Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The roots of populism

Jon Holbrook

David Goodhart’s The Road To Somewhere is a compelling critique of elite-based politics

Couplets have their place in political analysis providing they do two things: describe the forces behind political debate and outline a way of transcending them. In other words, a useful couplet needs to be able to address the past and present, and the future. In The Road to Somewhere, David Goodhart gives us a new couplet: the ‘Anywheres’ and the ‘Somewheres’. It is a schism of values and identities that, he argues, accounts for the Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump, the decline of the centre-left and the rise of populism across Europe.

The Anywheres and Somewheres both ask themselves the same question: what do they want from society and how do they get it? But they come up with radically different answers. The Anywheres want to get on in the world and to do this they place ‘a high value on autonomy, mobility and novelty and a much lower value on group identity, tradition and national social contracts (faith, flag and family)’. As Goodhart says, ‘work, and in fact life itself, is about individual self-realisation’. He describes the Anywhere ideology as that of ‘progressive individualism’.

The Somewheres also want a better life, but their forum is local rather than global and their means of obtaining it is more family- and community-focused, rather than workplace-based. The Somewheres feel uncomfortable about ‘an achievement society in which they struggle to achieve’. Goodhart rejects the dismissive view of many social commentators that this strata of society is reactionary, racist or xenophobic (although he recognises that such elements exist on the fringes). Indeed, he describes them as ‘in the main, modern people for whom women’s equality and minority rights, distrust of power, free expression, consumerism and individual choice, are part of the air they breathe’. He describes the Somewhere ideology as socially conservative and communitarian which can be summed up in the phrase ‘decent populism’.

The schism between Anywheres and Somewheres has been most pronounced over immigration. This was the issue which caused Goodhart to question his own Anywhere ideology when, in 2004, as editor of the centre-left current-affairs magazine, Prospect, he wrote an essay, ‘Too Diverse?’, that questioned the benefits of mass immigration. Despite being accused of ‘nice racism’ and ‘liberal Powellism’, Goodhart continued his studies and became convinced that the left had got on the wrong side of the argument on both mass immigration (too enthusiastic) and integration of minorities and national identity (too indifferent).

But The Road To Somewhere does far more than merely address the issue of immigration, central though that is to the Anywhere/Somewhere divide. For Goodhart recognises that what gives the divide its political significance today is the fact that ‘until 30 or 40 years ago, the Somewhere worldview remained completely dominant. It was British common sense.’  Whereas today Anywheres, who he places as numerically no more than 25 per cent of the British population, have come to dominate public policy and thinking. Each of these policy headlines of the past decade or so shows how marginalised the Somewhere viewpoint has become: the 2003 decision to open the British labour market to people from eastern Europe (seven years before the EU required it); the 2007 decision to allow Romania and Bulgaria to join the EU (pushed hard by Tony Blair initially against the wishes of the European Commission); support for more economic integration as represented by the TTIP trade negotiations; support for gay marriage; the big increase in foreign aid; the large subsidies for renewable energy and the relentless increase in petrol duty.

And in addition to the policy headlines, Goodhart notes how the prevailing view that has informed public policy for the past few decades has been that of the Anywheres, particularly with regards to education, work and family. Higher education has expanded (good for Anywheres), while vocational education and apprenticeship provision has declined (bad for Somewheres). Educational success has been elevated into the gold standard of social esteem, while those with fewer qualifications seek jobs that could and increasingly are being done by a keen foreign workforce - by exporting factories and importing labour (good for Anywheres but bad for Somewheres).

Anywheres have also dominated family policy so as to give Britain ‘one of the most family-unfriendly tax and benefit regimes in the developed world’. Goodhart traces this back to 1990, when Nigel Lawson had wanted to retain a tax allowance that did not penalise single-earner couple households. But Margaret Thatcher’s ‘one feminist policy intervention’ appears to have been her ‘pronounced lack of sympathy for mothers who stayed at home to look after their young children rather than going out to work’. This resulted in an ungenerous tax allowance for couples that waned until abolished by Gordon Brown in 2000. Since 1990, single-parent households have been financially incentivised, particularly when claiming welfare benefits.

Goodhart’s use of the Anywhere/Somewhere couplet is particularly illuminating when applied to family policy for it highlights how Anywhere ideas have benefitted the Anywheres while undermining the interests of Somewheres. Goodhart explains how family policy ‘has been dominated by the concerns of highly educated, upper-professional Anywhere women’ with interests in workplace equality, whereas Somewheres have a greater interest in sustaining family life. Changes in family life and the ideas and policies that have driven them have been good for Anywhere men and women, who have tended to benefit from double-income, stable family households.

The family policies that have benefitted Anywheres have also caused Somewheres to experience a far greater incidence of family breakdown, single parenthood and welfare dependency. Somewhere men, without the esteem derived from high-status careers, are particularly in need of family responsibilities to motivate them and would benefit from financial incentives and ideas that bolstered the traditional family unit. Consistent with this need, opinion surveys show that Somewhere men and women did not expect sex equality to result in ‘the complete abolition of the gender division of labour, including the idea of the man as main (but not sole) breadwinner when children are young’. Accordingly, while Somewheres talk about ‘the central importance of the conventional family’, they are frequently unable to practise it as the institution that is so important to them has been weakened by government ideas and policies.

The Road to Somewhere will make uncomfortable reading for the 25 per cent of Anywheres who have pursued their own self-interest with little regard for the interests of the 50 per cent of Somewheres (and the rest who he calls the Inbetweeners). They will be discomforted because, as Goodhart notes, ‘the two value clusters… are clearly visible in a host of opinion and value surveys’.  Indeed, his analysis will help to explain why in 2016, Anywheres lost the EU referendum in Britain and the presidential election in America and more generally why they see before them a society that they find difficult to understand.

But, and it is an important but, Goodhart does not develop his argument so that his reader can begin to understand how the schism of values, ideas and policies – a schism that is prevalent across the Western world – can be overcome. Goodhart frequently refers to ‘anywhere over-reach’, which he hopes can be addressed with his ‘plea for a less headstrong Anywhere liberalism’. Yet the reaction of Anywheres to Brexit and Trump shows that pleading with them to listen to Somewheres and ameliorate their policies will achieve nothing. His hope for ‘a happier co-existence’ between Anywheres and Somewheres ‘after the shock of 2016’ is not likely to be fulfilled with ameliorating pleas.

The strength of Goodhart‘s book is that he has invented labels that describe real social forces in modern Western societies. And an awareness of the ideological conflict between Anywheres and Somewheres may help policymakers to recalibrate their thinking. But people treasure their values and policies, especially ones that connect with their own self-interest and perception of what they want from society and how to get it. They will not give them up lightly.

Fortunately, Western societies have a mechanism for transcending conflicting values: it’s called democracy and it needs to be re-energised. Goodhart does not spell out the extent to which Anywheres are wary of, if not hostile towards, democracy. Yet his book contains much information from which such a conclusion could be drawn. He criticises the Anywheres who claim that the nation state is unable to stop the march of globalisation – a way of rendering political debate pointless. He states that Anywheres tend to be less politically tolerant than Somewheres – a way of avoiding political debate. He observes the Anywhere penchant for claiming the moral high ground from which they dismiss Somewheres as racist, nativist or for holding less worthy views – a way of closing down political debate. And he notes how Anywheres have set up and then controlled technocratic, legal and supra-national organisations – a way of putting policy beyond political debate.

The reality of the Anywhere ascendancy is that it has come about by neutering democracy. That was the only way that 25 per cent of the population could usher in policy after policy that suited their interests while impoverishing, materially and ideologically, the majority. Brexit, Trump, the decline of the centre-left and the rise of populism across Europe all represent a significant backlash against the Anywhere ascendancy. But if democracy is to serve the interests of all its people, the people will need to do more than ‘plea for a less headstrong Anywhere liberalism’. Goodhart’s book is a compelling critique of 21st-century Western politics. The task for his readers is to develop ideas, policies and new political parties that can meet the needs, not of the 25 per cent, but of the entire demos.


Swedish Government Funds Latest BDS Initiative in France

As shown by NGO Monitor research, a report published today by a coalition of French and Palestinian pro-BDS organizations that calls on the French government to “pressure” French financial institutions to divest from Israeli banks, communication, insurance, and utility companies, is funded by the Swedish government.

The report, titled ‘The Dangerous Ties between French Banks and Insurances Companies with Israeli Occupation‘ and written by Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), CCFD – Terre Solidaire, International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the French League of Human Rights (LDH), and Al-Haq, also calls on the French government to intervene and force French banks and insurance companies to “disengage without delay from any financial link with Israeli banks” as well as encourages “a legislative proposal prohibiting enterprises from all sectors to invest in the settlements.”

Olga Deutsch, Director of the Europe Desk at NGO Monitor, “BDS groups are once again targeting France and Israel with economic warfare, and it is no surprise that the central pillars of the French and Israeli economies are in their sights. What is even more troubling is that a third country – Sweden – is involved as well, and this report reflects the danger of irresponsible Swedish funding to NGOs.”

The logo of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) appears on the publication. In addition, the Swedish government provides millions of dollars in core funding to FIDH, committing $5,170,707 between 2012-2016. Sweden also provides $5.7 million from 2013-2017 to the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat which funds Al Haq, an organization whose General Director Shawan Jabarin has alleged ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a recognized terrorist organization designated as such by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel.

The French government has also directly given hundreds of thousands of Euro for projects and core funding to each of the NGOs involved in writing the report, including FIDH, AFPS, CCFD – Terre Solidaire, LDH, and Al Haq.

The NGOs behind the report were part of a similar coalition that in 2016 pressured the French telecom giant Orange to drop its alliance with the Israeli company Partner.


I’m calling out the loons who make Israel bashing the mother of all virtues

Soon after London Fashion Week concluded, Israel Apartheid Week began. Another week, another obsessive focus on Israel.

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is mostly spearheaded in the West by people who have little to nothing attaching them to the Middle-East conflict.

Nothing, that is, beyond the fact that belonging to the hard-left and not supporting BDS has become the equivalent of claiming a love for fashion, while hating haute couture. Though unlike haute couture, BDS is an inelegant and simplistic solution to a protracted and incredibly complicated problem. But who cares for detail when you have a fabulous placard to wave?

The lazy analogy that BDS rests on is with South African apartheid. But unlike apartheid-era South Africa, Arabs make up 20 percent of Israel’s full citizenry. Most of these Arab-Israeli citizens are Muslim. There are mosques on Israeli beaches. Alongside Hebrew, Arabic is an official language of Israel. An Arab-Israeli judge has even impeached and convicted former Israeli prime minster, Ehud Olmert.

And though many problems with integration persist – as they do with minority communities across the West – when surveyed 77 percent of these Arabs expressed an overwhelming preference to remain Israeli, rather than become citizens of a future Palestinian state.

The reason is obvious, Israeli-Muslims have more freedom of religion than other minorities – and even other Muslims have in all other Middle-Eastern countries.

The problem lies in the status of the West Bank and Gaza, not with any imaginary apartheid system inside Israel proper. So lazy is the apartheid analogy that I could effectively end my article at this paragraph. But so entrenched has our political laziness become, I feel compelled to carry on.

Far from being an apartheid, what we have is a somewhat unexceptional, albeit rather tragic, land dispute. An unexceptional land dispute: this is all that it was.

Until it became fetishised.

All of these disputes involve deep religious, historic, and political meaning for their respective parties.

And only the overwhelming narcissism of our Abrahamic faiths – including those among us who define themselves against them—would value the religious and historic significance of these “Holy Lands” to mean anything more than other lost holy lands for Buddhists in Tibet, or Sikhs in Khalistan, which was lost to Pakistan’s Punjab a year before Israel’s creation.

Yet activists with little ancestral connection to Palestine have become obsessed with instramentalising this particular dispute to grind their own ideological axes.

Just as I would argue for Palestinians during past crises in Gaza, Israelis are not collectively responsible for the mistakes of their government in failing to achieve peace.

BDS seeks to hold Israelis collectively responsible. BDS punishes an entire people for the actions of a government that only came to power because of the quirks of a proportionally representative (PR) system that allows for minority religious parties to exert undue influence over policy.

As a result of Israel’s PR system, Netanyahu is only able to secure victory by forming a coalition with Naftali Bennett’s far-right, pro-settler Jewish Home.

It is not uncommon on Western university campuses to witness absurdities such as student groups refusing to condemn ISIS for fear of causing anti-Muslim bigotry, or proudly partnering with pro-jihadist groups such as CAGE UK, all the while calling for the entire people of Israel to be boycotted.

No doubt, many of these same student groups would support Obama’s deal to ease sanctions on Hezbollah-terrorist-supporting, Assad-backing, theocratic Iran, while simultaneously calling for sanctions to be imposed on a democratic Israel.

In this latter case, it should be remembered that Iranian film has done wonders breaking down barriers and critiquing internal oppression, because Iranian cultural exchange was exempt from U.S.-imposed sanctions.

Consistency would be to continue encouraging more such openness, but the incredibly regressive step seeking to ban Israeli culture achieves the exact opposite.

As a British author I would be mortified if my work were censored around the world due to the actions of my government—such as the invasion of Iraq, which I have always opposed.

How would Turkish authors feel if they were held responsible for the increasingly unhinged, autocratic Erdogan’s Islamisation of Turkey, or his approach toward the Kurds?

And yet, amid Chinese abuse in Tibet and Xinjiang, Burmese oppression of the Rohingya, the Kurdish people’s struggles, the plight of women and just about any free thinker in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the rights of practically everybody in North Korea, and the Ukrainian struggle to liberate the Crimea, the only foreign government that seems to attract the constant ire of our National Union of Students is the one that – with all its imperfections – is more democratic and transparent than most of the above: Israel.

Even the outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon agreed that “decades of political manoeuvring have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports, and committees against Israel… In many cases, instead of helping the Palestinian issue, this reality has foiled the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.”

To this day, 47 resolutions concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict have been adopted by the UN Security Council. From 2016 alone one need only look at the 18 resolutions against Israel adopted during the UN General Assembly in September, or the 12 resolutions adopted in the Human Rights Council. The tragic reality is that these were more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran, and South Sudan combined.

Yes, you read that correctly.

To cite disproportionality against Israel inevitably leads to accusations by the hard-left that one’s fallen into the fallacy of “whatabouttery.” That is, trying to distract from one’s own transgressions by shouting “what about” someone else’s. In this case, supposedly trying to downplay Israel’s abuses or failings by pointing to other conflicts around the world.

But I am not engaging in this fallacy. I am calling it out.

Due to our Abrahamic narcissism, Israel has become the perennial ‘whatabout’ used by almost every political persuasion to push their own – often sinister – agenda. Fanatical Israeli settlers who usually hail from America seek to blow up the al-Aqsa compound to resurrect the Temple.

Evangelical Christians support Israel so that the Messiah can return and initiate armageddon, after which Jews can presumably go to hell.

Hamas has never held elections since coming to power, and brutally tortures and drags ‘collaborators’ across the streets of Gaza from the backs of motorcycles… but Israel!

Islamists the world over cite Israel as proof for why their theocratic caliphate must return.

Arab despots point to Israel as their excuse for never holding free and fair elections, ever.

Rather than look inwards, Muslim conspiracy loons claim Israel created ISIS.

The hard-left, such as the UK’s Stop the War, uses Israel to criticise the ‘imperialist West’, all the while acquiescing to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.

The hard-right use Israel for everything from boosting defence spending, to justifying ethnic profiling to building anti-immigrant walls.

In this way, obsessing over Israel has become the mother of all virtue-signals.

And while the conflict is uncannily similar to Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir – Israel and Pakistan were created for virtually identical reasons during the same period – Israel attracts far more hysteria.

Only by releasing the “exceptional status” pressure from this conflict, by stripping it of its religious hyperbole, by removing it from the spotlight, by simply placing it on a par with every and any other conflict in the world – tragic but not unique – do we stand a better chance of solving it. I call this “Israeli unexceptionalism.”

Only by accepting that there is nothing special about this conflict are the stakes lowered, emotions drained and reason returned. Only by remaining somewhat dispassionate are the frothing prophets of doom, with their armageddon pathology, deprived of their manipulative power over us.

Until then, just like London Fashion Week, Israel Apartheid Week will remain to me the moral leftist equivalent of our narcissistic first world problems.


More "takers" must become earners

Our tax base is concentrated in an ever-diminishing group of lifters. Nearly 60 per cent of corporate tax is paid by just 0.1 per cent of companies whilst nearly half of all personal tax is paid by nine per cent of earners

By Australian conservative politicuian Cory Bernardi

The “Statement of National Challenges” report was released this week by the Menzies Research Centre. It is very sober reading for anyone concerned about the future of our economy and our quality of life.

The subtitle of the report is ‘why Australians are struggling to get ahead’ and I think that is a sentiment shared by many of us.
The report’s author, former head of the National Commission of Audit, Tony Shepherd AO states:

“For generations the great promise celebrated in our national anthem - wealth in exchange for toil - has given us an enviable lifestyle. Yet Australians are beginning to doubt that promise…they have become distrustful of government and nervous about the future."

It’s a message that regular readers of this column have heard repeatedly over the years. The question remains, why aren’t the political class doing much to fix it?

At some levels, I don’t think many in politics are equipped to see the long term implications of their decisions. They justify our escalating national debt as less bad than others and therefore ok. They legitimise our high taxes by comparing them to socialist countries. They excuse the rorting of our generous welfare system as a human right rather than a hand-up.

It’s as if living beyond one’s means is a moral obligation for government.

The Shepherd report also contains some telling statistics under the heading ‘a strong economy is the basis of a just and fair society’; highlighting our borrowing for recurrent spending and our ageing population.

We currently spend in excess of $155 billion annually on welfare and $72 billion on health. That’s over half the budget on these two measures alone and both are growing well in excess of inflation.

Alarmingly, our tax base is concentrated in an ever-diminishing group of lifters. Nearly 60 per cent of corporate tax is paid by just 0.1 per cent of companies whilst nearly half of all personal tax is paid by nine per cent of earners.

Clearly this is not sustainable and makes a mockery of the cacophony of chanting ‘make the wealthy pay their fair share’ mantra. These lifters are doing that - and more.

I realise such statistics may not sit well with those who see others doing better but we have to confront the reality of the problem facing our nation.

Too many are expecting too much from government. Unfortunately too many in government seek to placate those demands for political expediency.

The real price of that opportunism will be borne by the next generation.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


No comments: