Third at least in Europe the divisive us against them political entrepreneurs

Third at least in europe the divisive us against them

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Third, at least in Europe, the divisive “us against them” political entrepreneurs whom we call populists ben- efit from an element of boredom and complacency. After seventy years of unprecedented peace and prosperity, many people no longer appreciate how much the European Union, NATO, and other institutions of cross-border co- operation have contributed to these achievements. On the technological side, the revolution in how people communicate with each other has exacerbated the problem. As old patterns of distinguishing between reli- able and rogue sources of news have broken down, many people tend to reinforce each other in their potentially mistaken beliefs in their own echo chambers. The global
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WINTER 2019 THE INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY 35 village is very fragmented. Societies will likely learn over time how to cope with the new information chaos. But that will be a long process. The key task for those who believe in the global liber- al order is to preserve as much of it as possible in coming years. That includes upholding NATO, the World Trade Organization, the European Union, and the euro. So far, the eurozone has managed that task less badly than the United States and the United Kingdom, which have suf- fered the biggest populist accidents based on false claims and “us against them” negativism, Trump, and Brexit. Unfortunately, the populist tide is not waning yet. In some cases, we will have to wait for populists to fail in power. Beyond credit-financed spending sprees, they cannot deliver their fairy-tale promises. They either will need to change or will get booted out after a while in countries where democratic institutions are embedded enough to withstand populist attempts to hollow them out. That populists can get real after a reality shock is not just a pipe dream. It has happened in Greece, where erstwhile firebrand Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is now German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s good friend, and in Austria, where the right-wing FPÖ has abandoned its euro-skepticism. Even in Italy, the largely self-inflicted recession is forcing radical leader Matteo Salvini to mel- low his economic populism. Chances are still that major pillars of the global liberal order will survive the populist onslaught in the end. u THE MAGAZINE OF INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC POLICY 220 I Street, N.E., Suite 200 Washington, D.C. 20002 Phone: 202-861-0791 Fax: 202-861-0790 [email protected]
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