Live from La Farine: John Quiggin: The Three Party System: "There are three major political forces in contemporary politics in developed countries...

...tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism.... Until recently, the party system involved competition between different versions of neoliberalism. Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere, but can no longer command the electoral support needed to marginalise both tribalists and leftists at the same time. So, we are seeing the emergence of a three-party system, which is inherently unstable because of the Condorcet problem and for other reasons.

Now the longer version....

  1. "Leftism"... encompasses anyone critical of the current economic and social order on the grounds that is unfair, unequal and environmentally destructive.

  2. "Neoliberalism"... in the US [means] former liberals who have embraced some version of Third Way politics... and something related, but different, everywhere else (market liberals dedicated to dismantling the social democratic welfare state).... I’m using it to cover both versions, which I’ll call soft and hard. The central theme is the inevitability and desirability of a globalised capitalism, dominated by the financial sector....

  3. "Tribalism" is politics based on affirmation of some group identity against others.... The most politically potent... and... relevant [form]... is that of a formerly unchallenged dominant group facing the real or perceived prospect of becoming a politically weak minority....

Roughly speaking, until the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberalism was the only force that mattered... alternation between two neoliberal parties corresponding to the two versions of neoliberalism I mentioned above.... The GFC discredited neoliberalism in both its forms, but still left neoliberals holding all the positions of power.... Trump has shown that the tribalist vote can be mobilised more successfully if it is unmoored from the Wall Street agenda of orthodox rightwing Republicans.... Sanders has not done quite so well, but has certainly forced Hillary Clinton to distance herself from her Wall Street backers. Internationally, tribalism has gained ground nearly everywhere, mostly at the expense of the soft neoliberalism.... The ultimate outcome remains unclear. In part this reflects the Condorcet problem: with three alternatives, that can’t be neatly arrayed on a right-left spectrum, there is no stable outcome.

But the more fundamental problem is that none of the competing forces has an obviously compelling solution to the problems we face. Neoliberalism has manifestly failed to deliver the prosperity promised by triumphalists like Thomas Friedman in the 1990s. Tribalism is already a lost cause, given the massive migrations that have already taken place, and can at most be slowed in the future. The left needs to rebuild institutions and policies that have been in retreat for decades.

As I do say--and have always said--there is a name for "leftism" that is not also powerfully cross-fertilized by "soft neoliberalism". That name is "stupidity".

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