The new left/right axis
The Economist has two interesting articles on the changing views of the right and left in America. One article (entitled “Frenemies”) discusses their convergence on economic issues:
Normally, you need read only the first six or seven words of a senator’s sentence to be able to correctly surmise his party. See if you can tell from the next 40 or so, an extract culled from a prominent senator’s recent book: “Today, neoliberalism is in. In the eyes of our elites, the spread and support of free trade should come before all other concerns—personal, political and geopolitical. In recent years this has led to a kind of ‘free-market fundamentalism’.” Suppose you were given a hint. The three proposed solutions for the neoliberal malaise are: “putting Wall Street in its place”, bringing “critical industries back to America” and resurrecting “an obligation to rebuild America’s workforce”.
If you guessed a Democrat—perhaps even more cleverly Bernie Sanders writing in his recent work, “It’s ok to be Angry About Capitalism”—you would be wrong. It was in fact Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida and one-time presidential contender, writing in his just-published book, “Decades of Decadence”. . . .
The diagnoses from the new right and new left of what ails America are strikingly similar. Both sides agree that the old order that prized expertise, free markets and free trade—“neoliberalism”, usually invoked as a pejorative—was a rotten deal for America. Corporations were too immoral; elites too feckless; globalisation too costly; inequality too unchecked; the invisible hand too prone to error.
Another article discusses the likely policies of a second Trump administration. They point out that Trump’s 2016 win was a surprise, and he was forced to rely on mainstream Republican officials for policymaking. According to The Economist, a second Trump term would be far different:
Once a second Trump administration had bent the bureaucracy to its will, what policies would it pursue? The department-by-department plans being drawn up at AFPI, Heritage and elsewhere give some guidance. They involve some predictable fusillades in the culture wars, such as completing a wall along the border with Mexico and directing all federal officials to consider only people’s biological sex, rather than “self-identified” gender. But some of the putative policy agenda is both more sweeping in scope and more of a break with past Republican orthodoxy.
One such area is the economy. The new right is enthusiastic about the kind of industrial policy the Biden administration has pursued. “No one in Ohio…cares that the Wall Street Journal editorial board doesn’t like the chips bill on free-market economic grounds,” J.D. Vance, a senator, recently told a gathering at American Compass, a think-tank, referring to a law subsidising semiconductor factories. In some cases Mr Trump’s supporters would go further: Mr Vance advocates taxing companies that shift work offshore.
The same pattern is playing out in Europe, where far right parties are on the rise and are capturing the votes of blue collar workers that once voted socialist or communist. In Europe, both political extremes now favor statist policies, but the right gains votes through its more aggressive cultural conservatism.
In the not too distant future, politics in the Western world will become almost unrecognizable to those of us who came of age in the 20th century.