THE RISE OF POPULISM AND ITS EFFECT ON ECONOMIC POLICYMAKING
By Viraj Mehta
Economic policy making has changed significantly over the last few years, reflecting political shockwaves which have stunned the world in their sheer significance, the most wide-reaching being Brexit and the elections of populist leaders across the world. Liberal democracy is under threat from populist invasion, and its time to reverse this before it’s too late. Populism can be defined as the idea that society is separated in two groups at odds at each other.
Firstly, the Brexit vote in 2016 is considered by most as the initial birth of populism and, in its infancy, populism struck at the heart of Britain, leading to an extremely narrow win for the leave campaigners. However, this displayed populism, since there were these two groups at polar opposites pitted against each other. Two years on from the Brexit vote, the UK is still facing reverberations from the political earthquake of Brexit as we undergo the transformation away from the European Union into a world where we fend for ourselves.
Since then, populism has fostered and grown, as people looked to Brexit as an independence movement, and followed in its footsteps, leading to more similar events such as the election of many controversial leaders such as Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines as well as the infamous Donald Trump in America. All these elections can mainly be attributed to populism – the population voting against the norm and status quo of society to elect leaders who hold extremist views. The rise of these leaders has made a lot of people nervous as to the future of the world and where it is headed.
According to leading academics, the main reasons for populism have been the fact that citizens are now restless and angrier, and they feel disconnected from the ruling party, leading to anti-disestablishmentarian voting. Traditional liberal politicians are the feed for anti-disestablishment politicians, reforming public opinion. This has led to an increase in identity politics, cutting back on elite arrogance to get away from narrow identities. Alluding to the examples of Macron and Trudeau, they both shared a great common identity with the respective populations and Gandhi and Lincoln shared an inclusive identity. However, nowadays, there is too much toxic nationalism, fuelled by a media environment which makes people more sensitive to bad news than good news.
Overall, this has led to revolutionary changes in economic policymaking as countries try to appease the general population while staying true to their foundations which got them there. In the near future, populism will continue to increase, and its only up to governments to stop its wave of pressure.