Communism was a disaster for its people, but maybe it kept capitalism in check. Anger is brewing and its looking for an outlet.
“We need a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”
What do you think of that statement? Does it ring true for you?
Apparently it rang true for Americans at the last election. There was a huge exit poll conducted after the election. They surveyed a massive 45,000 people and asked them a tonne of questions.
But this is the one that stuck out for me. “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”
That’s huge right? 74%.
I find it totally fascinating. 74%. And if you break it down, it transcends all traditional divides. Republican 72% or Democrat 77%; Male 74% or Female 75%; White 75% or Black 74%; Rich 70% or Poor 79%; Christian 74% or Muslim 72%; Graduates 68% or not 76%; they all agreed.
It’s hard to think of another topic that would have that kind of consensus. “Justin Beiber is a dreamboat.” ..?
I wonder how it would play out here. If you asked Australians: “We need to take this country back from the rich and powerful.”
Would you agree? (Seriously. Would you? Drop a comment. I know it’s not scientific study but I’d be curious to know.)
I think we still have it pretty good in Australia. And inequality is not as in your face as it is in America. But I still reckon there’s growing anger at the way the world is going.
I think there is a sense that the ‘fair go’ is being eroded. Politicians follow the lead of whoever is paying the bills (even if the donations are coming from foreign entities!). Banks and large corporations are left to regulate and tax themselves. Job security and opportunity is falling just as we’re asked to pay more for basic services.
IT’S TIME TO ORGANISE, COMRADES!!
Oh, whoa. Don’t know what came over me there. 70s flash-back.
But I’m also not entirely joking. If there’s a consensus about taking things back from the rich and powerful, then there’s fertile ground for radical political movements – whether that’s religious fanatics or economic zealots.
I’m probably old enough to not be too susceptible to their seduction. I firmly believe that having the government coordinate economic activity is a thoroughly disastrous way to organise ourselves. (I’m not sure I’d trust the government with a bake sale.) And I’m past getting all hot for scruffy revolutionaries in berets.
But how’s that saying go? ‘We glorify the past when the future dries up.’ I’m not so worried about my generation. I’m worried about the kids, who have seen the worst excesses of the modern world, and are too young to have any real memories of the oppressive alternatives.
And that showed up in this exit poll I was talking about. They asked people if democracy was a good way to run the country.
24% of 16-24 year olds said that democracy was a ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ way to run the country!!
That’s one in four! Lord save us!
And the thing that really scared me was the ‘strong leader’ bit of the first statement. American needs a ‘strong leader’.
I guess most people read that and think Trump or Clinton. Maybe Justin Beiber.
I read that and think Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.
Nothing frightens me more than the prospect of a strong leader trying to recast the country in his own image. That’s a nightmare scenario.
It seems clear that the system isn’t working. People aren’t happy with it, and that’s probably the only measure of success worth worrying about. The only question is whether we quietly and sensibly go about fixing it, or whether some ‘strong leader’ comes along and throws a match on the whole thing.
So part of me wonders if the world needs communism. Or if capitalism needs communism.
For a while there, it was a two horse race. In the west we were united in wanting to see the values of freedom triumph in every sphere – from economics to politics. We were united in making our countries great.
However, after the communist horse died, it felt like we stopped being driven to make capitalism great. Companies became interested in profits and nothing else. Politics descended into rent seeking.
We stopped caring if capitalism worked. We only cared if it worked for us.
So maybe capitalism needs communism – that competitor to keep it honest, and to keep its worst excesses in check.
I don’t think there’s any way to revive communism now, and I don’t think you’d want to.
But I think this is a time for freedom-loving people to be careful. The seeds of destruction are planted. Everyone is angry. People are calling for a ‘strong leader’.
We need to find a way to make it work.
Do you think we need to ‘take the country back from the rich and powerful?’