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The Great Disruption

Understanding the Populist Forces Behind Trump, Brexit, and LePen

Anil Hira

The Great Disruption: Understanding the Populist Forces Behind Trump, Brexit, and LePen aims to put the shocking events of 2016–17 into a long-term, historical perspective. The seemingly disparate and separately discussed election of Donald Trump, Brexit vote, success of Marine LePen’s National Front Party, and the wider spread of populism have an overlooked commonality: They all start with a similar core constituency of disaffected older blue collar workers. Using a data-driven analysis, author Anil Hira shows that racism and xenophobia are linked to economic populism—xenophobia becoming widespread under conditions of economic stress. Hira shows further that since economic stress is felt very deeply, conventional solutions are inadequate. There is a perception among the affected group that politicians can not offer "normal" solutions and thus turn to populism. The Great Disruption traces long-term and largely un-linked shifts in the economy from globalization to automation to uncover the deeper sources of populist outbreaks. This book demonstrates that racial and immigrant attitudes have not changed, rather any backlash is a scapegoating effect of economic loss and dislocation. Populism not only misdiagnoses the situation but also misses the wider long-term threats of climate change, demographic shifts, and the rise of China. Recognizing the transformational nature of such threats depends on the maturation of the Millennial generation and its willingness to evolve towards a more global style of governance, in the process rejecting the shallow promises of populism.

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Chapter 8. Force Number 4: Rapid Environmental Deterioration


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Rapid Environmental Deterioration

We are surpassing, at an accelerating pace, what some scientists call the “carrying capacity” of the planet. What they mean by that is that the increases in population coupled with the spread of Western consumption values are putting a strain on the Earth’s systems for renewal. These are systems we depend upon for our food, air, and water. While climate change has received the most attention, there are continuing problems with deforestation, rapid loss of biodiversity, rapid depletion of fisheries, and contamination of clean water sources, among other issues. While not frequently linked, these can be tied quite clearly to population growth. Simply put, when there are too many humans on the planet, it creates a dilemma to choose between environment and standard of living. In an eleven billion person planet as projected for 2050 by some estimates, we can not sustain this way of life. Policymakers and politicians want to reassure us that there is no tradeoff between standards of living and environmental protection, but, in fact, there is. There may at some point be enough of a technological breakthrough in renewable energy and battery technology to reduce the cost gap with fossil fuels, but for now it is exceedingly difficult to get consumers in society to willingly choose more expensive fuels. Gasoline tax riots in France in 2018 confirmed that even the most progressive voters are far from acknowledging the real costs...

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