Well, I actually disagree with P.J. O'Rourke, who she quotes:
"Populism is a lie and a logical sophistry. The very idea of the “struggle of the haves against the have-nots” presupposes the zero-sum fallacy that only a fixed amount of good things exist in the world, and I can only have more good things if I take them from you." -P.J. O'Rourke
Now O'Rourke is a smart guy so it's very interesting what he left out of his piece - because what he left out sets up a straw man for him to knock down. Silly populists! Don't you know that you're getting in the way of the march towards a history so bright we'll have to wear shades?
Except that's not how it's worked out over the last 40 years, is it? Public policy has focused on a very specific set of preferences - environmental regulation, free trade, and open borders. Each of these has had two consequences. First, it has led to massive off-shoring of manufacturing to east Asia in particular, padding the bottom line of corporate America and leading to a lot of great high paying government jobs for Ivy League graduates like O'Rourke. Second, it has hollowed out the working class and the towns they live in. Not for nothing is it called the "Rust Belt".
This isn't an issue of mechanization and productivity reducing employment. Rather, it was an explicit choice (by both political parties) that U.S. Government policy should encourage factories and their high paying jobs to be located elsewhere than in the U.S.A.
And now Mr. O'Rourke wonders, mystified, where all this populism came from all of a sudden. And look at how cynically he phrases the issue: "I can only have good things if I take them from you" - when that's precisely what corporate America and O'Rourke's swell Ivy League buddies did to working class America.
They have made out very well financially on the destruction of industrial America. O'Rourke knows this - after all, he hails from Toledo Ohio.
And so to "populism", by which O'Rourke no doubt means "Donald Trump". I posted about this dynamic way back in the summer of 2016, when I linked to a post by the blogger who went by the nom de blog Archdruid. The Archdruid posted what I thought was all you needed to know to understand what was happening. This bit is most relevant to O'Rourke's rather pathetic strawman:
The result in both countries [UK and USA] was a political climate in which the only policies up for discussion were those that favored the interests of the affluent at the expense of the working classes and the poor. That point has been muddied so often, and in so many highly imaginative ways, that it’s probably necessary to detail it here. Rising real estate prices, for example, benefit those who own real estate, since their properties end up worth more, but it penalizes those who must rent their homes, since they have to pay more of their income for rent. Similarly, cutting social-welfare benefits for the disabled favors those who pay taxes at the expense of those who need those benefits to survive.In the same way, encouraging unrestricted immigration into a country that already has millions of people permanently out of work, and encouraging the offshoring of industrial jobs so that the jobless are left to compete for an ever-shrinking pool of jobs, benefit the affluent at the expense of everyone else. The law of supply and demand applies to labor just as it does to everything else: increase the supply of workers and decrease the demand for their services, and wages will be driven down. The affluent benefit from this, since they pay less for the services they want, but the working poor and the jobless are harmed by it, since they receive less income if they can find jobs at all.
At this point I must point out that I'm a member of that salary class, and have done very well over the last 30+ years. However, my chosen field (Computer/Network Security) sure doesn't seem to have taken away any working class jobs - and my upbringing leaves me infuriated by O'Rourke's sneering. And even more so by his seemingly intentional blindness to the consequences of the policies he advocates. This song brutally exposes what he can't be bothered to cast his eyes upon:
These people are our neighbors. They are our fellow countrymen. Are their dreams for the future of less import than our own? Should public policy in this country crush those dreams? Is there a reason why public policy should preference Palo Alto over Toledo?
I'm afraid this turned into a rant - that certainly is not directed at Tam. But the smug self-satisfaction of folks like O'Rourke - people who listened to their professors telling them that they were "the best and the brightest" and who actually bought into that malarky - they are really just showing the world that they're a bunch of dumbasses. Nice strawman, O'Rourke. Be a shame if someone knocked it down, amirite?
And at this point if you do not understand what is driving populism in this country (both the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders versions) then watch that video again. And read the quote from O'Rourke again. Repeat as necessary. You will know that you understand modern populism precisely when the hair on the back of your neck stands on end.
Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever- Thomas Jefferson