Brexit Has Divided Generations in United Kingdom

A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014
A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014 (Ray Wewerka)

George Eaton argues in Britain’s New Statesman that age has replaced class as the nation’s best predictor of voting intentions.

Middle-class support for Labour and working-class support for the Conservatives rose in the last election. At the same time, the left attracted almost two-thirds of the youth vote and the right the support of almost two in three pensioners.

Young people have long been more progressive than their elders, but this wide an age gap is unusual. Read more

New Social Compact: Deregulation and Universal Basic Income

Two people shake hands
Two people shake hands (Pixabay)

I believe that to shrink the culture gap in Western democracies — between generally well-educated “globalists” and those who feel left behind — we need a new social compact.

The twentieth century’s was built on strong trade unions, lifetime employment and health and pension benefits tied to salaried jobs. The economy, and people’s expectations, have changed in such a way that this is no longer sustainable. But we haven’t come up with a replacement yet.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Dalibor Rohac may be onto something. He calls for a “grand bargain”: serious deregulation coupled with the introduction of a universal basic income. Read more

Brexit Has Become the Totem of Britain’s Culture War

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

Why have not more British people changed their minds about leaving the EU now that it turns out the promises of the “leave” campaign are not being met?

Sebastian Payne argues in the Financial Times that it’s because Brexit has become the totem of the island’s culture war. Read more

An Old Conflict in New Form

Opening of the French Estates General at Versailles, May 5, 1789
Opening of the French Estates General at Versailles, May 5, 1789 (Auguste Couder)

I used to think that rise of far-right populism, the crisis of social democracy and growing divides along class and educational lines were creating a new political reality in the West.

In a 2016 report for the consultancy Wikistrat, I argued that the political spectrum was shifting from left-right to cosmopolitan-nationalist.

Others made similar observations:

  • Andrew Sullivan argued in 2014 that America’s blue-red culture war had come to Europe: “Blue Europe is internationalist, globalized, metrosexual, secular, modern, multicultural. Red Europe is noninterventionist, patriotic, more traditional, more sympathetic to faith, more comfortable in a homogeneous society.”
  • Stephan Shakespeare, a British pollsters, observed a year later that people were either “drawbridge up” or “drawbridge down”.
  • The Economist characterized the divide as between open and closed: “Welcome immigrants or keep them out? Open up to foreign trade or protect domestic industries? Embrace cultural change or resist it?”
  • David Goodhart divided people into “anywheres” — mobile and open-minded — and “somewheres” — attached to country, community, family.

I still think this is broadly correct, but now I wonder how new this split really is. Read more

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

A Donald Trump yard sign in Taylorville, Illinois, June 18, 2016
A Donald Trump yard sign in Taylorville, Illinois, June 18, 2016 (Jason Matthews)

The votes for Brexit, European populism and Donald Trump weren’t working-class revolts.

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Adam Serwer have argued that mostly-white elites are drawn to the “economic anxiety” thesis because it absolves them of responsibility for more intractable problems, like racism, xenophobia and self-delusions about both.

If nativists are motivated by stagnating wages, then there are policy solutions for bringing them back into the mainstream.

But what if their grievances aren’t so concrete? Read more

In City-Country Imbalance, Don’t Focus Only on the Left Behind

View of the Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, June 23, 2014
View of the Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, June 23, 2014 (Pixabay/Elena Repina)

Janan Ganesh warns in the Financial Times against looking at the city-countryside imbalance exclusively through the lens of the places that have been left behind.

As a moral proposition, this is right, he argues: “the weakest first.” But as a reading of how politics will unfold over time, it could be the wrong way around:

The anger that poor regions feel for the rampant metropolis — that Pas-de-Calais feels for Paris, that Indiana feels for New York — might turn out to weigh less than the grievances that flow in the opposite direction.

City dwellers may at some point decide they have had enough of subsidizing provincials who vote against their heathen ways from a distance. “Call it representation without taxation.” Read more

Globalization Boosts Some Regions, Marginalizes Others

The skyline of Detroit, Michigan, July 18, 2009
The skyline of Detroit, Michigan, July 18, 2009 (Michael Kumm)

The Economist reports that globalization has marginalized once thriving industrial areas, such as Scranton, Pennsylvania, Teesside in the United Kingdom and France’s Pas-de-Calais.

It is no coincidence that Donald Trump, Brexit and Marine Le Pen got some of their highest vote shares in those regions. Read more