately end up in an arrangement that involves accepting most of the current rules and regulations, including freedom of movement, while still paying into the EU budget at similar levels to current net contributions but losing any chance to influence future rule-making.”

Drezner also links on his twitter to an article about how delusional Boorish Johnson’s present wishlist is.

155

RNB 06.27.16 at 8:07 pm

@151 I’ll be looking for Gerassimos Moschanos’ writings on the EU. Read a book by him more than ten years ago on social democracy in Europe–very informative. Would not be surprised if he thought the pain of Brexit is worth it to create the possibility of radical politics again. But just a guess. Haven’t read anything recent by him.

156

TM 06.27.16 at 8:09 pm

Another awful CT thread populated by delusional have been leftists desperately imagining a vestige of class consciousness in blatant racism.

157

Dipper 06.27.16 at 8:24 pm

TM – so just for completeness, you support the UK remaining in the EU and becoming part of the European superstate, with all the loss of democracy that entails, or are you still desperately imagining that we can reform it?

158

Lupita 06.27.16 at 8:25 pm

@ T

Don’t know too many working class folks who’ll settle for no growth, esp. for their kids.

So the whole global neoliberal system rests on Western working class folks not settling for no growth? Western folks have pretty much settled for anything thrown at them: slavery, racial segregation, war, torture, nuclear weapons, colonialism, a casino economy… you name it, they settled. No growth, they’ll settle too.

Declining societies are a not a fun place.

Indeed they are not, ask any third worlder. But we settled. Now, it is your turn.

159

Dipper 06.27.16 at 8:26 pm

None @ 143. Wow. Sharp as a tack

the whole point of the comment was that the US does not support freedom of movement, and I was tired of being lectured about how I’m a racist for not supporting freedom of movement by people who live in countries that don’t support freedom of movement.

160

SufferinSuccotash 06.27.16 at 8:32 pm

Apologies if someone has already brought this one up, but JQ’s three-party system does tend to resemble Dani Rodrik’s trilemma–globalization, democracy, national sovereignty–and his view that you can have two out of the three but having all three is out of the question. For the last quarter-century the globalization/neoliberal elites have been trying to maintain the illusion that we can have all three. If Brexit hasn’t achieved anything else (which is probably the case) it’s blown that illusion right out of the water.

http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2016/06/brexit-and-the-globalization-trilemma.html

161

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 8:33 pm

T #138: I read it a little differently. Living in a mobile home is about culture? No high school diploma is culture? My guess is that if you match up Autor’s locations most affected by Chinese trade and Trump support you’ll find an overlap.

Yes, you’ll find an overlap, but the list you point to says that that overlap is less strong than things like proclaimed ethnicity and a preference for segregation.

If ‘culture’ bugs you, substitute whatever word you want for ‘things other than employment that affect a person’s outlook’, some of which is obviously encapsulated in both high-school education and mobile home residency. YOu can’t just back-form from mobile home residency to type or presence of employment; type and presence of employment are already on the list you pointed to, and they do not correlate as strongly to a preference for Trump as other of these characteristics.

162

Clay Shirky 06.27.16 at 8:37 pm

Bruce #140: Anti-immigrant sentiment is a rallying cry for Leave, but it is inversely correlated with actual immigrants. I think we have to leave open the possibility that the effectiveness of anti-immigrant rally cries relates to economic conditions and experiences that do not actually feature immigrants. It is symbolic communication amid incoherent political understandings.

Yes, of course, anit-immigrant sentiment is always symbolic, but even given that, I’m not sure I understand the point about inverse correlation? Certainly the immigration back from Britain’s Asian colonies has been far more widely distributed across England than any American immigrants have dispersed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Pakistanis#Population_distribution

163

bob mcmanus 06.27.16 at 8:46 pm

Also the very existence of the United Kingdom in any shape or form is now threatened.

Watch what happens. Scotland leaves, Wales leaves, Labor becomes irrelevant.

There was talk about a transactions task in the EU? Left and right fringes gaining traction?

If you are a hard City supporter, a trueblue Finance hegemon, well, one article yesterday asked if London could leave the UK.

Maybe the plan is to turn England/London into an independent bankster haven like Singapore. Very attractive to certain people.

164

LFC 06.27.16 at 8:46 pm

Throwing this out for comment…

P. Mandler in Dissent’s blog:

In shorthand, Britain’s EU problem is a London problem. London, a young, thriving, creative, cosmopolitan city, seems the model multicultural community, a great European capital. But it is also the home of all of Britain’s elites—the economic elites of “the City” (London’s Wall Street, international rather than European), a nearly hereditary professional caste of lawyers, journalists, publicists, and intellectuals, an increasingly hereditary caste of politicians, tight coteries of cultural movers-and-shakers richly sponsored by multinational corporations. It’s as if Hollywood, Wall Street, the Beltway, and the hipper neighborhoods of New York and San Francisco had all been mashed together. This has proved to be a toxic combination.

(Link in next box)

165

LFC 06.27.16 at 8:48 pm

166

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 8:52 pm

It is the EU-born now.

167

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 9:05 pm

Ze K @ 169

The choice of explanations is, itself, a political act.

“Those people voted that way — a way that inconveniences me and my ambition — because they are ignorant, hateful people” takes a certain vector, even if you preceded it with some statistical incantation.

168

TM 06.27.16 at 9:07 pm

120: “Here I’d echo Slavoj Žižek’s response to the question of which is worse, neoliberalism or fascism (quoting Stalin’s response to a similar question): “they’re both worse!””

Žižek really thinks the rotten Weimar Republic rotten neoliberal EU isn’t worth defending against fascism. That his answer is a Stalin quote just proves how intellectually bankrupt that peddler of vacuous verbal radicalism is. I can’t believe anybody on the left would still take him seriously.

Btw (re 132): “Social fascism was a theory supported by the Communist International (Comintern) during the early 1930s, which held that social democracy was a variant of fascism because, in addition to a shared corporatist economic model, it stood in the way of a complete and final transition to communism.”

169

engels 06.27.16 at 9:29 pm

If people who complain most about immigration live in areas least affected, maybe that’s just because they have chosen to move away…

Try practising these words: ‘actually I don’t really know anything at all about this issue and it doesn’t affect me much personally compared to many others so I think I might just shut up for a bit’

170

Rich Puchalsky 06.27.16 at 9:31 pm

On tribalism: you might want to Google Berube Stuart Hall I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick.

171

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 9:33 pm

Ze K @ 172

Daniel Davies had a piece on Vox before the vote that offered among other insights the idea that the hard core of UKIP/Leave were the old people on the East Coast, where young people moved away and EU immigrants have arrived to replace the young doing the crap jobs that keep those areas from economic collapse.

http://www.vox.com/2016/6/20/11965064/brexit-immigration-economic-decline

The most adamant Tory Brexiter I have encountered in person was a doctor of Pakistani descent, so go figure.

172

engels 06.27.16 at 9:34 pm

If you are a hard City supporter, a trueblue Finance hegemon, well, one article yesterday asked if London could leave the UK

It is possible to feel uncomfortable about your friends/acquaintances/SO being escorted onto boats without being a running dog of Morgan Stanley. Just a thought.

173

None 06.27.16 at 9:47 pm

UK loses triple-A credit rating
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/27/property-and-financial-shares-slide-as-referendum-fallout-hits-stock-markets

I’m sure the brexiters will find some way to blame the “immigrants” for this one.

174

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 9:53 pm

“UK loses triple-A credit rating”

Yes, because credit-rating agencies are objective authorities that never play politics

175

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 9:56 pm

Meanwhile, in other neoliberal electoral news:

“Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right Popular Party (PP) was the big winner in repeat elections, landing 137 seats, which was 14 more than in December’s inconclusive poll.”

“Mr Rajoy said he would seek to form an unprecedented coalition with the opposition Socialist Party, which came second with 85 seats but recorded the worst result in its 137-year history. If the two parties can agree a deal, it would drag Spain out of a six-month impasse.”

And so it goes.

176

T 06.27.16 at 10:24 pm

Clay @163
The question I’m addressing is the difference between Trump voters and mainstream Republicans. Trump voters had voted mainstream years. I’m asking which voters switch from mainstream to Trump. My point is that the cultural non-economic issues — abortion, school prayer, sex ed, race, law and order — were common between mainstream and Trump voters for 40 years. So what changed — why did the Trump supporters blow up the party? The data seem to suggest that this group was under particular economic stress AND they had no advocate in the mainstream. What is the neoliberal core of mainstream: free flow of labor, goods, and capital., i.e. immigration and trade deals. What does Trump support: stopping immigration and trade. Please show me the cultural differences between Trump and the mainstream that are independent of income. 90 percent of Mississippi whites voted Republican in the last presidential election. Are you saying that the mainstream Republicans and the Trump supporters in Mississippi have radically different views on race?

177

Mark Pontin 06.27.16 at 10:28 pm

P. Dorman in #151 wrote: ‘I haven’t seen a good empirical political economy analysis of the last 30 years of European policy.’

Mark Blyth is a good place to start. There’s a book AUSTERITY: THE HISTORY OF A BAD IDEA.

Also, a bunch of presentations on video/YouTube (try the informal one he does for Google). But be prepared for the fact that Blyth talks and thinks faster than most of us, and has a strong Scottish accent.

178

Mark Pontin 06.27.16 at 10:37 pm

I beg your pardon.

AUSTERITY: THE HISTORY OF A DANGEROUS IDEA.

179

Sandwichman 06.27.16 at 10:56 pm

Peter Dorman; “I haven’t seen a good empirical political economy analysis of the last 30 years of European policy. If anyone knows of one, please post.”

I buy Freeman’s 2006 argument that the cross-country aggregate data is too weak to reject strong priors or to convince those without weaker priors. (“Labour market institutions without blinders: The debate over flexibility and labour market performance,” International Economic Journal).

180

Sandwichman 06.27.16 at 10:57 pm

“or to convince those without weaker priors”

should be:

“or to convince those with weaker priors”

181

engels 06.27.16 at 11:09 pm

Shorter generic CT comments: disaffected white lower-middle-class American men for a united front against centrism

182

engels 06.27.16 at 11:11 pm

183

engels 06.27.16 at 11:12 pm

Outta here – enjoy the bull session

184

Landru 06.28.16 at 2:08 am

So, a hundred years on: things fell apart, the center did not hold.

JQ “Nevertheless, in the absence of something better, tribalist sentiment is only likely to grow. The great tragedy of the period since the GFC has been the failure of the left, broadly defined, to articulate a coherent alternative to, or even a clear critique of, the zombie ideas of neoliberalism. “

The memory is irresistible

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

Too apocalyptic? I have nothing to add, quite yet.

185

roger nowosielski 06.28.16 at 2:22 am

#180: T&C

Have been following your discussion from the get-go. Very interesting.

The one conclusion I can draw: when you couple cultural impoverishment (isolation?) with income/opportunity deprivation, the dumb become even dumber.

186

J-D 06.28.16 at 5:14 am

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 9:53 pm

“UK loses triple-A credit rating”

Yes, because credit-rating agencies are objective authorities that never play politics

Yes, we should simply outsource all functions of government to credit rating agencies.

187

derrida derider 06.28.16 at 6:05 am

“[Brexiters] may have absolutely nothing against UK-born Jamaicans and Pakistanis, while attacking Polish and Slovak immigrants.”

Not surprising. Just as “the only good tax is an old tax” is true of tax politics, in migration politics the only good migrant is an old migrant. Plus those old migrants themselves are always the keenest to pull the ladder up behind them once they’re established in their perch.

Yes, tribalism is nasty.

188

TM 06.28.16 at 8:14 am

193. If we didn’t have good anecdotes, we’d have to invent them wouldn’t we.

189

TM 06.28.16 at 8:26 am

“flooding a country with cheap labor, low-wage menial laborers”

It’s worth mentioning that while EU guarantees free movement of labor, minimum wage and other labor standards remain under national government control (and EU rules actually provide a floor on labor standards, which if I remember correctly the UK government has complained about). The fact that EU migrants have rights makes them less vulnerbale to pressure from employers, which you should welcome if you were really concerned about the impact of migration on labor standards. Shitty low wage employers prefer workers with no or precarious papers who can’t complain about wage theft and exploitation.

190

J-D 06.28.16 at 9:00 am

bruce wilder 06.27.16 at 9:56 pm
Meanwhile, in other neoliberal electoral news:

“Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right Popular Party (PP) was the big winner in repeat elections, landing 137 seats, which was 14 more than in December’s inconclusive poll.”

“Mr Rajoy said he would seek to form an unprecedented coalition with the opposition Socialist Party, which came second with 85 seats but recorded the worst result in its 137-year history. If the two parties can agree a deal, it would drag Spain out of a six-month impasse.”

And so it goes.

He was seeking a coalition with the PSOE last time, but they wouldn’t be in it; and so far this time they’re still saying they won’t be in it. (I’m aware that it’s possible they’ll lose their nerve and cave, although in my judgement if they do they’ll be fools to themselves, Clegg-style, and it’s still possible they also realise this.)

191

casmilus 06.28.16 at 9:24 am

192

novakant 06.28.16 at 9:29 am

What’s also kinda nasty, is flooding a country with cheap labor, low-wage menial laborers.

I think abb1 should be banned for the use of Nazi style rhetoric.

193

TM 06.28.16 at 10:04 am

Logic according to Ze K 201:

Proposition A: “My life sucks because of immigration.”
Negation of Prop A: “Your life is great now shut up.”

It’s a sight to behold.

194

TM 06.28.16 at 10:14 am

Question (casmilus et al): Does it concern anybody in the Brexit camp that millions of Brits have also benefited from free movement within the EU and will now be stripped of a right that they have enjoyed?

Btw the “Liechtenstein solution” suggested in your link is totally wishful thinking. A more relevant case study would be Switzerland.

195

Ronan(rf) 06.28.16 at 10:15 am

It’s worth noting that brexits main support base (people at, or close to retirement in low immigration regional towns) are not generally “the victims of immigration “

196

Ronan(rf) 06.28.16 at 10:25 am

The english (like all the in the British isles) always emigrated in relatively large numbers, throughout the new world/the empire/ Europe. (Largely because as wealthy white westerners they got preferential treatment when migrating) If there are restrictions on free European movement to the UK then not only should the same be applied to the British in Europe, but it should be applied to the British going anywhere, Australia, America, developing countries etc

197

Ronan(rf) 06.28.16 at 10:29 am

By “applied” I mean there should be*more stringent* restrictions on British migration everywhere.

198

engels 06.28.16 at 10:31 am

It’s worth noting that brexits main support base (people at, or close to retirement in low immigration regional towns) are not generally “the victims of immigration

Didn’t you read the Ze K explanation? They were driven there from London by the swarms of Poles. Maybe they took early retirement because of them as well?

199

Dipper 06.28.16 at 11:54 am

Ronan (rf) – wow I never knew! Except I did. Everyone did. Its a trade off, and people voted with their eyes open understanding that there would be trade offs.

200

Layman 06.28.16 at 12:10 pm

Dipper: “…and I was tired of being lectured about how I’m a racist for not supporting freedom of movement by people who live in countries that don’t support freedom of movement.”

This is quite silly, since it confuse the people criticizing you with their countries. They act to reduce restrictions on freedom of movement, and perhaps they fail; but you act to increase restrictions on freedom of movement. Why is their criticism unfair?

201

Layman 06.28.16 at 12:13 pm

Dipper: “Its a trade off, and people voted with their eyes open understanding that there would be trade offs.”

Silly also, given the sheer volume of reporting which demonstrates that many people were confused about what the voted for; and the leaders, who were supposed to define what they were voting for, but now say they meant something else.

202

Ronan(rf) 06.28.16 at 12:21 pm

Dipper, I’m not sure the people leading the campaign/planning for post brexit had their eyes open, so would be sceptical the gen pop did

203

kidneystones 06.28.16 at 12:39 pm

@212 The one thing we can be sure about in the 25 years that the UK Independence Party campaigned to leave the EU is that nobody had any idea that leaving the EU actually meant leaving the EU. Indeed, when UKIP won the European elections in Britain in 2014 on a campaign of pushing for a vote on Britain leaving the EU, the press made no mention of the fact that UKIP wanted Britain to leave the EU, the public had no idea that UKIP wanted a vote on leaving the EU and that’s why UKIP was so successful – because UKIP voters didn’t understand that leaving the EU meant actually leaving the EU. Then in 2016 when Labour was wiped out, in part, because Labour did not want to allow a vote on Britain leaving the EU, nobody discussed a vote on leaving the EU. The leadership candidates like Cooper and Burnham made no mention of reversing Labour policy on a vote to leave the EU and the entire question of a vote on leaving the EU sometime after 2015 was never broached by politicians, or the press.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that so few people voting last week had any idea that voting to Leave or Remain in the EU had any bearing on the question of whether Britain should lose all the rights and obligations of EU membership, and embark on a new relationship with Europe and the world.

How could voters possibly understand this fundamental fact?

Twas never mentioned.

204

TM 06.28.16 at 12:46 pm

Very clever, kidney, except …

“Before Thursday’s referendum on the country’s membership in the 28-nation bloc, campaigners for British withdrawal, known as Brexit, tossed out promises of a better future while dismissing concerns raised by a host of scholars and experts as “Project Fear.”

But that was before they won.

With financial markets in turmoil, a big drop in the pound and the prospect of further chaos, some supporters of Brexit are backpedaling on bold pronouncements they made just a few days earlier. “A lot of things were said in advance of this referendum that we might want to think about again,” Liam Fox, a former cabinet minister, told the BBC, including when and how Article 50 — the formal process for leaving the European Union — should be invoked.

Perhaps no promise was more audacious — and mendacious, critics say — than the £350-million-a-week claim. Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London who was the frontman of the Brexit campaign, toured Britain in a bus emblazoned with the slogan: “We send the E.U. £350 million a week, let’s fund our N.H.S. instead,” a reference to the country’s widely revered National Health Service.

Hours after proclaiming “independence day” for Britain, Nigel Farage, the leader of the fiercely anti-European U.K. Independence Party, conceded that the £350 million figure was a “mistake.” Asked by the BBC on Sunday about the spending pledge, Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative Party leader who campaigned for Brexit, said the Leave side had merely promised “to spend the lion’s share of that money” on the health service.”

And so on and on. Yes, people knew, sort of kind of, what they were voting for, aided by excellent reporting provided selflessly by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

At least one thing is clear: England has exited the Euro Championship for good. If only politics were more like sports…

205

TM 06.28.16 at 12:49 pm

[The usual format malfunction – the NYT quote includes the third from last para]

206

Igor Belanov 06.28.16 at 12:51 pm

I can’t understand why Roy Hodgson has resigned though. Surely the EU and/or Jeremy Corbyn was to blame for England’s exit?

207

casmilus 06.28.16 at 1:01 pm

@204

I completely agree that “the Liechtenstein solution” is wishful thinking. I actually said so in a comment on that blog when it was first mooted.

The sad thing is that man (Richard North) has been a sharp critic of delusions amongst his fellow Eurosceptics. I’ve read his blog regularly these last few months for his trashings of Vote Leave and related bodies. But I think the excitement of Leave getting ahead in the polls made him want to reach out with something that could allow their nonsense to be feasible.

208

Clay Shirky 06.28.16 at 1:02 pm

Kidney #214, that was beautiful.

Single best exegesis of how “Leaving The EU” as a cultural commitment had little to do, in the minds of the voters, with leaving the EU (and written like Gertrude Stein doing color commentary, which is a plus in my book.)

Puts me in mind of that Holbo piece from five years ago about how in the US, conservatives not merely could, but had to say things that everyone knew they didn’t believe, in order to be counted as conservative: http://crookedtimber.org/2011/09/03/must-we-act-as-if-they-mean-what-they-say/

T #183, sorry, I misunderstood your interpretation. I can’t offer you the comparison you ask for, because I don’t believe in ‘mainstream Republicans’ as a category. Instead, what I believe is that voting for Trump had more do do with outlook than economic privation (since the correlation with non-economic factors is, on the list you pointed to, higher than the correlation with economic ones) and that that comparison can’t be lined up with ‘mainstream’ Republicna views because, by this year, those views had ceased to say anything about voter behavior.

Trump demonstrated that the Republican party had shifted from the usual group of diversely interested but loosely coordinated voters with a smaller and less diverse set of leaders, into a party whose “ideas” wing had so captured the debate that the dissolution of electoral support for most public GOP commitments was never noticed until someone decided to try ignoring the ideas wing.

(An aside, but watching National Review’s ‘Wile E. Coyote, three strides past the cliff’ routine has been one of the more piquant minor pleasures of this campaign season.)

209

kidneystones 06.28.16 at 1:06 pm

@ 216 Hi TM,

Actually, I’m inclined to believe that folks voted for a variety of reasons.

@ 217 As for England, and perhaps Spain, my guess is that the millionaires paid in pounds were far too busy calculating their losses as the pound sank, and working the phones with their business agents to actually concentrate on the task at hand – dealing with Iceland.

So, yes Brexit may well have played a role.

Corbyn? Not, a chance. Although the consensus seems to be the team could have used more than a thimbleful or two of Corbyn’s grit.

210

Layman 06.28.16 at 1:10 pm

@TM

Then there’s this kind of backpedaling:

‘Senior MEP Daniel Hannan insisted that ditching Brussels would not stop the amount of people coming to Britain being slashed.’ – Sunday, June 26

‘The former Mayor of London also reassured Brits they could still buy homes and settle down within EU member states. He added: “British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes and to settle down.”‘ – Monday, 27 June

“The first part of the plan must be clarity that we will remain in the single market…All Conservative leadership candidates should jointly pledge this week that full permanent residence will be granted to all European citizens living and working in Britain on the day of the referendum…We have not addressed people’s economic concerns by being honest that growing economies do need immigration…Firstly we must not invoke Article 50 straight away…we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum…” – Tuesday 28 June

So, yes, it’s perfectly clear what people thought they voted for.

211

kidneystones 06.28.16 at 1:25 pm

@ 219. Hi, Clay. Agreed. Your astute remarks re: Trump voters might be the most reliable link connection this group with Brexit voters – this is a community that feels its interests/concerns have been ignored for too long by London/Washington.

They’re bucking, and for that much they have my respect.

I’ll continue to support Trump for as long as I believe there’s a chance he’ll avoid some of the violence certain to attend more of the same in any iteration. And even more so in the probably misguided hope that he’ll do something to mitigate the more disastrous trade and domestic policies of the last 3 decades.

From what I can see he is a New York liberal vulgarian willing to say, and do anything. We survived far worse, and HRC has proven herself repeatedly an unacceptably corrupt and violent agent of the elites, one who actually appears to relish dropping bombs on brown folks. I’m well aware that this is a minority view. So, be it.

212

T 06.28.16 at 3:53 pm

Clay@219
“I don’t believe in ‘mainstream Republicans’ as a category.”
Wha? Huh? Interesting but clearly a minority view. As Krugman (just one of very many) has noted — Republicans are ideological while Dems are more of a special interest coalition. Seems JQ takes the same view of Republicans but I don’t want to put words in his mouth.

So here’s what I think have defined Mainstream Republicans for nearly 40 yrs:

Economic — hard neoliberlism: belief in the free flow of capital, goods, and labor; deregulation/privatization; lower taxes; denial or minimization of public goods except national defense/police (e.g. privatize SS/hobble Medicare/hobble Medicare and food stamps); finacialization/commodification of everything including labor; anti-union bias; preaching austerity

Social: antiabortion; pro-gun; anti-affirmative action; law and order (w/all accompanying racial overtones); trickle down (as sold to the base)

As pointed out by several commentators, it’s somewhat artificial to draw the economic/social distinction but it does fit with the view that the 1% get the economic rewards and the base gets the social rewards.

I think that the Trump phenomenon is the recognition that hard neoliberlism has been a disaster for the working class. And that trickle down was affinity fraud based on supposedly shared social views.

I think that’s what splitting apart the Republican Party. It wasn’t like the mainstream had different racial views and now the real racists are behind Trump. The race card was integral to mainstream Republicans forever — just look at Reagan and Lee Atwater.

It isn’t that all the racists suddenly formed their own party behind Trump and what’s left is a non-racist mainstream. It’s that they left for economic reasons and took their old social views with them, social views still generally shared by the mainstream. That’s why it was easy for Trump to name a bunch of judges that Koch, National Review, and the Evangelicals were also happy with. In fact, that’s where he got the names.

Finally, we have to agree to disagree — I see mobile homes and no high school diploma as an income marker, not a social marker.

Once again, my two cents.

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T 06.28.16 at 3:55 pm

Clay@219

“I don’t believe in ‘mainstream Republicans’ as a category.”
Wha? Huh? Interesting but clearly a minority view. As Krugman (just one of very many) has noted — Republicans are ideological while Dems are more of a special interest coalition. Seems JQ takes the same view of Republicans but I don’t want to put words in his mouth.

So here’s what I think have defined Mainstream Republicans for nearly 40 yrs:

Economic — hard neoliberlism: belief in the free flow of capital, goods, and labor; deregulation/privatization; lower taxes; denial or minimization of public goods except national defense/police (e.g. privatize SS/hobble Medicare/hobble Medicare and food stamps); finacialization/commodification of everything including labor; anti-union bias; preaching austerity

Social: antiabortion; pro-gun; anti-affirmative action; law and order (w/all accompanying racial overtones); trickle down (as sold to the base)

As pointed out by several commentators, it’s somewhat artificial to draw the economic/social distinction but it does fit with the view that the 1% get the economic rewards and the base gets the social rewards.

I think that the Trump phenomenon is the recognition that hard neoliberlism has been a disaster for the working class. And that trickle down was affinity fraud based on supposedly shared social views.

I think that’s what splitting apart the Republican Party. It wasn’t like the mainstream had different racial views and now the real racists are behind Trump. The race card was integral to mainstream Republicans forever — just look at Reagan and Lee Atwater.

It isn’t that all the racists suddenly formed their own party behind Trump and what’s left is a non-racist mainstream. It’s that they left for economic reasons and took their old social views with them, social views still generally shared by the mainstream. That’s why it was easy for Trump to name a bunch of judges that Koch, National Review, and the Evangelicals were also happy with. In fact, that’s where he got the names.

Finally, we have to agree to disagree — I see mobile homes and no high school diploma as an income marker, not a social marker.

Once again, my two cents.

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Anarcissie 06.29.16 at 12:43 am

I mentioned the following in part at the end of the Bloodbath discussion; it may be relevant here: the ‘Ultimatum game’ as described by Wikipedia. It helps explain the apparent nihilism of Leave and Trump voting. Since similar behaviors are found among non-human primates, I take it the genetic source of the behavior is deep and probably cannot be eradicated by calling people bad names and other strategems on exhibit in the elite media.

In short, a certain segment of the population may be construed as saying, ‘Not without us.’ Liberals do not seem to care about these people except as subjects of vacuous rhetoric, and in the US at least, the Left is too weak and ineffectual to organize them. Hence, the energy flows to the tribalistic Right.

As Lupita observes @ 130, however, the revolt of this particular set of proles seems to be inconveniencing the American imperium.

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T 06.29.16 at 3:55 am

Lupita @163
It’s reached that point. And I don’t think they’ll settle.
It’s my view that the neoliberal system increased inequality and that inequality stymies productivity and growth.
Take a look at the growth in the developing world and you’ll see not all are just settling. That’s why world inequality has plummeted while intra-country inequality has increased in the West.

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RNB 06.29.16 at 4:21 am

Read Sanders’ editorial today in the NYT; it’s his sympathetic attempt to make sense of Brexit!
He wants a retreat from a globalized economy and blames trade for economic woes though even Autor thinks the shock from China’s entry into the global system has played itself out by now. He’s still talking about NAFTA and gives great importance to defeating TPP. Is this leftism? Or tribalism? Trump would have simply said that while Sanders sees the problems of trade and immigration, he’s not tough enough to handle them. And Trump may well have won.

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TM 06.29.16 at 9:13 am

Ana 226: “calling people bad names and other strategems on exhibit in the elite media”

Are you aware that almost the entire UK print media have pushed *for Brexit* (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/22/opinion/who-is-to-blame-for-brexits-appeal-british-newspapers.html) or at least have a history of, to modify your words, “calling the EU bad names”? I don’t know what constitutes “elite media” for you but Rupert Murdoch is hardly a man of the people and the Telegraph hasn’t exactly been known for it’s anti-elitism. And considering the far superior media power of the Brexit camp, it doesn’t take genetic speculation to explain why a slight majority voted the headlines they were seeing everywhere.

So many people on the left are confused about what is going on. Brexit is NOT an anti-elite, anti-establishment, anti-neoliberal insurgency. It is a battle between different fractions of the establishment, competing visions of capitalism (to simplify, Euro- vs. Anglo-capitalism) and the more reactionary fraction has won (temporarily) by appealing to nativism and racism.

The cluelessness exhibited in this thread really worries me sick.

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engels 06.29.16 at 10:49 am

So many people on the left are confused about what is going on

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: please don’t confuse the CT comments section with ‘the left’. People who prefer Trump to Sanders and Johnson and Farage to Corbyn, and apout hard-right bullshit about ‘taking back our sovereignty’ are not on the Left, or possibly even sane. There are legitimate left-wing arguments for Brexit but you will not hear them here.

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TM 06.29.16 at 1:08 pm

Sure but I’m not referring to those who have gone off the deep end. I’m referring to those who are still sane but lack the intellectual framework to understand what’s going on.

220

SusanC 06.29.16 at 1:36 pm

” If people who complain most about immigration live in areas least affected, maybe that’s just because they have chosen to move away… Something like the white flight is the US…”

My first reaction was: this really doesn’t fit the demographics. The more obvious explanation is that poor areas were more likely to vote for brexit, and poor areas have fewer immigrants because the immigrants are where the jobs are. -> hence the inverse correlation. So places like Cambridge or London, being relatively wealthy but with significant immigration, are fine with the EU because they’re doing relatively well financially.

On the other hand, rather than “white flight”, I suppose it is just about possible that brexit-favoring rural areas contain a high proportion of people who have chose to stay in the countryside rather than move to wealthier cities because of a dislike of the cultural aspects of big cities, such as being more ethnically diverse etc. It’s not “flight”, because this would suggest a demographic that was never in the cities to begin with.

if you wanted to be really controversial, this (a bit far fetched) theory could be extended a bit further to say its a demographic that hasn’t yet quite caught up with the Industrial Revolution and the changes resulting from the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, never mind the UK’s membership of the EU.

On balance, I don’t believe it.

P.S. I’m Welsh, which may be influencing me a bit here. (Ok, a Welsh Jew. or rather a slightly Irish but mostly Welsh Jew… or something like that. At least, it’s what I put I answer to ethnicity questions on census forms),

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Will G-R 06.29.16 at 1:46 pm

@ RNB 228: “Trump would have simply said that while Sanders sees the problems of trade and immigration, he’s not tough enough to handle them. And Trump may well have won.”

That’s ultimately the saddest thing about the Sanders campaign: as long as it takes place in the context of a national election for a national political office, he’s ultimately forced to beat around the same bush Trump is cutting through with a hedge-clipper, and in occasional moments of clarity it can even be hard to tell the two apart. Ask what Bernie Sanders has to offer a Bangladeshi garment worker or a Chinese electronics assembler or a Rwandan coffee harvester that Trump doesn’t, and the poverty of his form of “socialism” becomes immediately evident.

@ Ze K 230: “Southern-Eastern economies need protection for their industries, and the Western-Northern states need protection for their workers.”

How are you able to so blithely ignore the possibility that Southern-Eastern economies might also need protection for their workers? After all, the whole reason UK workers are so incensed about competition from Bulgarian workers is that wages in Bulgaria are a minute fraction of those in the UK, and cost-of-living differentials can only go so far when increasing numbers of commodities are sold at Europewide or even worldwide prices. You’re right that combining Bulgarian workers and UK workers into a common market and forcing them into direct competition would be a form of colonialism, but the only thing “strange” about it is that it’s carried closer to its logical conclusion: a world where the labor-aristocratic First-World working class can no longer insulate itself from the havoc capitalism wreaks on the working classes everywhere else, and in which it’s ultimately forced to abandon the nationalist/fascist dream and make solidarity with its Third-World working-class comrades. Force the UK to make these concessions toward Bulgaria, and we’re one step closer to a world in which it’s forced to make the same concessions toward Bangladesh.

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Anarcissie 06.29.16 at 2:11 pm

TM 06.29.16 at 9:13 am @ 229 — I was writing about what opponents of Leave did and said, not the media in general. Of course the referendum was a contest of elites, doing what elites almost always try to do, that is, get in control of a current of political energy and thereby advance their personal and class interests. As in the present case, I think they’re often incompetent. I don’t think that changes the underlying energy (much). If you want to understand what’s going on, I think you want to pay attention to that energy, not tribalistically dismiss it as subhuman.

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Will G-R 06.29.16 at 2:31 pm

@237, are you seriously trying to deny what’s quite possibly the most pivotal fact of global political economy in the 20th and 21st centuries, that higher labor standards for Western workers have only ever been bought by exporting lower labor standards outside Western borders? Without the poverty of places like Bulgaria and Bangladesh, broad-based Western prosperity under capitalism is simply impossible. If you don’t accept this, and accept that solidarity with Bulgarians and Bangladeshis means actual solidarity, you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with Trump whether you acknowledge it or not.

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Anarcissie 06.29.16 at 2:39 pm

@238 — He can’t do that, as Mr. Trump’s shoulders are bigger than everyone else’s.

225

Will G-R 06.29.16 at 3:01 pm

Ze K, that’s not how global capitalism works. When truck drivers and warehouse workers and sales clerks in the West make dollars/euros per hour to circulate commodities produced by workers elsewhere making cents per hour, the former are participating in and benefiting from the exploitation of the latter, however unwittingly. The relative popularity of xenophobia and fascism as compared to actual international socialism among Western workers is a testament to the fact that they’re not necessarily so ignorant about this either. To demand that Bulgarians and Bangladeshis keep waiting while we Westerners sort out how to more equitably distribute amongst ourselves the spoils of their exploitation, and only then can we discuss everything else, is to adopt the position of the oppressor. Is that the position you want to take?

Here, I’ll even recommend some literature in case you’re curious, which you may well not be.

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Will G-R 06.29.16 at 3:18 pm

Here’s what you said: “Southern-Eastern economies need protection for their industries, and the Western-Northern states need protection for their workers.” What are the needs of Southern-Eastern workers, chopped liver?

227

bruce wilder 06.29.16 at 3:20 pm

actual international socialism? I’m sorry, but is that a thing?

228

Will G-R 06.29.16 at 3:35 pm

@ bruce wilder, sure it is. Solidarity with this kind of working-class unrest would be international socialism, whereas solidarity with this kind would be… well… I’d use the obvious phrase but it already seems to be taken.

229

Will G-R 06.29.16 at 5:11 pm

You’re still not engaging with the actual question. What do Southern-Eastern workers need, and assuming we’re not literally fascists, why should we treat it as qualitatively different from what Northern-Western workers need? If working-class solidarity is to stop once it reaches a particular border or a particular language barrier or a particular melanin concentration, it might just as well be Strasserism. In my opinion, anyway.

230

Brett Dunbar 06.29.16 at 5:23 pm

Will G-R @ 238

Capitalism doesn’t depend on poverty elsewhere, rich countries make most of their money trading with other rich countries. The really poor countries are those that pretty much don’t participate in world trade. The poor countries that do participate in world trade become middle income countries.

Textiles is a labour intensive low skill industry. That is where industrialisation starts it is a frontier industry. As the local economy develops and wages rise the textile industry moves on as it gets priced out by other industries. Shanghai started out with textiles and over time the frontier of industrialisation moved up river, it is now moving out of China.

The EU single market has tended to benefit the poorer members more than the richer members. Everyone got richer, free trade tends to do that.

231

Anarcissie 06.29.16 at 5:31 pm

Brett Dunbar 06.29.16 at 5:23 pm @ 248:
Everyone got richer, free trade tends to do that.

Oh, dear. Why has no one told the proles?

232

efcdons 06.29.16 at 6:24 pm

@ 250
“everyone” means the average of the group for some reason when it comes to defending the current trade regime. Just like “everybody” in the bar becomes a billionaire when Bill Gates walks in.

233

Dipper 06.29.16 at 6:26 pm

234

Layman 06.29.16 at 6:41 pm

@ Dipper, did you actually read that link? It’s pretty damned funny! Among those ready to strike a trade deal with the UK are: Republican members of the US Congress (who have no power to make trade deals); and German industrial leaders (who have no power to make trade deals, and live in a country which has no power to make trade deals).

Who were the other 9 again…?

235

Will G-R 06.29.16 at 7:05 pm

Brett @248, the two books I linked to for Ze K above are particularly instructive on the issue of global trade. This idea that rich countries make most of their money through fair trade with other rich countries, as opposed to through uncompensated global value transfer from poor countries, is an illusion perpetuated by the ways in which orthodox economic metrics like GDP are tabulated; as Smith puts it, GDP measures not the value added in production but the value captured in exchange. What makes this evident is the clear disparity between the production costs of Third-World-produced commodities and their final First-World selling prices, which in many cases can exceed 50% of the latter, a difference captured not just by Western-based multinationals but also by Western governments (through tariffs, VAT, and other taxes on global commerce) and even by Western consumers at large (through increased wages from the portion captured by their employers and public spending from the portion captured by their governments). This enrichment doesn’t materialize out of thin air from equal exchange, it’s ultimately drawn from the productive labor of Third-World producers and necessarily demands their impoverishment.

Ze K @ 249, the problem is that from the Southern-Eastern perspective, the jobs they’re migrating for aren’t necessarily either low-paying or particularly “hard” labor compared to what they could expect in their Southern-Eastern homes, which after all is why they’re migrating in the first place. Under a genuine free-trade regime the scenario you describe would happen, but the problem is that we don’t actually have free trade: we have imperialism, in which many commodities are produced far from their eventual points of consumption under conditions of exchange that make it impossible for producers to afford their own products, and in which migration is regulated both legally and extra-legally to bar migrant workers from dispensations available to native-born workers. Removing these conditions through genuinely free trade would mean slashing the portion of global commodity prices that lines First-World pockets as outlined above and in Smith’s book, which in turn would mean a massive decline in living standards for Northern-Western workers, approaching parity (i.e. equal impoverishment) with their Southern-Eastern counterparts. You can’t have it both ways, at least not under capitalism you can’t.

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Brett Dunbar 06.29.16 at 7:31 pm

Will G-R @ 254

The theory that western wealth is due to some form of exploitation of poor countries and that trade impoverishes the poor party makes some predictions. Firstly those poor countries that engage in large amounts of foreign trade should be poor and get poorer. Secondly that trade with poor countries should form a large part of rich countries’ trade. Neither is the case. Rich countries mostly trade amongst themselves those poor countries that trade a lot get richer and move into the middle income group. The poorest countries tend to have high trade barriers and are largely isolated from world trade.

If the basic predictions of your model are false then your model is wrong.

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Lupita 06.29.16 at 8:01 pm

@ Brett Dunbar

If the basic predictions of your model are false then your model is wrong.

Then why is most of the world’s wealth concentrated in the West? Why do resources, labor, and capital flow from poor countries to rich? Why is it that Western countries invade non-Western countries and not the other way around? Why is it that the head of the IMF is always an European? And of the World Bank always an American? If the answer is not global Western hegemony, then what is it? Is it that Westeners work more, are more intelligent, love freedom more, have a magical connection with the US constitution, are exceptional, or is it that you are just simply awesome?

238

gastro george 06.29.16 at 8:11 pm

According to the Brett theory, if the poor have 10 cents, and you give them another 10 cents for 10 dollars worth of work or goods, then they should be grateful.

239

Collin Street 06.29.16 at 8:35 pm

> Secondly that trade with poor countries should form a large part of rich countries’ trade.

Err, no. If the poor countries are exploited then ipso-facto their contributions will be undervalued, and conventional measures of trade volume will underrepresent what poor countries do [slave plantations did not have large wage bills].

240

Alex K--- 06.29.16 at 9:20 pm

@238: “higher labor standards for Western workers have only ever been bought by exporting lower labor standards outside Western borders”

The US was almost a closed economy until about 1970. The average US worker enjoyed a rather high standard of living in the 1950s and the 1960s.

241

milx 06.29.16 at 10:26 pm

“If the answer is not global Western hegemony, then what is it? Is it that Westeners work more, are more intelligent, love freedom more, have a magical connection with the US constitution, are exceptional, or is it that you are just simply awesome?”

Resources, civic institutions, geography, historical contingency, productive cultural traditions, magic?

242

bruce wilder 06.29.16 at 10:55 pm

Lupita @ 257

awesome

Glad I could clear that one up for you.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.29.16 at 11:02 pm

Free trade is not the problem. The distribution of income has polarized because of capture of policymaking by the rich, not because of free trade.

In theory, free trade should lift all boats; it is a simple multiplication problem to prove this. But this happens, in theory, if and only if the losers in a nation are compensated by the winners in the same nation.

Part of this compensation can also come as lower-priced imports from countries with cheaper labor. In this way, incomes in the richer country can fall, without causing a lower standard of living, because the people can still buy things that are as good, or better than, before, with less hours worked. It’s no different than in-country competition, just a different level of it. It is just one way in which world wages are tending to equalize.

At this time, restricting trade won’t create more jobs. Why? Because THERE ARE NO JOBS to “get back” from other countries. Please get this through your skull. Manufacturing and service industries are destroying jobs everywhere, due to automation.

The solutions to the problem of inequality are: taxation & expenditure policies which help the middle class and poor; shorter work hours, restricting financial speculation; reducing the timespan of intellectual protection; etc. Free trade is a side issue. Restricting free trade will help some people make money in the roil and broil, but in the long term it is a bogus issue.

If there aren’t more jobs to be had, and if surplus capital, surplus goods, and surplus labor are the future of the world system for everybody, well then — we should welcome the freedom from work, change the ownership structure so nobody is left out, have parties, build spaceships and explore the cosmos.

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Landru 06.29.16 at 11:20 pm

W G-R at 254: “uncompensated global value transfer”

Is this an overly long way to spell “theft”? If not, then what’s the difference?

This is not a frivolous question, but rather goes directly to the missing chunk of philosophy that JQ identifies as the heart of the whole thing: how do we describe what’s going on now as “theft”, i.e. as illegitimate on its own terms, in a way that will make intuitive sense to the general reader?

I’m thinking back to the Robber Baron era in the US. We begin with some initial lassiez-faire idea that “if every transaction along the way is consensual, then the outcome has to be fair by definition”; and eventually wind up at the idea that “monopolistic competition” is not legitimate, those gains are ill-gotten and the barons were actually robbers. That’s a real intellectual sea-change! and I keep waiting for a re-invention of equal magnitude to come along today.

This is why — as I’ve brought up on this blog before — I despair when people mention “redistribution” as a pony to back in this day and age, because it fails to illuminate the heart of the matter. To me, “redistribution” can’t ever get beyond the conception, that it’s OK to let the robber barons take two lions’ shares worth because we’ll claw it back from them at gunpoint eventually. “Redistribution” is congealed class warfare: unstable, uninspiring, and an intellectual dead-end.

What would be on a whole new plane, and could (IMO) motivate a whole new generation, is the conception that (most of) the gains of the 0.1% are _not_ legitimate, illustrated rigorously in terms a regular citizen can immediately understand. This opens the motive force to change the rules of the system, while staying within the overall capitalistic framework, so that the mis-concentrations of wealth and income don’t happen in the first place and so never need to be clawed back at gunpoint. Personally, I’ve been heartened from reading people like Jamie Galbraith, Joseph Stiglitz, and also JQ, where the light has started to shine. But the new testament still has a ways to go, at least as I see it.

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Lupita 06.30.16 at 1:58 am

@ Lee A. Arnold 

In theory, free trade should lift all boats; it is a simple multiplication problem to prove this. But this happens, in theory, if and only if the losers in a nation are compensated by the winners in the same nation.

Free trade is a side issue. 

Since the losers in nations are not compensated, then free trade remains an issue.

Furthermore, there is no way to monetarily compensate the loss of proper tortillas that do not turn into mush when making enchiladas because they are made with subsidized American yellow corn pulverized husk and all, all because of NAFTA. There is no compensation for that reasonably priced ceramic Virgin of Guadalupe that says “Hecho en China” on the bottom. How do you compensate for the loss of your soul?

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Anarcissie 06.30.16 at 2:04 am

@265 — ‘The means of production being the collective work of humanity, the product should be the collective property of the race. Individual appropriation is neither just nor serviceable. All belongs to all. All things are for all men, since all men have need of them, since all men have worked in the measure of their strength to produce them, and since it is not possible to evaluate every one’s part in the production of the world’s wealth.‘ (Kropotkin)

247

roger nowosielski 06.30.16 at 4:47 am

This does indeed sound like a passage from the Scriptures, Jesus’s words perhaps,

Kropotkin must have inspired to craft these words.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.30.16 at 12:26 pm

Lupita #266: “Since the losers in nations are not compensated, then free trade remains an issue.”

I very much doubt it, for two different reasons: 1. trade is separated from compensation in every case, and 2. restriction of trade lowers all boats a little.

1. If, by writing, “free trade remains an issue,” you mean, “restricting free trade will fix the compensation problem”, then this is false. The poor will still be poor in the now-protected country: the gov’t policies that determine domestic “compensation” and the “distribution of income” are entirely separated from trade issues.

You could argue that trade protection offers a chance for locals to reassert self-governance, and thus to fix their own income distribution problems. We see this emotional sentiment in the Brexit. In the United States, this is the nativist program offered by Trump. Let’s put aside for a brief instant that this almost always encourages hatred and violence, as we see. The best face to put on it, is that by closing-off your own country, you will wait until the other countries in the world “get their act together”, perhaps by observing your own more salutary example. A sort of “methodological nationalism”.

There are so many problems with this approach that it provokes an entire essay, chock-a-block with obvious dangers. Instead let’s just say that governance problems both domestic and international (including the threat of war) would be greatly increased, not reduced. Trade makes people less apt to war.

2. In addition, restricting trade will REDUCE the amount (or quality) of goods and services available to both sides — reduce it, in the aggregate. Thus overall it will reduce the standard of living a little, for both sides. People will have to work more hours to buy the same good. Now of course: A) Most people may not notice that they have to work a little more, especially in the more advanced country. And B) this overall effect may have less importance to everyone in the near future, because automation is making a surplus of everything anyway: the theory of “comparative advantage” in trade is rapidly losing its overall importance in national economics, except to note that “agglomeration effects” whether geographic or abstract, will always indicate a good place to go and have fun.

So people would be better-off to accept freedom including free trade, and learn to govern the whole globe, instead.

They could start by realizing that technological developments are rapidly freeing them from labor. Being put out-of-work is the indicator of a GOOD future for all, if and only if the system were different.

This means realizing that the psychological “need to work, for a feeling of self-worth” is a mental crutch, the vestigial appendage of millennia of real, true scarcity. Now it is instead the predominant way that the system controls you, by making you control yourself.

I think the way forward is to start to chip away at this mindset, by proving that narrowly targeted redistribution can work, as I outlined in comment #17, above.

But it is much easier to avoid waking-up, and to complain instead that the rich are causing all our woes (as we see in countless Crooked Timber comments threads).

3. As a stickler for scientific terminology, I think the word “soul” should be restricted to mean the highest state of consciousness, which may be when all the brain nodes are lit up on an fMRI. This is quite rare, and it takes a good deal of mystical practice to attain. Moreover, it cannot be attained by intention, even in concerted mystical practice. It is attained by voiding the mind of all intention (i.e. it is “received by grace”, or some other similar linguistic formulation).

Thus the soul surely cannot be gained or regained, by trade policy. Nor by writing to Crooked Timber, nor to anywhere else.

4. As to the loss of localized culture, this is a relative thing, and entirely reversible within the regime of free trade. In the United States, we see it in the resurgence of local arts and crafts and celebrations of many traditions and cuisines, etc. It is a slower process of resurgence, and the thing that slows it most, is the one scarcity remaining: the scarcity of real estate. This raises the price or rent of a place to live, of course. So a local craft may not be remunerative enough to pay the rent, at least in the short term. The scarcity of real estate is related to population size, available transportation, etc., not free trade.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.30.16 at 2:25 pm

Now there’s a plan!

250

Brett Dunbar 06.30.16 at 3:16 pm

The existing rich countries are rich because they got relatively rich first (by modern standards they were poor). They industrialised before the poor countries. They tend to have open economies and those poor countries which have followed their example and opened up to trader have tended to get richer.

They are militarily powerful due to being rich. Not rich due to being militarily powerful, war is a colossally value subtracting enterprise.

If a thing costs 10 cents to produce, there is a competitive market and no intrinsic constraint on production then it will sell for a little over 10 cents. If the final price is much higher the difference tends to be the IP, either in developing the thing (Copyright and Patent) or in the seller’s reputation for quality and reliability (trademark).

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bruce wilder 06.30.16 at 3:37 pm

Lee & Brett

Duke it out.

252

Lupita 06.30.16 at 3:37 pm

@ Lee A. Arnold 

 If, by writing, “free trade remains an issue,” you mean, “restricting free trade will fix the compensation problem”, then this is false. 

It is true. By ditching NAFTA with its dumping of subsidized American corn on Mexico, it indeed would alleviate the situation of millions of peasants and give a breath of fresh air to indigenous communities, which are dying because of it.

 Let’s put aside for a brief instant that this [trade protection] almost always encourages hatred and violence, as we see. 

It is American agribusiness that was protected and the violence was unleashed on the poorest of the poor in Mexico by taking away their livelihood and forcing a mass migration to the US to work in said American agribusiness.

let’s just say that governance problems both domestic and international (including the threat of war) would be greatly increased, not reduced. 

This is ridiculous. Mexico has never invaded the US or any other country with or without NAFTA.

 In addition, restricting trade will REDUCE the amount (or quality) of goods and services available to both sides — reduce it, in the aggregate.

False. Restricting the dumping of American corn into Mexico would increase both the quantity of Mexican corn and thus the quality of tortillas.

As a stickler for scientific terminology, I think the word “soul” should be restricted to mean the highest state of consciousness, which may be when all the brain nodes are lit up on an fMRI. 

I am using the word as in “soul music” or “soul food”, you know, as in life and what makes it worth living.

 As to the loss of localized culture
 the resurgence of local arts and crafts 

This is insulting. Corn and tortillas are not “localized culture” or “arts and crafts”. They are the basis of Mesoamerican civilization; we are molded out of corn.

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bruce wilder 06.30.16 at 3:48 pm

Mexico has never invaded the US or any other country

Lots of civil wars though.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.30.16 at 3:54 pm

Didn’t Pancho Villa raid New Mexico? Not that this is particularly important: I only remember because one of my grandfathers was supposed to have been a 15-year-old runaway who served in the U.S. punitive expedition as a stable boy.

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Lupita 06.30.16 at 4:06 pm

Didn’t Pancho Villa raid New Mexico?

Yes, but it wasn’t his fault. Americans incited him.

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Will G-R 06.30.16 at 4:29 pm

@ Brett Dunbar, I’d echo Collin Street re: your second proposed prediction: if part of the thesis is that figures like GDP systematically undervalue poor workers’ and nations’ contributions to global value chains, to respond by merely citing these very figures begs the question so hard it might as well be panhandling by the on-ramp. In fact, an overvalued contribution by companies, governments, and workers involved in circulating commodities within and among developed economies is exactly in line with this thesis. As far as the first prediction, we’re not talking about “trade” in any abstract sense that can be extrapolated into the distant past or (hopefully) future, we’re talking about trade as it exists in the present-day global capitalist economy, in which poor nations’ bargaining power is restricted through mechanisms like debt restructuring agreements and de facto monopsony purchasing, and in which poor workers’ bargaining power is further restricted by political repression and harshly curtailed freedom of migration. I’d concede that certain nations that aren’t subject to these sorts of conditions for specific exceptional geopolitical reasons have indeed developed toward “middle-income” status, but whether or how capitalism can survive as a world system if all poorer nations are permitted to develop along these lines is a question for which optimistic anticapitalists (e.g. Marx) and pessimistic orthodox economists (e.g. Schumpeter) seem to be the only types of economic thinker willing to make meaningful predictions.

@ Ze K, to talk about “slashing the portion of global commodity prices that lines First-World pockets” is to talk about eliminating capitalism. This is precisely the problem, and it’s an understandably difficult one for First Worlders to come to terms with: the extent to which any possibility of working-class prosperity under capitalism (“the American Dream” and so on) is at most a fleeting mirage, only possible for a small fraction of the global working class and only to the extent that this fraction consents (whether tacitly or explicitly) to the ever more brutal exploitation of other workers in other parts of the world. It’s a distinction between arguing that all workers have the right to a better standard of living that can only be achieved by overthrowing and replacing capitalism, and arguing that some workers (i.e. those in countries like the UK) have the right to a better standard of living that can be achieved by profiting from the exploitation of other workers (i.e. those in countries like Bangladesh) within capitalism. Understand the crucial importance of this distinction despite the superficial similarity of workers demanding a better life, and you’ll understand the crucial categorical distinction between socialism and fascism.

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Will G-R 06.30.16 at 4:56 pm

@ Lupita, US secondary school curricula typically seem to involve next to nothing about Mexican or Latin American history, apart from maybe a brief bit about Columbus, Cortes, and Pizarro, and of course a discussion of the Texan and Mexican-American Wars that in most cases would probably fall conspicuously silent on terms like “empire” and “conquest”. (Even my relatively left-oriented high school followed the standard framing for the Spanish-American War, i.e. largely in terms of US domestic politics and US-European relations as opposed to something that might have an impact on the conquered nations and peoples.) I can’t recall ever having heard the phrase “Mexican Revolution” in school at all until an informative and quite obscure college elective class, so it makes sense that most Americans’ understanding of Pancho Villa would basically just be “guy from Mexico who invaded America”.

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Will G-R 06.30.16 at 5:47 pm

@ Ze K: So taking your premise along with the premise of basic humanism (i.e. a UK citizen doesn’t “deserve” any better than a Bangladeshi because of their nationality or race) is there a difference in principle between this UK-Bangladesh economic relationship and the economic relationship between, say, London and Cornwall? Or New York City and Kentucky? The Western conception of nationalism as some sort of fundamental, innate fraternity is a very recent phenomenon in human history, with very clear political/economic factors driving its top-down creation; if any argument against internationalism is to rest on the assumption that of course a New Yorker has something immutable in common with a Kentuckian that they don’t have with a Bangladeshi, my inclination is to dismiss it out of hand.

Of course, in some sense what you and I think about nationalism is beside the point compared to what the global capitalist class thinks about nationalism, the answer to which seems to be “a useful ideological palliative for keeping the workers divided against each other”. International trade is far too integral to the workings of today’s capitalism for the ruling class to ever truly walk it back, so what you’re essentially proposing is that we entrust the defeat of capitalism to a global working class divided per the dictates of the ruling class itself, rather than striving toward a global working class united per the dictates of Marx’s epitaph. To me this seems inherently dubious.

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bruce wilder 06.30.16 at 6:01 pm

Ze K @ 280

I’d be careful about letting these bullies push you into a defense of autarky.

Democratic self-government doesn’t require or compel autarky anymore than my taking responsibility for my personal affairs requires that I grow my own food and sew my own clothes. My ability to take responsibility for my own affairs does rest on political institutions, that minimize the role of violence in my society or resolve inevitable disputes by some generally recognized standard of fairness and efficiency, while enabling the nested communities of which I am a part to act collectively where there are opportunities to benefit from centralized decision-making.

The EU has been pursuing a laissez faire ideal of free movement of goods and services, capital and people, and it ought to be questioned whether that’s working out well in all respects and whether the EU regime has the means to respond and adapt, democratically both in the sense of valuing its victims as legitimate members of the polity with claims to effective attention and rights to act with some autonomy as a community.

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Brett Dunbar 06.30.16 at 6:22 pm

It doesn’t matter all that much how you measure trade, it is the case that countries that isolate themselves from trade remain poor while those that open to trade get richer. Marx was fundamentally wrong; his model made a number of predictions which have since been falsified.

Dumping, production subsidies and import tariffs hurt consumers in rich countries (by increasing prices and increasing taxed to pay subsidies) and producers in poor countries (by reducing prices) they benefit the consumers in poor countries (lowering the price) and the producers in rich countries (increasing the price). Export subsidies reduce the price of the ingredients of the tortilla either improving quality (as they can be more selective) or reducing prices as it increases the quantity available at any given quality level. They, rather incidentally, benefit the consumer in the country receiving the dumped product.

The overall harm of protectionism exceeds the benefit. But the benefit is concentrated and the harm dispersed. Protectionism isn’t a failure of capitalism it’s a failure to have capitalism.

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gastro george 06.30.16 at 6:39 pm

“Neoliberal economists claim rich countries got that way by removing their barriers to trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Ha-Joon Chang shows in his book Kicking Away the Ladder, Britain discovered its enthusiasm for free trade only after it had achieved economic dominance. The industrial revolution was built on protectionism: in 1699, for example, we banned the import of Irish woollens; in 1700 we banned cotton cloth from India. To protect our infant industries, we imposed ferocious tariffs (trade taxes) on almost all manufactured goods.

By 1816 the US had imposed a 35% tax on most imported manufactures, which rose to 50% in 1832. Between 1864 and 1913 it was the most heavily protected nation on earth, and the fastest-growing. It wasn’t until after the second world war, when it had already become top dog, that it dropped most of its tariffs. The same strategy was followed by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and almost every other country that is rich today.”

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bruce wilder 06.30.16 at 6:44 pm

Brett Dunbar: it is the case that countries that isolate themselves from trade remain poor

Adam Smith’s dictum that linked the wealth of nations to specialization in production remains a fundamental truth.

The overall harm of protectionism exceeds the benefit.

That’s a wild overgeneralization.

What governments fail to retain effective residual control over, will be controlled by private power with predictable results. There’s no substitute for effective governance in the public interest and no way to make effective governance not-a-political-problem.

A government that fails to regulate its monetary institutions in the public interest will find itself succumbing to epidemics of fraud or ruinous deflation. If the public authorities fail, there’s always an entrepreneur — a George Soros or Angelo Mozilo — ready to step into the breach.

Protectionism can be a perfectly sensible industrial policy for a country seeking to nurture infant industry or avoid a critical vulnerability of supply and technology. It is a strategic choice and one that many countries have taken historically with great success.

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Will G-R 06.30.16 at 7:13 pm

Ze K, we’re in agreement on the odiousness of Western neoliberal elites riding a moral high horse in accusing their working-class constituents of racism. I’d only add that a major part of why it’s so odious is precisely because of the hypocrisy, i.e. the way neoliberal economic policies are so often joined at the hip with the very ethnonationalist political movements and figureheads that provide outlets for this racism. (Think of everything from the US Republican Party and its dog whistles to the quite literally murderous ethnic chauvinism of Narendra Modi and his BJP in India.) The way I see it, the ruling class makes a quite deliberate choice to steer its working-class subjects toward nationalist fascism as an alternative to internationalist socialism, and then tries to play innocent when the consequences of fascism become too evident. The solution IMO is to do what the ruling class doesn’t want, as opposed to doing what it merely pretends not to want.

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Lee A. Arnold 06.30.16 at 7:17 pm

Lupita #274,

Your arguments don’t refute the value of free trade, they only show that compensation for the losers is not happening, and in other instances, that some clauses of trade agreements should be reconsidered. I don’t think that anyone would disagree with that.

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Lupita 06.30.16 at 8:35 pm

@ Brett Dunbar

Export subsidies reduce the price of the ingredients of the tortilla either improving quality (as they can be more selective) or reducing prices as it increases the quantity available at any given quality level. They, rather incidentally, benefit the consumer in the country receiving the dumped product.

By “American corn” I do not mean corn from the US but a variety of corn which hails from the green revolution and requires tons of water and fertilizer. It is big, yellow, and sweet. You can also use it to fill up your tank. In order to produce it, US agribusiness needs the labor of foreign, semi-literate peasants, subsidies, and NAFTA. The tortillas made out of it are useless as an ingredient in Mexican cuisine (such as tacos or enchiladas) since they dissolve into mush. If consumers benefit from great quantities of this cheap, low-quality food, why not just eat canned cat food and get it over with?

Mexican corn, on the other hand, is a variety that evolved during thousands of years to become a very sturdy plant that survives long periods of drought, which in Mexico come every 52 years and that, in turn, gave rise to the 52 year cycle of the Mesoamerican calendar. It is small and white. It does not need fertilizer, so Monsanto need not be involved. Mexican corn also gave rise to the milpa, which is a patch of land big enough to sustain a family and which includes all the vegetables needed for a healthy diet. It is also a system of agriculture since crops are rotated in order to preserve the land’s nutrients. Take the Mexican corn out, with its unique flavor, texture and sturdiness, and its mode of production, communities, and cycles also disappear, Mexican cuisine becomes impossible, and the whole civilization collapses. This is not like having your iPad made in either China or Alabama.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.30.16 at 9:04 pm

Lupita: “Mexican corn, on the other hand, is a variety that evolved during thousands of years to become a very sturdy plant that survives long periods of drought”

There was a time when it seemed like all Internet discussions led inevitably to something in Seymour Hirsch’s _Social Limits to Growth_, now it seems like they all lead to James C. Scott’s _Seeing Like a State_.

I’m currently reading Kropotkin’s Farms, Fields, and Workshops, which may have something interesting to say about this kind of thing.

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Brett Dunbar 07.01.16 at 2:28 am

Lupita

If a variety of maize isn’t suitable for making tortillas then don’t make tortillas from it. Not all maize is bred for the same purpose.

You seem to romanticise poverty, actual poor people might have a different perspective on that issue. Localised subsidence agriculture isolated from world trade perpetuates poverty and leaves the peasants vulnerable if there is a crop failure. They are then dependent on charity from rich countries.

I’m really not a fan of romantics like William Blake, they were a bunch of reactionary snobs they wittered about the nobility of labour while opposing mass production and industrialisation the only things that made good quality goods affordable.

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Peter T 07.01.16 at 3:23 am

I counted six basic historical errors in Brett’s post @272. Won’t bother with detail, since he is locked into a framework that mere facts cannot shift.

A mathematical proposition derived from ideal axioms proves nothing about the real political world – it is not in the same class as the laws of thermodynamics. Whether trade is good/bad/lifts all boats/sinks some/all etc is not derivable from statements about trade in general. It depends on who trades with whom, on what terms, in what and so on.

Nor is “being richer” always a good thing. Again, who is richer in what, how the riches are derived and more MATTER.

Now back to laying down ineluctable truths about the world from armchairs…

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Lee A. Arnold 07.01.16 at 11:16 am

Peter T #293: “A mathematical proposition derived from ideal axioms proves nothing about the real political world – it is not in the same class as the laws of thermodynamics. Whether trade is good/bad/lifts all boats/sinks some/all etc is not derivable from statements about trade in general. It depends on who trades with whom, on what terms, in what and so on.”

This is true even about the laws of thermodynamics! — when and if those laws are mistakenly applied to the real political world.

That sounds foolish — who would ever do this? — but it is at the root of a canonical mistake made by many environmentalists who reason that, because increased energy use and economic growth has caused resource depletion and environmental destruction, therefore, all further economic growth must do the same. This is incorrect, but it is a natural intuition made by many children who start to think about the whole world.

But, as we should know, it need not be true, for a few basic reasons, although very different reasons: there are kinds of energy which have entropic waste that is harmless to earth’s biosphere; the new approaches in nanomaterials are discovering materials with new properties, durability, & cost-savings that were undreamt of, except in science fiction; …while on the economics side, a larger component of GDP growth is now coming from the “weightless” area of infotech (i.e. the real value is almost unrelated to its mass-energy use); and even further, one of the most cherished benefits, greater connectivity, is not something that we care to monetize, so it barely shows in the economic statistics. (Indeed greater connectivity may serve to help solve some of our environmental AND trade problems, by calling them to attention with greater breadth, depth, and rapidity. While making it much easier to trace exactly where the evildoers are coming from.)

So the real solution to the environmental crisis is to choose what we want, such as wildlife preserves, scenic beauty, clean air and water, biogeochemical stability, etc. etc., and not to worry about economic growth per se.

A lot of the reaction to free trade comes out of the same sort of innocent intuition: the complaints are very real, but many of the proposed solutions are erroneous. The basic reasons that you cannot purchase the tortillas of your liking, or cannot find the soulful enactment of cultural traditions, are inequality and the political capture of further “rents” (which is oldspeak for undue profits), not trade per se.

There is a sort of two-pronged mental maneuver which is required, which is to go both inward and outward. Inward, towards unification: “The wise unify their consciousness, and abandon attachment to the fruits of action.” But then outward again: the fruits of action must come under scientific analysis, and we discover new facts, and this results in a new rational structure that expands into the material universe, in a way that we cannot exactly characterize. Then inward again, then outward, and ever back and forth, like the breath. Both ways are tough work.

Fixating on one portion of this — closing down to go inward — as the total solution to the problem, is just as foolish as becoming an overly rational scientist with no ability to turn inward and unify the consciousness (which presently characterizes most scientists including social scientists and of course, almost all economists).

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Will G-R 07.01.16 at 1:42 pm

Ze K @289: “I see right-wing political movements that are sovereignist and therefore anti-globalist (i.e. anti-neoliberal) in nature. … On the other side we have those who call themselves ‘socialists’ or ‘social-democrats’ or, in the US, ‘Democrats’. These are neoliberal globalists.”

OK, political taxonomy time. The traditional political division of emerging European capitalism (e.g. French Revolution) was an anticapitalist aristocratic conservative party versus a procapitalist bourgeois liberal party; this state of affairs was complicated by two mid-19th-century developments, the bourgeoisie’s victory over the aristocracy and the emergence of the working-class leftist movement. The de facto solution in most Western countries has been for the broad political bloc that once represented the aristocracy to take up laissez-faire economics on behalf of the new bourgeois ruling class, and for the bloc that once represented the bourgeois outsiders to act as a stopgap against the independent left by offering social welfare programs administered by the capitalist state. This is slightly different in the US since there was never a true aristocracy in the first place, but our Republicans and Democrats have come to fill the former and latter roles quite well.

What Western leftists traditionally interpret as a sort of political Fall from Eden was the Western working class’s broad acceptance of the bargain offered to it by the former liberal bloc: social democracy under the administration of the capitalist state, forgetting about any broader effort to overthrow capitalism in general. The sometimes-unspoken corollary to this is that the golden age of social democracy in the mid 20th century was only possible as a function of imperialism, which is to say that Western workers could be given welfare programs because (and only because) their Southern-Eastern counterparts simultaneously got colonial domination and exploitation. What we call neoliberalism starting in the 1970s was a fundamental shift in this dynamic, with the party of liberal social democracy broadcasting a quasi-universalist stance toward racial and national minorities while the party of laissez-faire broadcast itself as a haven for quasi-fascist reactionary exclusionism. It may seem like a paradoxical shift destined to break apart at the seams, especially as the social-democratic bloc’s actual commitment to social democracy grows more and more hollow, but it’s no more paradoxical than the earlier shift in which a movement for nominal working-class solidarity accepted the principle that some workers (of some nations or ethnicities) deserve better than others, which is how we got to that point in the first place.

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Anarcissie 07.01.16 at 2:25 pm

Lee A. Arnold 07.01.16 at 11:16 am @ 294:
‘So the real solution to the environmental crisis is to choose what we want, such as wildlife preserves, scenic beauty, clean air and water, biogeochemical stability, etc. etc., and not to worry about economic growth per se.’

That might be true if ‘economic growth’ represented something real in terms of the actual desires and interests of everybody involved equally considered. But it doesn’t. Hence, wildlife preserves and so forth are often portrayed in opposition to ‘economic growth’ by the powerful and rich and those who follow at their heels. And since they also buy the elections and the rest of the political process, ‘choosing what we want’ where ‘we’ means ‘everybody’ doesn’t seem possible.

You have a similar problem with ‘free trade’. It would be fine if it took place under conditions of peace, freedom and equality, but it doesn’t.

Brett Dunbar 07.01.16 at 2:28 am @ 292 —
Where do you find William Blake’s economics?

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kidneystones 07.01.16 at 3:00 pm

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Will G-R 07.01.16 at 3:12 pm

Ze K, I’d be willing to accept almost everything you wrote, except for one key point: nationalism is not a solution. The absolute most it can do is to recreate the conditions that lead to the very problem it tries to solve, and even this it can only do temporarily. I don’t know what a meaningfully internationalist worldwide movement for working-class democracy against capitalism would look like, but the struggle we should accept is to try to build such a movement, because nationalist working-class movements as a solution to internationalist capitalism do not work, period. This much we should have declared settled in 1945.

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bruce wilder 07.01.16 at 3:21 pm

Parody the Zombie was immolated by the Guardian in a news report that begins,

Brexit has produced its first work of literature, in the form of an erotic novel depicting a relationship between a man and a “massive, sentient” pound coin.

Pounded by the Pound: Turned Gay by the Socioeconomic Implications of Britain Leaving the European Union is the latest novella from Chuck Tingle, the author of more than 50 sexually explicit science fiction stories.

To link or not to link?
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/01/pounded-by-the-pound-brexit-erotic-novel-chuck-tingle

The article contains a number of tidbits that will be regarded as especially valuable insights among those convinced that the cataclysmic end of the contradiction comically referred to as Western Civilization is not only nigh, but urgent. By far the best thing written on Brexit in the British press so far, I’d say.

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Anarcissie 07.01.16 at 3:31 pm

Will G-R 07.01.16 at 3:12 pm @ 299 —
Reason is never going to defeat the intuition and instinct of tribalism. However, there are a number of science fiction stories in which warring mankind puts aside its wars at least temporarily in order to defeat the space aliens, onrushing asteroids, or other general threats. Capital / capitalism is such a threat: although it arises from humans, its mind is alien: ‘Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!’

Just the beginning of a thought.

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Lupita 07.01.16 at 3:44 pm

@ Brett Dunbar

If a variety of maize isn’t suitable for making tortillas then don’t make tortillas from it.

The problem is that, thanks to NAFTA, milpas went out of business, rural communities disappeared due to mass migration to the US, and a company called Minsa, owned by the then president Carlos Salinas’ dear friend, took over 80% of the market. Then the price of inferior tortillas skyrocketed and now only the wealthy are able to consume proper tortillas which have become luxury items.

Not all maize is bred for the same purpose.

Yes, some varieties are not authorized for human consumption. Tortillas made with one of these, the Starlink variety, were imported to the US by Kraft and had to be later recalled. I’m just guessing here, but I assume that the contaminated tortillas were re-dumped back into Mexico.

You seem to romanticise poverty, actual poor people might have a different perspective on that issue.

There was an actual uprising by actual poor people the day NAFTA came into effect, the Zapatistas. Furthermore, there is nobody more romantic than the neoliberals with their notions that the market regulates itself and all ends in happiness, freedom, and prosperity for all.

Localised subsidence agriculture isolated from world trade perpetuates poverty and leaves the peasants vulnerable if there is a crop failure.

As I stated, there are hundreds of corn varieties in Mexico, each adapted to its ecosystem. Mexico is not like Europe and other parts of there world where there were or are periodic famines. The transgenics are the ones that wither away if you do not buy Monsanto products to ensure their growth and require lots and lots of water.

They are then dependent on charity from rich countries.

Cargill now controls the neoliberal tortilla market which is distributed by Walmart. Those are the winners: rich 1st world corporations. They are like thieves that steal your wallet but let you keep some change to take a bus back home and call that charity.

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bianca steele 07.01.16 at 3:56 pm

@292 If a variety of maize isn’t suitable for making tortillas then don’t make tortillas from it. Not all maize is bred for the same purpose.

This is irony, right? It’s consumers’ responsibility to make sure they have the right products available to them for sale?

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bruce wilder 07.01.16 at 4:00 pm

Ze K @ 302: This unity tends to produce excesses (think of Hamas in Gaza, for example). But I think it’s important to understand the cause-and-effect situation; that it’s a reaction to something…

armed dialectic?

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Lupita 07.01.16 at 4:03 pm

@ Lee A. Arnold

The basic reasons that you cannot purchase the tortillas of your liking, or cannot find the soulful enactment of cultural traditions, are inequality and the political capture of further “rents” (which is oldspeak for undue profits), not trade per se.

I have never ranted against abstract trade. I have been writing about a specific treaty (NAFTA), how it has impacted a specific country (Mexico), specific communities (rural), commodities (corn), products (tortillas), and corporations (Minsa, Cargill, and Walmart). It is not about me not being able to make enchiladas anymore and “soulful enactment”. It is about sovereignty, specifically, food sovereignty, and how it was traded away for the benefit of rich corporations, their rich stockholders, rich countries, and their rich lackeys in the 3rd world.

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Will G-R 07.01.16 at 5:38 pm

Since I quoted Žižek earlier, I’d paraphrase his standard response to the question of solidarity as it relates to nationalism: “yeah, yeah, but who is excluded?” Just because capitalism has its own peculiar form of universalism (socially necessary labor time as a universal abstraction where the labor of any one laborer can in principle be substituted for that of any other) doesn’t mean that anticapitalism equals antiuniversalism. One can be universalist and anticapitalist, and IMO it really should go without saying that as long as we’re not proposing a return to feudalism, universalist anticapitalism is the only true anticapitalism at all.

Also, my alarm klaxons go off anytime I see a word like “instinctively” without seeing it unpacked. Solidarity might be an instinct in some abstract sense of a general capacity for social empathy, but to make the implied leap into evopsych-style characterization of nation and culture as innately (genetically?) determined instincts is to ram an intellectual bulldozer through all the thousands of years of human social domination and hierarchy as if this history is somehow superfluous. In this case, the manifestation of working-class solidarity in the form of national movements like the NSDAP is shaped by the contours of capitalist domination and ultimately is still in thrall to this domination. If we want to be leftists, we can’t accept this as good enough.

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William Timberman 07.01.16 at 5:39 pm

Brett Dunbar @ 292

Localised subsidence agriculture isolated from world trade perpetuates poverty…

Well, one would imagine so. (Lupita handles BD here with her customary ferocity and grace, but in a better world, she’d have an abundance of better things to do. I may not live to see such a world, but I very much hope she does. She certainly deserves it.)

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RNB 07.01.16 at 6:13 pm

@306 Because of his ability to articulate a pro- trade position while being critical of past trade agreements for not building labor and environmental standards into them and because of his ability to draw the Latino working class in particular, I am still betting on Thomas Perez as Clinton’s VP choice. Wall Street reform will be a secondary issue to globalization and trade. Warren is good for the former, Perez much better for the latter.

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bruce wilder 07.01.16 at 6:23 pm

RNB

Please stop.

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engels 07.01.16 at 7:18 pm

‘Nationalism’ is a bad word, with unpleasant connotations, I know. ‘Communal solidarity’ would be a better phrase, or ‘democratic self-management’ as BW puts it, above. Also, when people feel they are under attack, they instinctively try to unite, based on some common identity, usually the most fitting one given the nature of the attack. This unity tends to produce excesses (think of Hamas in Gaza, for example)

Godwin prevents mentioning others.

You really couldn’t sound more creep if you tried…

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ZM 07.01.16 at 7:37 pm

Lupita,

“As I stated, there are hundreds of corn varieties in Mexico, each adapted to its ecosystem. Mexico is not like Europe and other parts of there world where there were or are periodic famines. “

This is so true. They teach at uni that Central and Southern America are hotspots for biodiversity in food plants because there are so many different varieties that have been cultivated over centuries.

This is really important for sustainability, because the more genetic diversity means that if something wiped out one of the major varieties of, say, corn, in use in Mexico, there are a lot of other varieties that could replace this. If the same happened in North America there is not nearly as much genetic diversity so if a major variety was wiped out it could be a much bigger problem.

This means the cultivation of biodiversity in food plants in Central and Southern America is also providing a (unpaid) service for other parts of the world, in having all these “back up” varieties of plants, as well as there being varieties of food plants that can add variety to diets in other countries (although there are some problems with this, like what happened with quinoa becoming less affordable for local people where it was a staple food).

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RNB 07.01.16 at 7:51 pm

@310 I think it’s important to discuss the question of labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. Perhaps the most cynical reading here would be to follow Gabriel Kolko’s argument in Triumph of Conservatism if I remember it. Something like this. Global capitalism tends to deconcentrate industry. This is to the disadvantage of already existing big capitals, so they use regulations to undercut emerging smaller firms. By disadvantaging smaller businesses with the loss of export markets if they do not abide by labor and environmental standards that already powerful multinationals can afford, these progressive trade agreements actually will only serve to consolidate Western monopoly capitalism.

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bruce wilder 07.01.16 at 8:03 pm

RNB @ 313: I think it’s important to discuss . . .

You alternate between wanting to discuss the Hillary Clinton Presidential candidacy and making a complete hash of every issue you touch upon. Most of cannot see how Clinton’s choice of V-P is relevant to Brexit or the backlash against neoliberalism. The alleged tendency of Global Capitalism to deconcentrate industry is as completely invisible to normal people as “progressive trade agreements”.

Again, I plead: please, just stop.

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RNB 07.01.16 at 8:18 pm

To see how Hillary Clinton will try to deflect Brexit like sentiment in the US, even as Trump is trying to intensify such sentiment, you should see how Thomas Perez has talked about globalization and trade. He is after all the American Secty of Labor. Some here would call his position the true of expression of neoliberal trade policy disguised to deflect criticisms with these new putatively toothless provisions for labor and environmental standards built into TPP.

Also unless you just read the American press you would know that many trade diplomats in the poorer countries have criticized labor and environmental standards as disguised protectionism. They do not think they are toothless; on the contrary. Or perhaps you did not know that, and now you are informed.

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Lupita 07.01.16 at 8:53 pm

@ William Timberman

in a better world, she’d have an abundance of better things to do

A better world would be one that substituted Econ 101 courses with a Making Enchiladas class. With this is mind, what better use of my time than sharing my recipe for authentic enchiladas potosinas?

Enchiladas Potosinas (20)

1) Cook 1 kg white Mexican corn kernels in 3 liters of water and 2 tablespoons of quicklime. Make sure the lime is chemically inactive, that is, when you add some drops of water to it, it should not smoke. Let it rest for a night, rinse, and grind into a dough called nixtamal.
2) Roast 3 ancho peppers. Rinse and discard the veins and seeds. Grind with 3 cloves of garlic, a stick of cinnamon, and salt.
3) Mix the nixtamal with the pepper sauce. You will end up with a red dough.
4) Make small, thin tortillas and cook them on a griddle on just one side.
5) Place a mixture of cheese and cooked, chopped tomatoes and chiles on the raw side of the tortilla and fold in half.
6) Fry the enchilada, about 3 seconds each side.
7) Serve topped with chopped lettuce and accompanied with beans and an avocado salad.

Anybody who tries this recipe and still does not understand the concept of “soul”, should never be on a trade agreement negotiating team.

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phenomenal cat 07.01.16 at 8:54 pm

“I’m really not a fan of romantics like William Blake, they were a bunch of reactionary snobs they wittered about the nobility of labour while opposing mass production and industrialisation the only things that made good quality goods affordable.” Brett Dunbar @292

lol…
yeah, nobody reading your comments is going to mistake you for a fan of Blake.

291

engels 07.01.16 at 8:56 pm

Lupita, thanks—that’s possibly the first useful comment I’ve ever read on CT.

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Brett Dunbar 07.01.16 at 9:20 pm

bianca steele @ 304

This is irony, right? It’s consumers’ responsibility to make sure they have the right products available to them for sale?

Yes. That is how the market works. If you choose to buy something then it is profitable to produce that thing so you get production. Consumption determines what can be produced.

If supply is greater than demand price rises which signals that there is a profit opportunity in increasing production. That is supply increases as price increases, the supply curve slopes upwards. Demand falls as price increases, the demand curve slopes downward. The point they cross is the marginal price and in a well functioning market that is where the price should end up.

If for example the price of tortillas increases them it becomes profitable for more farmers to grow the kind of maize suitable for making tortillas.

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bianca steele 07.01.16 at 9:29 pm

If you choose to buy something then it is profitable to produce that thing so you get production.

LOL. “Other things being equal,” of course. We take that as read, always.

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Layman 07.01.16 at 9:30 pm

Seconding appreciation for Lupita @ 316!

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bruce wilder 07.01.16 at 10:21 pm

Lupita: A better world would be one that substituted Econ 101 courses with a Making Enchiladas class.

This!

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Collin Street 07.01.16 at 10:32 pm

Yes. That is how the market works. If you choose to buy something then it is profitable to produce that thing so you get production. Consumption determines what can be produced.

Sigh. One of the subtle second-order effects of markets is that goods the production of which is arranged by rich people clear at higher prices than goods the production of which is arranged by poor people, because of differing marginal opportunity cost when you denominate things in money.

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bianca steele 07.01.16 at 10:59 pm

Oh dear, it seems to me Collin Street has proved we want more Econ 101 and less enchiladas! I do hope that’s not the case.

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Collin Street 07.01.16 at 11:33 pm

First thing I learned to cook was crepes, which are like enchiladas only made with wheat flour instead of corn. Or in other words they’re completely different.

On a similar note, bread’s a pretty straightforward recipe, but it’s tricky to make it at home because if you use normal low-protein flour the texture goes all funny, and bread flour is — at least in australia — something you have to look for. And I live in Melbourne; if I lived in Wonthaggi, say, fair chance I’d be right jiggered.

It’s not just “wheat” and “corn” flour, Brett. Different breeds of wheat or of corn produce different flours with different properties; as different as a granny smith and a golden delicious. They’re both apples, but they can hardly substitute one for another, can they?

[“the market” is no answer: as you should realise by now, as I’ve mentioned any number of times, the nature of markets is that they weigh your preferences by your disposable income. To fall back to “the markets” is to assert that the preferences of the rich are more important than the preferences of the poor.]

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Brett Dunbar 07.01.16 at 11:59 pm

The thing is that apparently the poor don’t value having flour suitable to make tortillas as highly as they do other things. Apparently they have different priorities in how they spend money. They choose to use cheaper maize, cook it in a different way, and use the resources freed up for something else.

Granny Smith and Golden Delicious are both eating apples, so while they have notably different flavours one can be substituted for the other. A cooking apple like a Bramley on the other hand isn’t really suited to be eaten raw so isn’t a useful substitute.

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Collin Street 07.02.16 at 12:20 am

Granny Smith and Golden Delicious are both eating apples, so while they have notably different flavours one can be substituted for the other. A cooking apple like a Bramley on the other hand isn’t really suited to be eaten raw so isn’t a useful substitute.

… you can’t cook, can you?

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Brett Dunbar 07.02.16 at 12:33 am

The lack of affordable tortilla flour would be due to the market if what had happened was western consumers had started consuming far more tortillas As we tend to be much wealthier than Mexicans we would be able to afford to purchase them when the price rose. That would be the demand curve moving upwards so the marginal price was higher. If the supply curve is fairly flat (production cannot easily be increased) then the price can move a lot with a small increase in demand. IIRC this scenario actually happened with Quinoa. With Maize AIUI the problem isn’t the market; it is export subsidies making the price of certain types of maize artificially low.

Farming is one industry where the market isn’t generally allowed to operate, for largely sentimental reasons farmers in rich countries have successfully lobbied themselves massive subsidies and trade barriers. I find this use of money to perpetuate third world poverty utterly outrageous. Farming like textiles is an industry where poor countries have comparative advantage and we should not be stopping them from using it to start economic development.

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Brett Dunbar 07.02.16 at 12:43 am

According to Wikipedia Granny Smith apparently is a duel use apple, I’ve always thought of it as an eating apple. I’d cook with a Bramley.

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Collin Street 07.02.16 at 12:58 am

The lack of affordable tortilla flour would be due to the market if what had happened was western consumers had started consuming far more tortillas As we tend to be much wealthier than Mexicans we would be able to afford to purchase them when the price rose. That would be the demand curve moving upwards so the marginal price was higher. If the supply curve is fairly flat (production cannot easily be increased) then the price can move a lot with a small increase in demand. IIRC this scenario actually happened with Quinoa. With Maize AIUI the problem isn’t the market; it is export subsidies making the price of certain types of maize artificially low.

Right, so it’s not the market in abstract, it’s a result of specific policy decisions &c&c. But, earlier:

Yes. That is how the market works. If you choose to buy something then it is profitable to produce that thing so you get production. Consumption determines what can be produced.

So. You’ve changed your mind. That’s good.

But. The process we’ve gone through has left me with a number of quite significant concerns about your thinking processes. I haven’t actually posted that much. What, three times? Lupita, on the other hand, has posted far more than I have. Covering much the same content and certainly leading to the same conclusion, but she knows it far, far better than I do. In fact, I know essentially nothing of the situation beyond what I read, here, and what you read, here, from Lupita; it’s just that there was something about reading it coming from me that lead you to accept what you wouldn’t accept from Lupita.

I would like it if you looked at what I wrote and who I am, and what Lupita wrote and who she is, and see what it is in me and my posts that lead you to reexamine your conclusions that the far-better-informed Lupita wasn’t able to engage with. Because… yeah. Like I said, I’m concerned; you should be concerned too, I think.

[as I’ve pointed out before, the nature of irrational prejudice is such that basically noone acting under the influence of irrational prejudice is aware of that; you need to trust others, because your self-assessment on the question of “is this just a result of my prejudice” is basically worthless.]

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Brett Dunbar 07.02.16 at 2:52 am

The problem with Maze isn’t the market it is that farming has been unusually successful in excluding itself from the normal operation of the market. Trade treaties such as NAFTA have tended to exclude agriculture.

The subsidies distort the market, in a manner that benefits the Mexican consumer (lower prices) and American farmers (higher prices) at the expense of Mexican farmers (lower prices) and American taxpayers (higher taxes to pay for the subsidies). The Mexican consumer is still making a choice based on the price of the different types of Maize, it just happens that the imported maize is cheaper than it would otherwise be so they are likely making a somewhat different choice than they would absent the subsidies.

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ZM 07.02.16 at 7:02 am

Colin Street,

“And I live in Melbourne; if I lived in Wonthaggi, say, fair chance I’d be right jiggered.”

A lot of country super markets or food stores have a lot more variety now than you might think. I don’t know about Wonthaggi, although I keep meaning to visit me aunt who lives near there, but our IGA here has lots of different sorts of bread flour, and also has white corn tortilla flour. I’m looking forwards to giving Lupita’s recipe a try now, although I think I’ll adapt it to use the flour, instead of cooking the corn with lime and grinding the corn. I’m a bit scared of trying the lime bit, and I don’t think the white corn is available here whole, only as a flour. Thanks for the recipe Lupita! :-)

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Hidari 07.02.16 at 7:31 am

Maybe the mods could make CT less of a political/philosophical blog and more of an authentic Mexican cooking blog? It would probably make life more fun.

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gastro george 07.02.16 at 11:01 am

“Farming is one industry where the market isn’t generally allowed to operate, for largely sentimental reasons farmers in rich countries have successfully lobbied themselves massive subsidies and trade barriers.”

I thought that everybody knew that farming suffers in a completely free market because, in years of famine, farmers go bust, and then there are no farmers.

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Collin Street 07.02.16 at 11:07 am

The problem with Maze isn’t the market it is that farming has been unusually successful in excluding itself from the normal operation of the market. Trade treaties such as NAFTA have tended to exclude agriculture.

To be honest, I find myself substantially more interested in the questions I ask in my second-last paragraph.

Why do you need me to repeat what Lupita said before you even look?

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ZM 07.02.16 at 11:16 am

Hidari,

“Maybe the mods could make CT less of a political/philosophical blog and more of an authentic Mexican cooking blog? It would probably make life more fun.”

This reminds me of a good Australian TV show mixing cooking and politics called Kitchen Cabinet, where the host Annabel Crab brings dessert to an MPs house and the MP cooks dinner, and then they eat and talk about politics and their lives.

https://youtu.be/i-iEVqJP-T4

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Hidari 07.02.16 at 11:22 am

@336 sounds great but probably not appropriate for British politics at the moment (cue ‘sour grapes’ jokes).

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Collin Street 07.02.16 at 2:14 pm

How can you govern a country that has only one variety of sausage?

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Lupita 07.02.16 at 4:10 pm

@ ZM

I’m looking forwards to giving Lupita’s recipe a try now, although I think I’ll adapt it to use the flour, instead of cooking the corn with lime and grinding the corn. 

I am glad so many enjoyed my enchiladas potosinas recipe. However, just like it takes a village to educate a child, so it takes a civilization to make an enchilada, so I do not advise anyone outside Mexico to give it a try. Actually, I included the bit about the chemically inactive quicklime to dissuade any brave cook out there. As to the grinding of the corn, in Mexico, there are public mills all over the place, so you just take your corn and have it ground for you.

If you really want to make enchiladas, ZM, let me give you another recipe that I came up with after several unsuccessful tries as an expatriate. Without further ado:

Lupita’s expatriate, NAFTA-resistant, authentic, chicken enchiladas, green or red (10)

1) Buy the smallest, thinnest tortillas you can find. Heat a pan with some olive oil. Once the oil is hot, dip a tortilla in it, about 3 second each side. The tortillas will become soft and malleable. Let the tortillas drain on paper towels.
2) Place some chopped, cooked chicken on top of a tortilla. Inspect your tortilla and determine which way it came out of the machine and roll with the grain. That way, they will not rip.
3) Heat some more oil in your pan and place the chicken tacos with the loose end on the bottom so, as the tortilla becomes crispy, it will seal shut. About 2 minutes. Turn over and fry on the other side until golden. Salt and set apart.
4a) Green sauce. Cook a dozen green tomatoes (these are not unripe tomatoes but a different variety of tomato) until they turn yellow. Place in a mixer with half a raw onion, a small chile, a fistful of cilantro, and salt.
Or
4b) Red sauce. If you can’t find green tomatoes, try the red sauce. Place in a mixer 4 raw tomatoes, half an onion, a small pepper, salt, and mix. Cook the sauce until it turns from bright red to a dull red.
5) When you are ready to eat (do not do this step ahead of time or your enchiladas will get mushy) place several tacos on a plate and cover them with hot (as in temperature) sauce. Garnish with a crumbly cheese. Serve with a side dish of either rice or beans and sliced avocados.

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Rich Puchalsky 07.02.16 at 4:32 pm

Lupita: “I do not advise anyone outside Mexico to give it a try.”

I was going to say something like this, but I was confident that it would be interpreted by the usual idiots in the usual ways. If you really agree with what Lupita is writing — which I mostly do — then this recipe is pretty much useless unless you’re part of Mexican culture, perhaps even living in a Mexican ecoregion. And I don’t know about anyone else, but this couldn’t be soul food for me, because I have my own cultural heritage. (Not identified with any particular region, of course — one of the most characteristic foods in my ethnicity is explicitly associated with running away.)

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Brett Dunbar 07.02.16 at 4:36 pm

Collin Street @ 335

Lupita doesn’t appear to be making the same argument you are. I have very little time for romanticism, which appears to be the core of her argument. You seem to be working from a more rationalist position rather than an essentially aesthetic one. She seems to feel that Mexican peasants should not be able to choose to go to the USA to work as that leads to the disappearance of traditional rural communities. I feel that if the traditional community isn’t attractive enough for people to choose to stay it should disappear. I don’t like romanticism.

If the price of traditional tortillas has risen so much this signals to the producers that they should produce more of the kinds of maize that can be used to make tortillas. The market, if allowed to operate, will tend to fix the problem. The problem was that NAFTA didn’t do that much to eliminate agricultural subsidies and tariffs. TPP does eliminate most agricultural tariffs which should fix many of the problems. NAFTA has little to do with Mexican political corruption which seems to have more to do with it. It is more corporatist than capitalist.

gastro george @ 334

No, not more than any other industry. Some farmers go bankrupt, that is true of any industry. The assets continue to exist and the demand for the product continues to exist so the farm itself is a saleable asset for the liquidator of the insolvent business.

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bianca steele 07.02.16 at 4:49 pm

green tomatoes (these are not unripe tomatoes but a different variety of tomato)

These are probably what are called tomatillos in stores here, I’d guess?

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engels 07.02.16 at 5:05 pm

‘Nationalism’ is a bad word, with unpleasant connotations, I know. ‘Communal solidarity’ would be a better phrase, or ‘democratic self-management’ as BW puts it, above. Also, when people feel they are under attack, they instinctively try to unite, based on some common identity, usually the most fitting one given the nature of the attack. This unity tends to produce excesses

In other news: “Trump deletes tweet with Star of David on pile of money after backlash”

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engels 07.02.16 at 5:20 pm

I was going to say something like this, but I was confident that it would be interpreted by the usual idiots in the usual ways

Erm I was joking. I don’t turn to Crooked Timber comments section for recipes anymore than I do for non-crazy political commentary. I will continue to like Mexican food despite not being genetically or ecologically Mexican – sorry if that bothers anyone.

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gastro george 07.02.16 at 5:43 pm

“Some farmers go bankrupt, that is true of any industry. The assets continue to exist and the demand for the product continues to exist so the farm itself is a saleable asset for the liquidator of the insolvent business.”

That might work in Magicland. However it does somewhat rely on having an idle reserve of capital-rich farmers – you know people who actual know how to farm the land. The thing about crop failures is that they are often weather-determined, so *every* local farmer is affected.

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Brett Dunbar 07.02.16 at 9:06 pm

gastro george @ 345

In magicland the farmers and farmland might magically disappear if a farm goes bankrupt. In the real world the fact that the total value of a businesses liabilities exceed the total value of the assets doesn’t mean that the material assets cease to exist. Liquidators prefer to sell a business as a going concern as that normally maximises the value returned to the creditors.

The farmers themselves are still there and have the skills even if they ran out of capital. Whoever purchases the land, possibly at a bargain price, will want to obtain an income which means using the land.

That is true with any business. Other business hedge or insure against production and supply problems only farmers get the state to do it for them and get the taxpayer to pay for it. Leave the market to operate and then the farmer has to decide whether to purchase some sort of insurance retain sufficient capital to self-insure (that is have enough savings tom cover expenses even with a loss of income) or chance it.

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ZM 07.03.16 at 4:58 am

Lupita,

Thank you :-) I really do want to try your first recipe though, and I don’t eat meat so The Expatriate’s Chicken Enchiladas recipe is out for me, unfortunately, it looks very nice. I love the idea of having local mills that people can take whole corn or other things to and get them ground fresh. I think there is only one business in the wider region I live in who mills their own grain for flour, although there are a few mills that have been converted into other uses, so I guess it used to be more common.

Rich Puchalsky, “then this recipe is pretty much useless unless you’re part of Mexican culture, perhaps even living in a Mexican ecoregion. And I don’t know about anyone else, but this couldn’t be soul food for me, because I have my own cultural heritage.”

I don’t think so, apart from the first step of cooking and grinding the whole corn, the vegetarian recipe above should be okay to adapt. I might add a bit of red wine vinegar to the red tomato sauce recipe Lupita gives above, for a bit of extra tang, even though its probably not quite kosher adding red wine vinegar to Mexican food ;-)

Brett Dunbar,

” She seems to feel that Mexican peasants should not be able to choose to go to the USA to work as that leads to the disappearance of traditional rural communities. I feel that if the traditional community isn’t attractive enough for people to choose to stay it should disappear. I don’t like romanticism.”

Lupita has said she is or has been an expatriate. I think it is very unfair to characterise her argument as “aesthetic”, she probably has seen the affect of migration on rural communities and has seen a lot of negative things resulting from this, including the loss of young people which makes towns slower and gives a sense of decline and also provides less support to the older population, as well as the loss of cultural traditions and practices.

I live in a rural area that was a gold rush area, after the gold ran out many people left the towns, but there are have been two waves of migration in recent history, first counter culture people moving here in the 70s and 80s, and then in the 2000s another wave partly driven I think by communications technology and faster trains and that sort of thing, which makes it easier for people to live here and keep in touch with the city, or work in the city, or even work internationally but have a home here. It is easier for young people to stay in the regional area I live in now there are more businesses and work opportunities, or you can travel to work in other areas more easily. A woman I know works internationally for IBM, a friend of my brother’s teaches english over the internet to people at a university in Japan from here, there are lots of people with these sorts of jobs.

Maybe a similar sort of thing will happen in Mexico’s regional areas. I think a lot of people would be attracted to live there by the culture that Lupita describes. As well as the climate and architecture and all sorts of things. I guess the traditional culture would still change and adapt, but it might be better than being lost altogether, and more young people would be able to stay in the regional areas.

I wonder if the Mexico state or regional or local governments have any policy about this sort of thing? It would be good for local farmers to attract people to live in regional areas. At some point Mexico and the USA will end up with a similar sort of economy I guess, in terms of income etc.

Sort of off topic, but Mexico, the USA, and Canada signed an agreement at the last “Three Amigo’s Summit” to get 50% of energy from zero carbon sources by 2025. I guess that is a positive aspect of cooperation between the countries. It will be up to the next US President to enact this. http://www.ibtimes.com/three-amigos-summit-2016-5-ways-achieve-north-american-clean-energy-agreement-2388231

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