25 January 2017
It is no coincidence that Pennsylvania voted for Trump and Wales for Brexit
One lesson of the annual remembrance of the Holocaust, which happens each year on 27 January, is to remind us of the consequences when democratic politics fails. A large part of Hitler’s appeal to German voters was achieved by his undermining of trust in governing establishments and ruling elites, and his offer of authoritarian dictatorship as the only alternative. As Pope Francis has pointed out in the Spanish newspaper El País, populists make hay when people have lost faith in normal democracy.
Partly this was because of clever manipulation. But the more fundamental reason was because the public’s ability to trust elites and establishments had been eroded by mass unemployment and destitution before the Nazis came to power. Fast forward to 2016-17, and we find economic failure has again taken its toll of public confidence in institutions. Like the Wall Street Crash of 1929, its even larger cousin, the global financial crisis of 2008, left people not only impoverished but bewildered. They didn’t know what had hit them, or why.
Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of consultants McKinsey & Company, referred in 2012 to “top teams working overtime to meet near-sighted targets – and they are blind to the impact of their actions on any broader measure of value”. Individuals “have lost sight of the broader goals of a free-market economy”.
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