Frances Coppola je natanko zadela moje razumevanje aktualnega stanja in moje strahove glede prihodnosti. Skicirala je mehanizem, ki nujno vodi k pripravam na vojno. Evropske države so nemočne pri reševanju akutne gospodarske krize, v katero jih je pahnila delno globalizacija in posledična finacializacija, delno pa evro oziroma invalidno zasnovana monetarna unija. Ta nemoč pa se manifestira v zdravljenju bolezni z napačnim, vednar edinim dovoljenim zdravilom – s fiskalnim varčevanjem, zategovanjem pasu, ki vedno prizadene najšibkejše. Ta terapija pa se je izkazala kot katastrofalno zgrešena – namesto okrevanja je prinesla poglabljanje in podaljševanje recesije ter vzdrževanje visoke brezposelnosti. Bolj kot države zategujejo pas svojim prebivalcem, bolj se gospodarska situacija poslabšuje. V EU državah se zato krepi nezadovoljstvo: najprej do domačih politikov, nato pa prerašča v nezadovoljstvo do nesmiselnih EU pravil, do EU same in zdaj še do beguncev.
Ljudje hočejo spet nazaj kontrolo. Kontrolo nad svojo državo. Jočejo spet sami odločati o svoji usodi, ne pa Bruselj ali Berlin. Želijo, da se meje zaprejo – za karavane beguncev in za poceni blago iz Kitajske. Ljudje iščejo politike, ki jim to obljubljajo. Vzpon populizma, obrnitev osti populizma v nacionalizem in agresivnost do vsega tujega ter priprave na vojno je scenosled bodočega dogajanja.
Zakaj menim, da je vojna realistična opcija prihodnosti? Ker se je tovrstna situacija že nekajkrat zgodila v preteklosti. Kadarkoli so nacije vzdrževale trajno šibkost v reševanju notranjih ekonomskih težav (nemoč izviti se iz recesije), so ost uperile navzven, v iskanje zunanjega sovražnika. Tokrat so “sovražniki” EU ter Nemčija in Angela Merkel na eni strani, na drugi strani karavane beguncev in prost pretok ljudi, na tretji pa kitajska konkurenca. Vrenje v ljudstvu postaja neobvladljivo in idealno za lažne preroke. Nazadnje se je to v tako širokem razponu zgodilo v 1930-ih.
The final ingredient was the Greek debt crisis. It scared the world. Suddenly, high government deficits and debt were terrible things. We had to get them under control. That meant deep cuts to government spending, if necessary including raising taxes and cutting benefits for the most vulnerable in society. Government after government in the developed world, and especially in Europe, accepted this harsh medicine. After all, we were told, Alesina & Ardagna had promised it would restore growth.
“There’s no money” is the psychological framing of both Reinhart & Rogoff’s flawed paper, and Alesina & Ardagna’s theory. The model is one of scarcity. No money is available, so we have to manage without. Belt-tightening is in order. Together, these two papers not only supported the small-state ideology of the UK’s Conservative chancellor, but justified extreme fiscal tightness in the Eurozone. Reinhart & Rogoff’s paper creates the justification for cuts and tax rises: Alesina & Ardagna promise the “sunlit uplands” necessary for people to accept the harsh medicine.
But the prescription turned out to be voodoo. Seven years on, prosperity has not returned: many countries in Europe are still mired in austerity, some are deeply depressed, government debt is higher than ever and unemployment is still painfully high, Failure of austerity measures to deliver the promised prosperity is toxic: popular anger and fear fuel the rise of populist politicians. Rudi Dornbusch, in a wonderful paper about debt crises and populism in Latin America, observed that the roots of populism lie in austerity, usually imposed by an external agent such as the IMF. Chancellor Brüning’s austerity measures in the German Great Depression, designed to end Germany’s debt crisis and restore foreign confidence, led to the rise of Hitler.
Greece was the archetype for the post-crisis “there is no money” paradigm. This paradigm still holds – but it is beginning to fracture. A new, darker paradigm is beginning to emerge. The new paradigm is nationalism (“take back control”). And the archetype for the new paradigm will be my own country, the UK. I never, ever thought this could happen here…..
The populist paradigm shift started with the EU referendum. This time, the enemy was external. The EU was vilified as the “other” by Leave campaigners. Leave the EU, all your troubles will be over…. This is a false promise, of course. Leaving the EU is likely to cause at least as many problems as it solves. I fear for those who have been promised prosperity by the sellers of snake oil. It will be a long time before they see it – and as many are old, they may never see it at all.
We have seen the darker side of nationalism before, of course, though it has been hiding under a rock for a long time. Outright racist views are not widely accepted, but there is plenty of toxic “othering” along the lines of “I’m not racist, but I hate Muslims/Poles/Lithuanians/Syrians/immigrants [choose as many as you like]”. Some groups are demonised: refugees, for example, who are often described as rapists and murderers despite the lack of any convincing evidence.
Creating groups of “others” who can be demonised is the essence of toxic nationalism. […] And it will not be limited to the UK. Nationalist forces are rising all over the world.
Thatcher’s generation of populist politicians discarded the big state, “Keynesian” model that had dominated since WWII. They replaced it initially with austerity (to break unions power and defeat inflation). But in any democracy, austerity is short-lived unless you can find a way of convincing your supporters either that they are not really suffering (so you protect people who will vote for you) or that the good times will return “any day now”. Thatcher’s generation – or perhaps more correctly, Reagan’s generation, since this comes from economic thinking in the USA – promised that globalisation would bring prosperity for all. We could say that they replaced a “big state” model with a “big world” one. Free trade, free movement of people, free movement of capital: these were the pillars on which the new golden age would be built.
And golden it was, for many. Branko Milanovic has shown how, along with the top 1% who always benefit from everything, the rising Asian middle class benefited from globalisation. The last three decades have seen more people lifted out of poverty than ever before.
But the Western middle classes saw no benefit. For them, globalisation brought stagnation and decline, as their jobs were offshored and their wages fell to the global mean. Their prosperity turned out to be an illusion, built on an insubstantial debt bubble. The promise made to them in the Reagan years has been exposed as a lie. And they are angry. Globalisation has failed – now it is time to “take back control”.
As with all long-cycle paradigm shifts, few saw this coming. We are short-lived creatures, and we see only our own small part of the web of time. And just as in the paradigm shift of the 1980s the economic theories of the past were discarded in favour of something new and untried, so now the mainstream economics of the last 30 years is under attack, not just from those who want to reform it but also from those who want to reject it entirely. “I think people of this country have had enough of “experts”, said Michael Gove.
Rejecting existing “experts” is a feature of populist politicics. […] So although, after six years of painful soul-searching, mainstream and heterodox economists now seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet in many respects, people are no longer listening. Populist politicians deride “experts”, and pursue divisive policies designed to appeal to protected groups of voters.
Historically, resurgent nationalism has always led to war. I see no reason why this time should be different. …
There is a fine line between nationalism and imperialism, and at some point, someone will cross that line. I don’t know who, or where, that will be. But when they do, there will be war.
Vir: Frances Coppola