Don’t pathologise populism
Too many intellectuals are unable to look dispassionately at populism. Cas Mudde is a case in point. His comment about rethinking liberal democracy (“Liberalism on the front foot,” Jan/Feb) is mainly unobjectionable but notice those weasel phrases about conservatives winning on radical right agendas and normalising the far right.
Not long ago Mudde was one of the most original analysts of populism, arguing that its central concerns are also, in milder form, at the centre of mainstream politics. The implication was that populism, at least in its non-extreme forms, was a legitimate counterbalance to liberalism.
Alas, he has now joined Paul Mason and others in the extreme claim that far-right populist ideas have taken over mainstream politics and in his lectures even cites my book as an example.
But the takeover has clearly gone the other way. Boris Johnson has co-opted and adapted populist ideas, won a thumping majority and sent Nigel Farage packing. Johnson is not threatening minority rights by implementing the result of a democratic referendum, and presides over the most ethnically diverse UK cabinet ever. By pathologising the views of perfectly decent people who are uncomfortable with the post-national drift of European politics, Mudde contributes to the polarisation of political life.
David Goodhart is the founding editor of Prospect and author of “The Road to Somewhere” (Penguin)
Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman remind us that governments are not bystanders when it comes to corporate taxation and that there is an alternative to self-defeating tax competition (“Companies paying their taxes,” Jan/Feb).
There is currently a process of OECD negotiation that will hopefully lead to a set of accounting rules to relate tax bills to where profits originate rather than, as now, where companies choose to declare them.
These authors deal with what happens in the meantime, in effect recommending that home country-based companies should be taxed by home country governments, as in the US, on their global income and profits. That is theoretically possible but the idea of a currently weakened UK taking on the US and other major economies in a war over tax revenue is unconvincing. Nor is it clear that the UK has more to gain than lose from changing the base of corporate tax.
We need to have realistic expectations about corporate tax,…