"Populism is not crushed by empathy or understanding or cuddles. It is killed by brute force."by John McTernan / April 1, 2016 / Leave a comment
The biggest cheers at the Trump rally in Ohio I attended were for the USA. Whenever the Donald lost his train of thought he’d lean forward and say “Shall we do the USA chant?” and the audience would enthusiastically respond “USA! USA! USA!” The biggest jeers were for Mexico: “We’re gonna build a wall! Where?” “Mexico!” “Who’s gonna pay for it?” “Mexico!” “Damn right!” As a guy I chatted to outside, a former journalist, explained: “That’s an anti-NAFTA crowd.”
The NAFTA (North American Free Trade Area) treaty was signed nearly a quarter of a century ago and it remains not just controversial, but a genuine political grievance—the issues of jobs, immigration and Mexico are intertwined in US politics. This despite the fact that between 1993 and 2011 US trade in goods and services with Canada and Mexico more than tripled, from $337bn to $1.2 trillion. This is an unalloyed good given that trade is the rising tide that lifts all boats. It is, after all, globalisation—or as we called it in the 1970s “international finance capital”—that has done the most in recent decades to rescue billions of people in developing countries from poverty.
Free trade is the only game in town. And it’s a not a zero-sum game—both sides win. So why does it seem to be in retreat everywhere you look? This is the paradox of populist politics—there are a lot of angry people out there, but the world is definitively better than it has ever been. Disagree? Then answer CS Lewis’s waspish, donnish question—”Which era in history would you rather live in? One without penicillin, for instance?”