The apparent failure of the Western model enabled a four-pronged assault on its foundations. It is based on a widely shared belief that responsibility for worsening living conditions lies elsewhere: with foreigners, corporates, infidels or the elite.
- From the right, economic nativism attacks globalisation by challenging the freedoms of trade and movement. Trump and Brexit policies, however, are bound to depress living standards by disrupting global supply chains and curbing economies of scale while restricting consumer choice.
- From the left, neo-socialism aims to restrict freedom of capital by reining in global corporations (and their tax schemes) and to shield local players from competition. However, a Sanders / Corbyn programme might trigger capital flight, thus shrinking opportunities for productivity growth.
- From “above,” religious radicalism aims to annihilate the West’s rational and liberal values. Violent Islamic extremism and Christian fundamentalism are united in their denial of science, evolution and climate change. Both share with the anti-vaccination movement a potentially disastrous public health impact.
- From below, an angry population questions the so-called “elites” underpinning the Western model, such as politicians, unions and the media. Due to their incapacity to properly implement globalisation and digitisation in their own realms, they appear outright complicit with locust-like corporates as well as criminal migrants.
However, any sort of backlash only exacerbates the middle classes’ quandary. Knee-jerk reactions against a dissatisfying status quo undermine crucial institutions until they become irredeemable. And yet, thorough understanding of their failure unveils a path forward.