The discussion subject was:
A select group of members joined the discussion for well over an hour. As the group was small, we could range widely and touch on a number of subject, like vaccinations (did you realise that populist dislike of facts included vaccinations?) etc.
We covered populism as it enabled Brexit, then led to the election of Donald Trump and his entourage in the USA, and it’s metastasising around Europe and the world threatening more countries: Putin’s Russia, probably the first one in the series, Poland and Hungary already under governments imposing populist agendas, the Netherlands narrowly averted having Wilders as prime minister, although his party gained four more seats in parliament, the French are going to the polls to elect their president on 23rd Apr for the first round and on May 7th for the 2nd round, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines…
At the end of the discussion, we went round the table to summarise each participant’s conclusions, here are some of them:
- We have to blame education for the rise of populism. Improving it is key to saving democracies,
- Populists look for the lowest common denominator, focusing on the negative and hate,
- One of the main roles of the House of Lords is to provide a counterbalance to the day-to-day and, at times populist, decisions of the Commons,
- And, a somewhat dispirited: It will always be with us,
- We have to be involved in politics and fight back against the lies and manipulations enabling populists in more and more countries,
If you wish to read more on the subject, here are some of the sources I accessed before the discussion:
- The Economist explains|What is populism? Populists can be everything from militarists to libertarians. So what does the word actually mean?
- How Democracies Fall Apart|Why Populism Is a Pathway to Autocracy By Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz
- The Jacksonian Revolt|American Populism and the Liberal Order By Walter Russell Mead
- and here is one of the sources Trevor contributed to the discussion, with a great quote by Winston Churchill, which seems more cogent than ever:
The multitudes remained plunged in ignorance of the simplest economic facts, and their leaders, seeking their votes, did not dare to undeceive them……No one in great authority had the wit, ascendancy, or detachment from public folly to declare these fundamental, brutal facts to the electorates; nor would anyone have been believed if he had……Delight in smooth-sounding platitudes, refusal to face unpleasant facts, desire for popularity and electoral success irrespective of the vital interests of the State, genuine love of peace and pathetic belief that love can be its sole foundation, obvious lack of intellectual vigour in both leaders of the British Coalition Government, marked ignorance of Europe and aversion from its problems in Mr. Baldwin, the strong and violent pacifism which at this time dominated the Labour-Socialist Party, the utter devotion of the Liberals to sentiment apart from reality, the failure and worse than failure of Mr. Lloyd George, the erstwhile great war-time leader, to address himself to the continuity of his work, the whole supported by overwhelming majorities in both Houses of Parliament: all these constituted a picture of British fatuity and fecklessness which, though devoid of guile, was not devoid of guilt, and, though free from wickedness or evil design, played a definite part in the unleashing upon the world of horrors and miseries which, even so far as they have unfolded, are already beyond comparison in human experience.
From the first volume of his magisterial history of the Second World War.
I came across this article after our discussion, but it’s worth checking as it contains interesting points of view: https://www.project-syndicate.org/onpoint/the-anatomy-of-populist-economics-by-brigitte-granville-2017-02
When do you want to meet?
Coming to the subject of the select group of members: we had a small group of participants at our latest meeting, as many members can’t make it for our current time slot. I would be grateful if you could let me know what would be your preferred time and day of the week, including days and times when you cannot make it, so that I can try to work out something likely to suit more people.