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The wisdom of Janan Ganesh

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The wisdom of Janan Ganesh

Janan Ganesha is probably my favorite news commentator. In a recent column he pushes back against the widespread belief that the global rise of the far right is a reaction to neoliberalism:

Right-wing populism is on the rise in France, which is perhaps the least economically liberal country in the rich world. Government expenditure there accounts for more than half of national production. The section dealing with social protection – cash benefits, etc. – is also at the top of the OECD list. Across the Alps, the Italian state is not far behind in terms of general and social spending. The extreme right is not only successful there. It is the power in the country. Meanwhile, mainstream political parties in Australia, where the government is smaller, are holding out. The centre-left rules.

Ganesh also discusses the view that loss of manufacturing jobs is the problem. He points out that the far right has recently gained ground in Germany, where manufacturing represents a much larger share of GDP than in other Western countries. Then he adds:

And if that seems strange, consider neighboring Austria, which is perhaps the most confusing case study in the West. It has one of the highest levels of government spending and a manufacturing sector almost as large as Germany’s, and a rampant hard right.

Ganesh then asks some interesting questions about the politics of neoliberalism in the US:

What possessed Democrats to think that America wanted or needed a statist economic transformation? The slogan ‘Build Back Better’ implies a widespread dissatisfaction with the pre-Covid world that did not exist. On the eve of the pandemic, economic confidence was at levels not seen since the millennium.

There is much more interest. Read the whole thing.

P.S. He does not discuss developing countries, but the shift in politics to the right in India and China also fits his hypothesis. It seems quite far-fetched to see the rise of Modi and Xi as a response to ‘neoliberalism’ in India and China.