The troubled waters of Liberal vs Conservative
When we speak of “new eras” we can think of many areas where dramatic changes have occurred, or, are occurring, like changes in the economy, changes in how corporations are being structured and so on.
There has been much discussion in these areas and it seems as if some consensus is building.
Right now, however, in the Western world we are tending to put off the changes that have taken happened.
These changes are very significant and point to a substantial difference in governments and government behavior coming to us in the future.
For one, we still try to get by on dividing the political spectrum in country into the liberal side and the conservative side. And, we pretty well know what ideas to throw into the menu of policies that is consistent with each realm of thought. Or, do we?
We didn’t see the changes coming. And, consequently, we are having a very difficult time trying to understand what the changes really mean.
In America, we didn’t see the changes coming. I think some of the transition was picked up in books like “Hillbilly Elegy” by J. D. Vance or Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” These two books, I believe, capture the reality that the consequences we are experiencing now have been a long time in the making.
And, I think that many other Western nations went through their own, but similar evolutions to get where we are today.
And, where are we today?
Well, there are many examples, but I believe that what is going on in Great Britain captures many of the characteristics of the evolving state of things.
First, the political parties are a mess, they have evolved into a state in which there are no longer just two sides to the story…liberal or conservative.
Prime Minister Theresa May, in trying to put together a plan to exit the European Union, is having a devil of a time with Boris Johnson, also from the Conservative Party and her former Secretary of State in Ms. May’s government.
Ms. May, leading the effort to achieve a “softer” Brexit, Mr. Johnson working to push Britain into something much “harder.” But, then there are others voices within the Conservative Party that have their own different shades of “Brexit”…or of “remaining” in the European Union.
Then there is the Labour Party, being led by Jeremy Corbyn. One has to be careful here, but from what I have observed, I shudder to think that a major party in England would choose someone so out-of-date with the world.
Then there is the makeup of the Labour Party. It seems to me to be as splintered as the Conservative Party.
What is needed is a re-alignment of the parties, which might even include a division of the parties that would produce groups that were more consistently defined.
However, that would take leadership…and I see little or no leadership in the British nation.
But, Great Britain is not alone.
Shall we look at Italy?
Italy, now has a government composed of two “populist” components, one the anti-immigrant party, Lega, or, League Party and the Five Star Movement, co-founded by Beppe Grillo, an Italian comedian who it Italy’s Boris Johnson…or is Boris Johnson, England’s Beppe Grillo?
Whatever, this government has now been in place for about four months and has just prepared its first budget, which in neither consistent with European Union guidelines or with financial market expectations. Since, Thursday, September 27, since the budget was announced, the Italian stock market has dropped by more than 4.0 percent and the yield on the 10-year government bond has risen from 2.92 percent at the close on Thursday to 3.31 percent at the market close on Monday, October 1.
But, Italy has many, many parties and is known for it fragmented governments and the fact that it changes prime ministers every two year or so. Now, it is the “populists” that have rented the government buildings for a while.
Looking elsewhere, Germany has its problems and Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to be in the weakest position she has ever been and many are wondering just how much longer she will remain in power. The “populists” have reared their head in Germany as well.
France seems to be relatively stable now with President Emmanuel Macro leading the government, but one cannot totally forget Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Rally political party and the major challenger to Mr. Macro in the last presidential election.
Then there are the events taking place in Sweden and the Netherlands. No place seems to be exempt in the West these days.
And, this story does not exclude the United States and the core constituency of president Donald Trump. Here we get back to the stories presented by J. D. Vance and Charles Murray, mentioned above.
But, even this is not the full story because the American political parties are split up this way and that way, not unlike Europe. On the right side of the spectrum, there are the “traditional” conservatives that distinguish themselves from the Trump base. On the far left, there is Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But, there are also four or five other that could be separated from this list.
The story seems to be relatively consistent in most Western nations. And, the pundits are really just getting started in trying to cypher this all out. What are the main themes? Who belongs where in terms of political thinking? What are the major issues? What are the major programs? How are the various components going to form together to get elected? To run a government?
This is one of the reasons why these governments are finding people so defensive, so agitated, so unbending? Analysts have called the current situation one of “identity politics.” Each little group has its own label. But, this doesn’t put together a workable, pragmatic program. And, we are suffering for this.
Unfortunately, this is going to have to be worked out and, I fear, it is going to take many years to work it out. This, I believe, puts the West on the defensive against China…and Russia…and others that are not facing such fragmentation.
Finally, I argue that there is an absence of leaders in the West. No one knows where to lead from and so the potential leaders just sound hollow. This seems to be the hand that we have been dealt, given the composition of the deck of cards we have to play with.