Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 25, 2018
 
Winning the war on values

Pretty much everywhere you look, right-wing populist parties are on the rise. Many of them with rather autocratic tendencies, and political & economic programs that aren't likely to make life better for the average citizen. So why are people voting for them? Because these right-wing populists are all riding on the same wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric. And the left and center parties have no response to that. They are losing the war on values, because a pro-immigration platform has no majority in most countries.

I believe that the fundamental problem here is one where the left and center parties hold values that are incompatible with each other. In this case freedom of movement vs. democracy. Liberal intellectuals unfortunately also have autocratic, anti-democratic tendencies: If the general public doesn't agree with liberal values, the general public is considered to be wrong, and has to be "educated" aka brow-beaten into submission.

Immigration is an especially tricky issue. On the one side, as "freedom of movement", it is a desirable form of freedom, and taking in refugees fleeing from war and persecution is obviously the moral thing to do. However the concept of unlimited freedom of movement when thought through to the end basically means the end of the nation state. Humanity doesn't appear to be ready for that, presumably because our brains are wired for tribal social relations, thinking in terms of "us" and "them". Economic inequality within and between countries doesn't help either.

I do think that for the time being the left and center parties need to come to some sort of position in which they value democracy more than freedom of movement. I believe that a majority can be found for sensible systems of limited immigration, based on the needs of the receiving country. The alternative would be to give up, retreat into an ivory tower of moral indignation, and let the right-wing populists win. Do we really want to do that?

Comments:
Of course, if you were to run as a left-leaning populist you might be convinced that people favor immigration. And lose badly. It's not enough to go along with the silent majority, you also need to prevail in the public debate, or at least be loud enough to not be shouted down.
 
The alternative would be to give up, retreat into an ivory tower of moral indignation, and let the right-wing populists win. Do we really want to do that?

Well, why not? I mean, up to now the right-wing populists have had the enormous advantage of sitting at the opposition and posting on facebook how bad the government is. Now the sides are switched, and it'll be interesting to see how long it takes before people realize that they are just as bad as the ones they replaced. Maybe even worse.

BTW I 100% agree with your: "...end of the nation state. Humanity doesn't appear to be ready for that". My guess is that humanity should get ready fast, because economy already has and small states are completely unable to face multinational companies, so they risk ending up being crushed like ants.
 
@Tobold: Your advice is of course right. But they won't give up on immigration. They are ready to give up on anything else, but not that.

Why? Because they believe that Immigration is a good thing and nation states are bad. They see anti-immigration as racism. They are fanatics. They are ready to die for this hill ... and so they shall!

@Helistar: since the strongest anti-Immigrant politician on the planet, Viktor Orban runs Hungary, we saw the fastest growth of median wages in history. If you wish to "see how long it takes before people realize that they are just as bad as the ones they replaced. Maybe even worse." - don't hold your breath. Hint: there was an election this year and they got more votes than anyone ever, including themselves in previous elections.
 
What I personally don't get: How come nobody on the left ever seems to think about anything going wrong? It feels as if left wing policy just assumes that everything will be just fine. Every single refugee or immigrant deserves our help, is smart, hard working and loves us for helping him. On the other side, the right wingers depict every refugee or immigrant as a rapist-murderer-terrorist who just wants an easy life leeching our money.

What happens next is predictable: Just like statistics say, out of millions of refugees/immigrants, a few turn out to be assholes or worse. And instantly we have right wingers yelling "see? we were right!".

So why can't the left be realistic from the get go? I'm still waiting for someone to say "While a lot of those people definitely deserve our help, we expect a certain percentage to abuse our aid. Thats why we have decided to have the systems A, B and C in place, which don't harm honest people, but make sure we will quickly find our bad apples."

It seems like such an approach would pull the rug from under the right wings feet basically immediately. You could even make it worse for them by saying "If you guys have other ideas how the system could be abused, tell us and we will think up ways to fix it".
 
I wouldn't categorise immigration as right or left-leaning. For me, having grown up in Western Europe, the current left = pro-immigration, right = anti-immigration feels backwards. The Right of my youth were the globalised ultra-free-market champions while the left only took up the globalisation banner around the turn of the millennium (90s in the US) with the advent of third-way socialism.
The anti-globalisation backlash following the 2008 economic crisis highlighted a populous that felt dispossessed by globalisation. The Right adapted by de-emphasising their economic policies in favour of their traditional social conservatism with a populist-hue. The mainstream Centre-Left parties cannot respond because they are an unhappy union embittered factions at war with each other. Centralists won the fight for the party in the 90/00s and are suspicious of any moves towards socialism while the traditional left hold the centralists responsible for the problems with globalisation and the post-crisis austerity.

 
@Gevlon: "since the strongest anti-Immigrant politician on the planet, Viktor Orban runs Hungary, we saw the fastest growth of median wages in history": and the link between the two being what exactly? This is like explaining the 2008 economic crisis by saying it was immigration....

As for the rest: politics plays a minimal role in the evolution of the economy. Hungary's GDP per capita is well below EU average, I expect them to be able to grow way better than any of the big countries, regardless of immigration policy.
Politicians are always very good at saying that when stuff goes ok it's a result of their work, and when it goes bad it's the fault of the global economy. Or, in video game terms, when you win it's skill, when you lose the enemy was lucky.....
 
To Kiseran's point, there is most likely a very reasonable middle-ground that would address most concerns on both sides. From a USA perspective, perhaps a system that cuts the red tape for legal immigration, speeding up the process, even increasing the allowed numbers per year, while still securing the border and respecting rule of law. However, what has become increasingly obvious is that actually solving problems is or was never the goal of politicians on both sides. Tribalism has taken root and is causing reasonable centrists to move to the poles of each ideology. The result is a refusal to compromise on anything, viewing "total victory" as the only acceptable outcome.

The sad part is, despite the best efforts of the main stream media and the political and popular culture talking heads to convince us otherwise, things in this country have never been better.
 
" things in this country have never been better. " doesn't mean much. From which point of view? Economical, social, health?

 
"From which point of view? Economical, social, health?"

Economical: Easily better. Unemployment at historical lows, especially for minorities. Historic gains for stock market.

Social: Subjective. Would argue better due largely to economic gains.

Health: Better due to repealing Obamacare's individual mandate. Obamacare has been a dumpster fire by all accounts. Short of a full repeal, eliminating individual mandates is a good start.
 
@James: thanks for your answer, it's always difficult to interpret when you're not in the country.
 
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