In Defence Of Populism
Perhaps the main purpose of this edition of the ‘Davos summit’ is whether leaders can agree on the root causes of public anger and begin to articulate a response.
“A soulless man, technocratic, nationless and cultureless, severed from reality. The modern economics that undergirded Davos capitalism is equally soulless, a managerial capitalism that reduces economics to mathematics and separates it from human action and human creativity.”
– From the post: “For the Sake of Capitalism, Pepper Spray Davos”
One thing I’ve been very careful about not doing over the years is self-identifying under any particular political ideology. I articulated my reasoning in the post, Thank You and Welcome New Readers – A Liberty Blitzkrieg Mission Statement:
I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I do not consider myself a libertarian, progressive, socialist, anarchist, conservative, neoconservative or neoliberal. I’m just a 38 year old guy trying to figure it all out. Naturally, this doesn’t imply that there aren’t things which I hold dear. I have a strong belief system based on key principles. It’s just that I don’t think it makes sense for me to self-label and become part of a tribe. The moment you self-label, is the moment you stop thinking for yourself. It’s also the moment you stop listening. When you think you have all the answers, anyone who doesn’t think exactly as you do on all topics is either stupid or “paid opposition.” I don’t subscribe to this way of thinking.
Despite my refusal to self-identify, I am comfortable stating that I’m a firm supporter of populist movements and appreciate the instrumental role they’ve played historically in free societies. The reason I like this term is because it carries very little baggage. It doesn’t mean you adhere to a specific set of policies or solutions, but that you believe above all else that the concerns of average citizens matter and must be reflected in government policy.
Populism reaches its political potential once such concerns become so acute they translate into popular movements, which in turn influence the levers of power. Populism is not a bug, but is a key feature in any democratic society. It functions as a sort of pressure relief valve for free societies. Indeed, it allows for an adjustment and recalibration of the existing order at the exact point in the cycle when it is needed most. In our current corrupt, unethical and depraved oligarchy, populism is exactly what is needed to restore some balance to society. Irrespective of what you think of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, both political movements were undoubtably populist in nature. This doesn’t mean that Trump will govern as populist once he is sworn into power, but there’s little doubt that the energy which propelled him to the Presidency was part of a populist wave.
Trump understands this, and despite having surrounded himself with an endless stream of slimy ex-Goldman Sachs bankers and other assorted billionaires, his campaign took the following position with regard to Davos according to Bloomberg:
“Donald Trump won’t send an official representative to the annual gathering of the world’s economic elite in Davos, taking place next week in the days leading up to his inauguration, although one of the president-elect’s advisers is slated to attend.
Former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, a regular attendee in the past, told the group he would skip 2017 after being named in December to head the National Economic Council, said people familiar with the conference. Other top Trump appointees will also pass up the forum.
A senior member of Trump’s transition team said the president-elect thought it would betray his populist-fueled movement to have a presence at the high-powered annual gathering in the Swiss Alps.The gathering of millionaires, billionaires, political leaders and celebrities represents the power structure that fueled the populist anger that helped Trump win the election, said the person, who asked for anonymity to discuss the matter.”
While all of this sounds great, it’s not entirely true. For example:
Hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci is planning to travel to Davos, though. The founder of SkyBridge Capital and an early backer of Trump’s campaign, Scaramucci was named on Thursday as an assistant to the president.
Not that Scaramucci’s presence should surprise anyone, he’s the consummate banker apologist, anti-populist. Recall what he said last month:
“I think the cabal against the bankers is over.”
This guy shouldn’t be allowed within ten feet of any populist President, but Trump unfortunately seems to have a thing for ex-Goldman Sachs bankers.
While we’re on then subject, let’s discuss Davos for a moment. You know, the idyllic Swiss town where the world’s most dastardly politicians, oligarchs and their fawning media and academic servants will gather in a technocratic orgy of panels and cocktail parties to discuss how best to manage the world’s affairs in the year ahead. Yes, that Davos.
To get a sense of the maniacal mindset of these people, I want to turn your attention to a couple of Reuters articles published earlier today. First, from Davos Elites Struggle for Answers as Trump Era Dawns:
DAVOS, Switzerland – The global economy is in better shape than it’s been in years. Stock markets are booming, oil prices are on the rise again and the risks of a rapid economic slowdown in China, a major source of concern a year ago, have eased.
The first report from Davos is in. Everything’s fine.
And yet, as political leaders, CEOs and top bankers make their annual trek up the Swiss Alps to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the mood is anything but celebratory.
Last year, the consensus here was that Trump had no chance of being elected. His victory, less than half a year after Britain voted to leave the European Union, was a slap at the principles that elites in Davos have long held dear, from globalization and free trade to multilateralism.
Moises Naim of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was even more blunt: “There is a consensus that something huge is going on, global and in many respects unprecedented. But we don’t know what the causes are, nor how to deal with it.”
Thank you for your invaluable insight, Moises.
The titles of the discussion panels at the WEF, which runs from January 17-20, evoke the unsettling new landscape. Among them are “Squeezed and Angry: How to Fix the Middle Class Crisis”, “Politics of Fear or Rebellion of the Forgotten?”, “Tolerance at the Tipping Point?” and “The Post-EU Era”.
Ah, a panel on how to fix the middle class. Sounds interesting until you find out who some of the speakers are.
You really can’t make this stuff up. Now back to Reuters.
Perhaps the central question in Davos, a four-day affair of panel discussions, lunches and cocktail parties that delve into subjects as diverse as terrorism, artificial intelligence and wellness, is whether leaders can agree on the root causes of public anger and begin to articulate a response.
This has to be a joke. The public has been yelling and screaming about all sorts of issues they care about from both sides of the political spectrum for a while now. Whether people identify as on the “right” or the “left” there’s general consensus (at least in US populist movements) of the following: oligarchs must be reined in, rule of law must be restored, unnecessary military adventures overseas must be stopped, and lobbyist written phony “free trade” deals must be scrapped and reversed. There’s no secret about how strongly the various domestic populist movements feel on those topics, but the Davos set likes to pretends that these issues don’t exist. They’d rather focus on Russia or identity politics, that way they can control the narrative and then propose their own anti-populist, technocratic solutions.
A WEF report on global risks released before Davos highlighted “diminishing public trust in institutions” and noted that rebuilding faith in the political process and leaders would be a “difficult task”.
It’s not difficult at all, what we need are new leaders with new ideas, but the people at Davos don’t want to admit that either. After all, these are the types who unanimously and enthusiastically supported the ultimate discredited insider for US President, Hillary Clinton.
Moving along, let’s take a look at a separate Reuters article previewing Davos, starting with the title.
Did you see what they did there? The evaporating trust in globalist elites has nothing to do with “post-truth,” but as usual, the media insists on making excuses for the rich and powerful. The above title implies that elites lost the public truth as a result of a post-truth world, not because they are a bunch of disconnected, lying, corrupt thieves. Like Hillary and the Democrats, they are never to blame for anything that happens.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the text:
Trust in governments, companies and the media plunged last year as ballots from the United States to Britain to the Philippines rocked political establishments and scandals hit business.
The majority of people now believe the economic and political system is failing them, according to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, released on Monday ahead of the Jan. 17-20 World Economic Forum (WEF).
“There’s a sense that the system is broken,” Richard Edelman, head of the communications marketing firm that commissioned the research, told Reuters.
“The most shocking statistic of this whole study is that half the people who are high-income, college-educated and well-informed also believe the system doesn’t work.”
Even wealthy, well educated people understand things aren’t working, which begs the question. Who does think the system is working? Well, the people attending Davos, of course. These are the folks who cheer on a world in which eight people own as much as the bottom 50%.
As can be seen from the above excerpts, one thing that’s abundantly clear to almost everyone is that the system is broken. This is exactly where populism comes in to perform its crucial function. This is not an endorsement of Trump, but rather an endorsement of mass popular movements generally, and a recognition that such movements are the only way true change is ever achieved. As Frederick Douglass noted in 1857:
This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.
The above is an eternal truth when it comes to human struggle. The idea that the most wealthy and powerful individuals on earth are going to get together in a Swiss chalet and figure out how to help the world’s most vulnerable and suffering is on its face preposterous. Again, this is why popular movements are so important. They represent the only method we know of that historically yields tangible results. This is also why the elitists and their media minions hate populism and demonize it every chance they get. Which is really telling, particularly when you look at the various definitions of the word. First, here’s what comes up when you type the word into Google:
Aside from the 19th century historical reference, what’s not to like about any of the above? The mere fact that billionaire-owned media is so hostile to populism tells you everything you need to know. Behind the idea of populism is the notion of self-government, and Davos-type elitists hate this. They believe in a technocracy in which they make all the important decisions. Populism is dangerous because populism is empowering. It implies that the people ultimately have the power.
I think a useful exercise for readers during this Davos circus laden week is to note whenever the word “populism” is used within mainstream media articles. From my experience, it’s almost always portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative manner. Here’s just one example from the first of the two Reuters articles mentioned above.
“The global financial crisis of 2008/9 and the migrant crisis of 2015/16 exposed the impotence of politicians, deepening public disillusion and pushing people towards populists who offered simple explanations and solutions.”
The key phrase in the above is, “populists who offered simple explanations and solutions.” This betrays an incredible sense of arrogance and contempt for regular citizens. Note that it didn’t offer a critique of a specific populist leader and his or her polices, but rather presented a sweeping dismissal of all popular movements as “simplistic.” In other words, despite the fact that the people mingling at Davos are the exact same people who set the world on fire, they somehow remain the only ones capable enough to fix the world. How utterly ridiculous.
The good news is that most people now plainly see the absurdity of such a worldview, and understand that the people at Davos represent a roadblock to progress, as opposed to any sort of solution. While I don’t endorse any specific populist movement currently, I fully recognize the need for increased populism as a facet of American political life, particularly at this moment in time.
Populism can be dangerous, and it’s certainly messy, but it’s a crucial pressure release valve for any functioning free society. If you don’t allow populist movements to do their thing in the short-term, you’ll get far worse outcomes in the long-term.
In the timeless words of JFK:
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Nobody wants that.
This piece was first published at the Liberty Blitzkrieg and has been republished here with permission. You can find the original piece here.
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