Tyler Cowen, author of “The Complacent Class,” came to Business Insider and discussed how recent moments of political upheaval such as the rise of Donald Trump and Brexit are actually backward-looking movements.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Josh Barro: When we talk about complacency and all of the political upheaval that has happened over the last few years, is it complacent to vote for things like Brexit? Is it complacent to elect Donald Trump president? It feels like people are thirsting for big changes, they don’t want to stay exactly where we are, at least in our political environment.
Tyler Cowen: It’s an underlying theme of the book that complacency can’t last forever. If you cease to replenish the creative capital of your society, at some point things will get broke, so your politics may become too fixed-pie-based, so people are fighting over a fixed pie rather than building a growing pie, and you’ll have a political crack-up, or maybe you won’t be able to meet a debt crisis. That’s what we’re seeing now, but I think if you look even at Trump, it’s striking how much his message is really backward-looking, toward the past. If he talks about infrastructure, it’s not the smart grid or biotech, it’s about fixing roads, tunnels, and bridges, a very even 1930s vision. So people want to make America great again, not build the new America of the future.
Josh Barro: So, and you saw that with Bernie Sanders, I would contend, too. There’s a certain idea of a lost period when labour unions worked well and when jobs paid people enough to make a good living. That also looks sort of like a backward-looking vision.
Tyler Cowen: That’s right, as is Brexit. Some notion of an earlier England, which may or may not ever have been true, but if only we detach from the European Union, we’ll somehow get that back again, but it’s not there anymore.
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