When I was a university lecturer, I found that I learned a lot by giving lectures, because in the process I inevitably kept thinking, not only from the questions my students asked but from the additional questions the process of interaction stimulated. I doubt many students knew it, but I was paradoxically learning as much as they were.
I am not an economist – to my frustration sometimes as I try to understand this world – but have been experiencing a similar learning process as I did as a lecturer as I am writing now about Brexit and its global implications.
I said in an earlier post that the issues underlying Trump’s “make America great again” were radically different from the sovereignty issues raised by membership in the European Union. Yes, on one level it is.
But digging a little deeper, Trump and Brexit are responding to similar economic and political issues exacerbated by the globalization of capitalism. Specifically, the working class has been disenfranchised either by an influx of immigrants from poorer countries taking the jobs of locals because they are willing to work for less pay under less salubrious conditions. Or factory work and increasingly services have been outsourced to countries where workers are paid less, and their products shipped back to Britain or the U.S. This has not protected the working conditions of those who are actually doing the work either overseas or as immigrants, and it has put thousands of non-immigrants out of work or reduced their pay and working conditions dramatically.
At the same time, management and those at the top of international corporations are reaping the profits. Since the early 1980’s, incomes of those at the top of the ladder have increased dramatically while those further down have not kept up with the cost of living. So today the gap between the upper and lower classes is greater than it has been for close to a century, and the middle classes are being gutted.
So prejudice and bigotry and the increase of hate crimes particularly among the working classes against those labelled as outsiders is understandable. But something has gone terribly wrong with the system. Unfortunately, neither the Brexit or Trump campaigns to slam the door shut against immigrants is a solution and will not return prosperity to either America or Britain. But far left-wing socialist systems tried and still being tried throughout the world have not been the solution either. Somehow, they too produce an elite while too many workers had little freedom of choice and few opportunities.
Today, Thomas Piketty, a leading left-wing economist, resigned as an adviser to the Labour Party for its failure to effectively fight against Brexit in the referendum debate. He’s got some interesting ideas and I’m looking forward to reading his thoughts over the coming months.
Now I’m going to try to restore a little sanity, and watch Wimbledon tennis.