Trump, Brexit, The London Riots, And Alternative Economic Futures

So, to return to the starting question, what do Trump and the London riots have in common? The London riots were provoked by an overwhelming sense of frustration. And when Trump and Brexit supporters realise that they are facing more broken promises and further cuts, further riots will of course ensue. Many, many reasons could be cited as to why neither Trump nor Brexit will solve what many anti-establishment voters see as the fundamental problems in the US and UK, namely immigration and inequality. For our purposes here though, only two are required: one is that countless studies have shown that neither the US nor the UK economies could function without high levels of cheap, immigrant labour. The choice is bleak – underpay immigrants or underpay your domestic workers; or shrink the economy. Either way, cuts in living standards are unavoidable to deal with these supposed problems. And secondly, it is worth recalling that neither the Brexit leaders nor Trump himself are opponents of liberalism. This may appear too obvious to warrant attention. But on this point, a range of other studies have shown that contrary to the assumptions of trickle-down economics, liberalism itself is the driving motor of rising inequality. Indeed, this critique formed the basis of Marx’s twenty-fifth chapter of Das Kapital. Market liberalism, so he argued, will not lead to greater equality, though the wages of the poor may rise. Instead, what matters is the relative divide between higher income and lower income individuals – he contested – and here the gap between the rich and the poor will only widen. It is still astonishing to me when I come across Economics, Business School, and Management undergraduates who have never been asked to engage substantively with this line of critique (more on this below). Put simply, neither Donald Trump nor Brexit will solve some of the problems voters are angry about. And so, having voted against the establishment but seen little to no change, these voters will be left with little recourse but more violent forms of protest; which in turn will be accompanied by even more aggressive forms of policing. This is what the London riots signified. The outlook does not look good.

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