Political Cycles and Change

Many people are aware of a sense of change in the politics of the West right now. We have had the Brexit vote in the UK, the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US, Marine Le Pen in France, and neo-fascists and neo-communists gaining in the polls everywhere.

What is happening, and why is it happening?

If seems that we are merely at the end of the another cycle of politics.

After the second world war the world moved in a direction towards redistribution of wealth and the power of trade unions to deliver higher pay and better workers rights.

But it all went too far and by the end of the 1970s the trade unions, in Britain, indulged in so many strikes that it started to do more harm than good for the workers the unions were supposed to represent (it coincided with the oil crisis which caused economic problems for that decade and has allowed right-wingers to get away with claiming that all the problems of the 70s were due to high taxes and trade unions, rather than a mixture of reasons - some avoidable and some not).

It is hard to deny that the trade unions became over-powerful. People rejected this and voted for a change of economic direction and a rejection of the post-war consensus. Not surprisingly this resulted in a widening wealth gap, higher unemployment and stagnant wages, and more recently mass immigration was thrown into the mix, which helped push wages down further and house prices up. Thatcherite neo-liberal economics along with a 'liberal' social agenda has, like the trade union movement 30 years before, gone too far. That the UK should vote Brexit, the US for Donald Trump and that Marine le Pen should become popular and that questions are being asked about the wisdom of unrestricted global free trade are things that will come to be seen by historians as entirely predictable, given 35 years of politics going unchallenged in one direction without considering the ramifcations of those policies for ordinary people. It would appear that this is a pattern, driven by a clique getting too comfortable in their views, the subtle manipulation of public opinion and a generation of people working for the elite who feel compelled to adopt the ideas of the time.

The world will probably react by going too far the other way and tending towards extremes, but this is just another manifestation of the ebb and flow of human society.

If cliques and elites could avoid becoming too aloof from public opinion and avoid going too far then such cycles of change would happen slower and not get to the point of an extreme anti-reaction, but human society and human nature is what it is and this cycle of change will probably endure indefinitely.

If moderates don't listen to public opinion then extremists will.