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Are We Heading Towards a Far Right Planet? Its Economics, Politics, and Future, Plus, Vicious Cycles and Worst Case Scenarios

Are We Heading Towards a Far Right Planet? Its Economics, Politics, and Future, Plus, Vicious Cycles and Worst Case Scenarios

I’m Umair Haque, and this is The Issue: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported publication. Our job is to give you the freshest, deepest, no-holds-barred insight about the issues that matter most.

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Right about now, multiple worst case scenarios are starting to come true, all at once. Politically, socially, and economically. 

  • In America, Trump’s solidly ahead of Biden, if you “believe the polls,” which you should, and we’ve talked about that plenty, the Economist giving Trump a 2/3rd chance of winning.
  • In Europe, the far-right’s winning victory after victory, from Holland to Italy to Finland and Sweden and Portugal to the EU itself and beyond.
  • In France, the far right’s projected to win the snap election Macron just called, which would be perhaps the greatest tectonic shift in global politics in the post-war era, and I shouldn’t need to remind you of the obvious poignance of the history here.
  • Beyond all that, from Russia to India to China, the far right remains solidly in power.

It appears that we’re well on the way to living on a far right planet. If all the victories above continue to happen, places not governed by the far right, at least in terms of global power, will significantly outnumber those that aren’t.

To put it another way, liberal democracy will become something like an endangered species. A sudden, striking minority, limited to Canada, a handful of European stragglers, and perhaps a small number of nations on the rim, like maybe Australia. 

That should give us all pause. 

We are now at a juncture in history where liberal democracy is on the cusp of becoming an endangered species. 

The “liberal” in that sentence is the grand sense of the term—not neoliberal, not any kind of ideological version of it, but just liberal, as in, liberation, freedom, equality, justice, all of which form the tenets of the modern project of democracy. 

Does that worry you? It worries me, a very great deal, indeed. Why?

The Future of a Far Right Planet

What can we glean about the future of a far-right planet? 

Before our very eyes, we have a sad example, which is Britain. It used to be one of the world’s pre-eminent liberal democracies. And then, for a combination of reasons, from disinformation to just sheer folly, it turned against liberal democracy, with a greater vengeance than we’ve seen in any rich, modern society. And today, of course, it’s a shattered wreck, wracked by poverty, its economy shrinking, its once-great systems and institutions ruined.

Britain teaches us a lesson, about what the future of a far right planet holds. A series of them, in fact.

Let’s begin with timing. How long will the devastating consequences of a far-right planet last? They’ll be generational, at least, as they are in Britain today. Britain chose this path of illiberalism fifteen years ago—and so that teaches, us, too, just how fast you can wreck one of the world’s most successful societies. For it, though, the consequences of these horrific choices, from Brexit to austerity and beyond—they’ll last easily another decade, if not two. That’s over twenty-five years, which, in social science, is a generation, and so: the consequences of a far right planet are at least generational.

But even that’s understating it. Britain is now—and Brits still don’t quite grasp this—permanently worse off. The same jobs in America now pay up to triple or quadruple the salaries, for example, and that gap is simply too big now to ever close. This is what it means to become a poorer society—you fall behind your peers.

On a far right planet, of course, there are few peers. What happens is that economies begin to underperform relative to their potential. And that potential is lost permanently, just as British salaries will now never rise to American or even European levels. Zoom that out to a globe, and you begin to get the picture—but let me now shade it in.

Economics on a Far Right Planet

There’s no question that neoliberalism’s failed, and failed catastrophically. These days, you’ll hear even its once-ardent proponents begin to admit it. But the retreat to a far-right planet will have severe consequences economically.

Let’s take Trump’s idea to replace taxes with tariffs. Sounds like a great idea, if you don’t think about it very much. If you do, it’s just…a regressive tax. Worse, whose benefits flow to already mega-rich mega-corporations and hedge funds and their owners. Taxes are at least in some loose sense equitable, even if we all know Jeff Bezos pays less than a teacher. But tariffs? Across the board? They’d hit the poorest hardest, and they’d fail to raise any real level of necessary investment in public services.

A far right planet would be a place of isolationism, nationalism, and barriers, economically speaking. And that’d hit people incredibly hard. Much, much harder than they understand right now. At the moment, everyone’s angry about inflation, rightly so. But on a far right planet? Prices would spike even higher, because of course now barriers of all kinds would be in the way, from tariffs to red tape—and that’s exactly what Britain’s experienced after Brexit, too, a far higher than average level of inflation.

Meanwhile, people would grow poorer, fast, just as in Britain. That’d happen for a combination of reasons. Lower public investment would end plenty of public sector jobs, and even in America, land of “small” government, the government’s by far the largest employer in the economy—it always is. At the same time, as prices rose, growing poorer, people would have less left over to fund anything resembling a modern social contract.

So the economics of a far right planet? They’re even worse than this one. I know that people don’t understand, and sadly, nobody much tries to teach them, but that task, which is going to be a thankless one, must be undertaken. If you want even higher prices, more inflation, even more shrunken public services, fewer jobs, lower incomes—then by all means, the far right’s the way to go.

The problem arises in the form of the next natural question, which is: well, so what does liberalism have to offer? The truth is: these days, not much.

Society on a Far Right Planet

Economically? Liberalism—neoliberalism—is a failure now on an almost Soviet scale, a world rebelling against it, thanks to long run stagnation compounded by perpetual shocks like inflation and financial crises and inequality. 

So liberalism desperately needs a new economic proposition to take to people, beyond, hey, the rich will get super rich, and you, you suck it up, the pain is good for you.

But liberalism is also going to need a new social proposition. The far right shell game at the moment is simple, as it always is, and precisely the same as it was in the 1930s. Blame the woes of the average person on the other, foreigners, immigrants, what have you.

And here the picture grows murkier. To understand the future of far right societies, we can look at any number of examples. Let’s place them on a spectrum from Britain to Russia. Russia’s the extreme example, of course, and who’d want to live in a society like that if they had the choice, apart from a handful of fanatics? Freedoms are severely limited, opportunities are curtailed, and life is pretty bleak. 

The other end of the spectrum, though, is Britain—there, though it clings to the idea that it’s a modern society, in truth, it’s one now gripped by Dickensian poverty, and social ills. The water’s full of shit, for heaven’s sake. Child poverty’s endemic. Medicine’s in such perpetual shortage it doesn’t even make the headlines anymore. Jobs pay shockingly little—a senior exec can expect to make less than a plumber would in America. And norms of fairness, decency, truth, and equality have all gone out of the window, as demagogues, fanatics, crooks, and lunatics have risen to power. It’s not a pretty picture—and as one person put it memorably on national TV, how can a Prime Minister who’s “richer than the King” relate to the average person, or care about them?

Society on a far right planet is ugly. And we shouldn’t need to remember that, but somehow, we do. Think back to the 1930s. The ugliness and obscenity of those times, which has been memorialized in countless works of art, from the hatred to the persecution to the violence. What’s less often thought of is what it’s actually like to live in such a society, even for those who once proudly backed it. It becomes a fearsome thing, because having handed control over a society’s basic functions to its most brutal and venal, of course, life quickly descends into the inferno. This is the lesson too many societies had to learn the hard way the last time around.

Culture disintegrates. Persecution becomes the central focus. Human life is reoriented around great projects of self-destruction—cleaning the impure, curtailing the rights of the subhumans, women and minorities, elevating the superhumans, the demagogues and their cronies. Instead of being oriented towards anything constructive. Authoritarianism creeps towards totalitarianism, and people are watched closely for any deviation from the new social missions of self-destruction. 

Modernity begins to die, at first slowly, and then faster and faster. In America, of course, this process is already advanced, thanks to the Supreme Court. But now imagine a whole planet dedicated to these kinds of senseless projects of self-destruction. What kind of fate does a civilization like that have?

One road out of this mess is…time, perhaps. We’ve discussed how the effects of a far-right planet will be generational, at least. Let me now put that in plain English: if these worst-case scenarios come true, we’re looking at up to twenty five of the worst years in modern history

Maybe nations will come to their senses sooner, but in a way, even if they do, the problem is that the damage lingers far beyond that moment. At a bare minimum, we’re looking at a decade that easily rivals the 1930s for title of Worst in Modern History.

The problem of a far right planet is that it all happens at once, and in that way, everything compounds on itself. Think back to the 1930s. There was an Axis, and an Allies. But this time? If America, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Russia, China, India…I could keep going…have all gone far right…at the same moment in history…who does that leave? To take up the mantle of global leadership?

Certainly, it leaves little room for an “Allies” sort of force in the world. What it leaves, in more realistic terms, is a kind of archipelago of surviving islands of democracy, and a core of the world blown apart by a supervolcano, which doesn’t really exist as a modern democracy anymore. That sort of world? It doesn’t have leaders.

And it also doesn’t have much of the following. Cooperation. Peace. Justice. Truth. Decency. Goodness. What it has is factions, fighting to be the purest or truest of blood and soil, contesting resources, each scapegoating the next, and that’s precisely the way that great and historic conflicts, right up to World Wars break out.

Those are the problems of a far right planet, and they shouldn’t be simplified to just “it’s one heading for World War.” That much is true, certainly, especially as we look at China, Russia, and America—but the problems are more subtle, still. Global cooperation dies. The International rule of law, already becoming a mockery, withers. Levels of investment and trade, already falling, plummet. A vicious cycle ensues, just as isolationism and nationalism made the Great Depression worse, and sparked World War II—precisely the same cycle. And as people grow that much poorer, faster and faster, the anger, rage, and hatred only swells and grows towards a crescendo.

This is the path we’re on right now. I’m not saying it’s written in stone, just yet. We can change it, still. But to do so, we must begin understanding the danger of this moment, much better, deeper, truer. We are playing with fire now, in history’s greatest terms. Let us not repeat its most foolish and tragic mistakes, any longer, just for the sake of spite, which is only ever another name for the folly of self-destruction.

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