Catch Up: Economics or Culture - What Has Fuelled the Rise of Right-Wing Populism?

Centre for European Reform: The Economics of Populism

“Communities that have seen industries shrink or disappear have not bounced back. The costs have been long-term and pernicious, and help explain the growing popular rejection of free trade. It is perhaps unsurprising that support for Brexit and Trump was strong in such communities in the UK and in the US. Too many people have lost confidence in the future; they do not believe that things will get better.

Another reason is distribution. Governments have cited competition brought on by globalisation as a reason to cut taxes on business and capital, while increasing them on consumption and labour. This approach, combined with an unprecedented bail-out of the financial sector following the financial crisis, has undermined popular faith in market capitalism and the elites that benefit most from it. The people who helped precipitate the crisis, who were among the highest paid, were bailed out, while the costs of the clearing up the crisis were borne by society as a whole, especially the poorest, who did nothing to cause the crisis.

However, while poor economic performance is clearly a cause of the rise in support for parties on the extremes, it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the ascent of nationalist populism. The academic debate about the causes of populism has become polarised, with some insisting that economic performance is to blame and others claiming that cultural factors are responsible. But political phenomena always have multiple causes, and the evidence shows that the economy has blown wind into the sails of pre-existing nationalist and anti-immigrant political movements.”

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Demos: Where Next for Social Housing?

I warned, back in 2012, that social housing providers could soon find themselves spread too thinly as they pick up the shortfall left by local agencies as austerity cuts took hold. Everything from mental health and substance abuse teams to employment and early years services, all of which have felt the full force of cuts imposed on local authorities from above, have no doubt found some salvation in the form of their local social housing associations. Many vulnerable groups who may have otherwise seen their services withdrawn, and who are lucky enough to be living in social housing, have found their landlords now stepping up to the plate in providing health and social care support, skills, education and employment support, debt and benefits advice, and so on.

Demand for these services has never been higher, yet grant funding to provide them has never been so hard to come by. Add to this the huge shortage of social housing following years of dwindling build rates by local authorities and an upward pressure on rents is an inevitability.

So where next for the sector? Associations like Orbit continue to look for ways to do more with less, tackling some of the root causes of their tenants’ poverty (e.g. affordable childcare) and rolling out relatively cheap but practical solutions (leaving soft furnishings in flats when people move out, saving new tenants that expense). Some are looking to improve social, inter-generational and peer support networks – tenants connected by their association and then helping each other, sharing skills and resources to improve lives at little expense. What’s clear is that these organisations are innovating, rather than giving up. Expanding their reach to tackle growing social needs, not retrenching into the narrow provision of four walls and a roof.

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New Economics Foundation: Emerging Green Economics

Central banks have played an increasingly prominent role in advanced economies over the last decade. They have created new money on a huge scale with quantitative easing programmes, forced banks to hold more capital, and begun constraining credit to certain sectors of the economy. Yet none of these policies have taken into account the urgent challenge of climate change and the need to shift our economies to a low-carbon trajectory. This is despite the accepted fact that there is still a huge carbon-finance gap to be filled and that climate change poses major financial stability risks.

In emerging and developing countries (EMDCs), however, the story is different. Here, in many cases, central banks have begun to play an important role in addressing the risks posed by climate change and the need for green investment.

EMDCs are more exposed to the immediate challenges of climate change. Many face greater physical risks, including more frequent, climate-change-related, severe weather events. They also recognise the need to rapidly shift their economies on to a sustainable ‘green growth’ path for their future prosperity and energy security. Excluding China, around 70% of global projected sustainable infrastructure investment needs ($3.5–4.0 trillion per year on average) will be required in EMDCs.

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