Föhrenbergkreis Finanzwirtschaft

Unkonventionelle Lösungen für eine zukunftsfähige Gesellschaft

The new political divide, and a plan to close it

Posted by hkarner - 26. März 2017

Date: 23-03-2017
Source: The Economist

David Goodhart, a “post-liberal”, seeks to accommodate the decent elements of identity-based populism

The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. By David Goodhart. Hurst; 278 pages; $24.95 and £20.

WHY did Britain vote to leave the European Union? Why did America elect Donald Trump? Why are populists on the rise all over Europe? David Goodhart, founding editor of Prospect magazine and now a proud “post-liberal”, has found a culprit. Populism, he argues in his new book, is an understandable reaction to liberal overreach.

Focusing on Britain, he identifies a new divide in Western societies, pitting a dominant minority of people from “anywhere” against a majority from “somewhere”. The first group, says Mr Goodhart, holds “achieved” identities based on educational and professional success. Anywheres value social and geographical mobility. The second group is characterised by identities rooted in a place, and its members value family, authority and nationality.

Whereas Anywheres, whose portable identities are well-suited to the global economy, have largely benefited from cultural and economic openness in the West, he argues, the Somewheres have been left behind—economically, but mainly in terms of respect for the things they hold dear. The Anywheres look down on them, provoking a backlash.Mr Goodhart’s diagnosis has some merit. Globalisation has worsened inequality in Western countries, and the winners have not done enough to help the losers adjust to rapid changes. But Mr Goodhart is not content merely to diagnose. His mission is to convince liberals of the “underlying decency” of Somewhere ideas, to counteract nastier versions of populism: “Without a more rooted, emotionally intelligent liberalism…the possibility of even more unpleasant backlashes cannot be completely ruled out.”

Respect and understanding for all, including Somewheres, is important. And better educational opportunities for young people who don’t go to university are a good idea. But his other proposals are worryingly reactionary. A chapter that laments the erosion of the male breadwinner role proposes throwback changes to the tax system to encourage marriage and a more traditional division of labour. And the idea of restricting permanent immigration in favour of guest-worker schemes recalls decades of ghettoisation and frustration among children of migrants in places like Germany, who might be called Nowheres.

Mr Goodhart’s book seems likely to inform the debate on what post-Brexit Britain should look like. This is worrying, for two reasons. For one thing, there is little evidence that his “decent populism” will act as a bulwark against nastier variants. As he admits, “mainstream populists who repudiate racism tend to reinforce ideas of insiders and outsiders that allow real racists to grow more confident”—an insight confirmed by the spike in hate crimes following the Brexit referendum.

His case for a “decent” populism leaves many other questions unanswered. Why, pragmatic anti-populist considerations aside, should national or racial attachments take priority over common humanity? Why should accommodating those who have such attachments justify excluding poor foreigners from economic opportunity? Saying it is “common sense” that “national citizens should be ahead of non-citizens in the queue for public goods” merely begs the question. For someone who accuses his liberal former tribe of intellectual laziness, that is not enough.

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