“The trouble with Hillary,” said a fellow watcher of Clinton’s second debate with Donald Trump, “is that she comes across as the liberal consensus personified.” Exactly so, and anti-liberalism is one of the threads that connects Trumpism, the Brexit vote, Poland’s nationalist populist government, Putinism and much else.
We liberal internationalists need to keep taking apart the mendacious, demagogic claims of anti-liberal populists such as Trump, Nigel Farage and Poland’s former prime minister Jarosław Kaczyński. This should not, however, prevent us coming to an honest reckoning about the shortcomings of the version of liberalism that, over the past quarter-century, came packaged with globalisation.
Those to whom populists appeal have a mixture of economic, social and cultural grievances about the consequences of free-market liberal globalisation. Of course the mix varies from country to country, but they also have much in common. Economically, they have often lost out, or at least not benefited as much as others. Their incomes have stagnated or declined, while jobs have gone to India or China (where, it’s important to note, many hundred millions of beneficiaries from globalisation are to be found), sometimes to immigrants prepared to work for less money, to younger people better able to adapt in a rapidly changing economy, and to machines in a period of unprecedented digital automation.
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