Why We, the Affluent, Are So Angry

Joschka FischerSource: Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2000, Project Syndicate, December 28, 2015

…Given [the Western countries’] affluence, what accounts for their citizens’ attraction to the politics of frustration?

First and foremost, there is fear – and apparently a great deal of it. It is a fear based on the instinctive realization that the “White Man’s World” – a lived reality assumed by its beneficiaries as a matter of course – is in terminal decline, both globally and in the societies of the West. And migration is the issue that brings that prognosis home (not just metaphorically) to today’s angst-inspired nationalists.

Until recently, globalization was largely viewed as favoring the West. But now – in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and with the rise of China (now turning into this century’s leading power before our eyes) – it has become increasingly clear that globalization is a two-way street, with the West losing much of its power and wealth to the East. Likewise, the world’s problems can no longer be suppressed and excluded, at least not in Europe, where they are now quite literally knocking on the door.

Meanwhile, at home, the White Man’s World is threatened by immigration, globalization of labor markets, gender parity, and the legal and social emancipation of sexual minorities. In short, these societies are undergoing a fundamental shock to traditional roles and patterns of behavior.

From all these profound changes has arisen a yearning for simple solutions – to build fences and walls, for example, whether in the US South or in southern Hungary – and strong leaders. It is no accident that Europe’s new nationalists view Russian President Vladimir Putin as a beacon of hope.

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One response to “Why We, the Affluent, Are So Angry

  1. Globalization is a two-way street. However, the Western Industrialized nations are not in decline because of trade agreements, or gains of technology in the East. Sadly, these megatrends are getting the blame that largely lies with exploitations of tax codes/practices that the OECD is scrambling, with inadequate tools, to address and IMF is studying. Its called Base Erosion and Profit Shifting(BEPS), along with, and frequently in combination with traditional intra-corporate transfer pricing. Hidden in tax havens and low tax regimes are as an estimated $4-$10 trillion/trillion, upwards of 50% undeclared or un-repatriated (but legally declared) US Corporate profits. IMF and OECD are studying problem and creating new disclosure rules, but will US Congress Act?

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