Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Yanis Varoufakis writes that the tendency of capitalism toward stagnation signals the need for greater public input into economic decisions. And Branko Milanovic discusses how the attitude that politics should be governed by greed has undermined the trust between citizens and governments necessary for either to thrive.

- Meanwhile, Ed Broadbent writes about the need to take back the concept of populism from the right-wing bigots who seek to use at a means of exclusion rather than a basis for public empowerment:
(I)t is important to remember that populism also has a democratic and pluralist provenance. It also speaks directly to the concerns of those threatened by inequality, democratic decline and the perceived indifference of political leadership. The most recent example of this is the kind of politics championed by Senator Bernie Sanders in the United States. Like those on the right, he, too, takes aim at elites and their self-serving use of power and claims the status quo is broken. But in place of xenophobia and exclusionary nationalism, he supports pluralism and calls for a diverse popular front with the explicit goal of strengthening and reinvigorating democracy, and uniting movements for social, racial, economic and environmental justice in a common struggle.
The key difference between right-wing populism and the populism of the progressive left – not just today but historically – is that the former is authoritarian and anti-pluralist, whereas the latter is democratic and inclusive. Projecting the imagined interests of the “real people” for whom they claim to speak, right-wing populists frequently pursue the vilification of vulnerable groups, fostering a political identity founded on exclusion. The treatment of non-Christians by Hungary’s Mr. Orban or the demonization of Latinos by Mr. Trump come to mind, as does his condemnation of immigrants from, as he put it, “shithole” countries.

Once in control of government, these authoritarian populists stack the institutions of state with their own allies, supporters and patrons – political corruption in its most naked form. Waging war on social movements and civil society, many also attack and demonize the free media. For Mr. Trump, all critical media is “fake news,” which he has described as being “the enemy of the people.” For Vladimir Putin and Mr. Orban, meanwhile, NGOs are frequently demonized and denounced as actors under foreign control.

Leftist populists, by contrast, challenge powerful systems by championing the social and material interests of ordinary people. While they also are critical of elites, they do not make them enemies. They attempt to bring all people together into the fight against inequality, racism and climate change. Far from being the left-wing equivalent of the authoritarian right as some centrists have insisted, the populist left is, in actuality, its democratic antithesis – and its worst nightmare.
- And George Monbiot discusses how the media in the UK and elsewhere is increasingly setting itself up to provide a platform for the worst possible voices.

- Arthur Neslen reports on growing warnings from the insurance sector that the extreme weather events caused by climate breakdown will soon make insurance unaffordable.

- Finally, Emma Paling reports on Doug Ford's move to stop the tracking of toxic chemicals and air pollutants to ensure that what people don't know can continue to hurt them.

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