Why "Populism" Is Here To Stay


Aristotle was the first to point out how a thriving middle class is a condition sine qua non for a functioning democracy: “A constitution based on the middle class is the mean between the extremes of the rule by the rich and the rule by the poor.”

That the middle [constitution] is best is evident, for it is the freest from faction: where the middle class is numerous, there least occur factions and divisions among citizens” (Politics IV.11.1296a7–9)” – For those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation find it “easiest to obey the rule of reason”. ( IV.11.1295b4–6).

When we speak of the middle class we therefore mean the median group of society, the one representing the largest group of people by income.

To clarify with a simple example, in a population of 2000 people, if 500 earn 1000€ a month, 1400 people earn 2000€ a month and 100 earn 10000€ a month, then the 1400 people are the ”middle class”.

A prosperous, educated middle class is the best bulwark against extremes. Ganesh Sitaraman of Vanderbilt University argues:

“From the time of the ancients, statesmen and philosophers were deeply worried about the problem of economic inequality. They worried that either the rich would oppress the poor or the poor would seek to confiscate the wealth of the rich, and the result would be violence, instability, even revolution.”

Sitaraman worked for US Senator (Dem) Elizabeth Warren from 2011 to 2013. If Democrats had bothered listening to him and looking at what is actually happening, maybe Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have needed to write her own book “What Happened”, trying to explain her electoral debacle.

The Western class is necessary for political centrism

After the Second World War, the Western world saw itself reaching new peaks of prosperity. As the Western middle class prospered, political extremes faded. By the 1990s political extremes in the form of fascism from the right and communism from the left had been reduced to insignificance. Center-right “liberals” and center-left “social-democrats” both moved towards the center of politics to appease the large, moderate electorate i.e. the middle class. As the economic issues lost importance in the political debate, the focus shifted to social ones like gay rights or climate. Center leaning political parties were so indistinguishable on core issues that it often made little difference for voters.

In the 1990s however, a game changing process started whose name was globalization in the form of free capital flow, outsourcing and, to a lesser and yet significant extent, free movement of people. This entailed problems: financial crisis from capital mobility, ghettos, crimes and then even terrorism from immigration. What few noticed was also the economic impact of globalization on the Western middle-class: it began to collapse. The winners were the elites and the now growing middle-class of the developing world.

Paying attention to Dr. Milanovic’s studies on inequality over the years could easily help predicting what was going to happen. Opposition in the 2000s started to grow but it was too insignificant little to have an impact on political cycles.

A decade has passed and it is now exploding: Donald Trump won the US elections on an economic nationalist ticket, while on the left Hillary struggled to contain the socialist Sanders. In the UK, Theresa May is trying (and failing) to adopt an approach similar to Trump’s, which clashes with the traditional elitist Tory message, while the socialist Jeremy Corbyn ousted centrist Blairites from the command of Labour. In France, the centrist Emmanuel Macron won, yes, but the share of the extremes (left and right combined) went from 31% in the first turn and 0% in the second turn in 2012, to almost 50% in the first turn and 34% in the second in 2017. Half of the country is fed up and only the difference on what extreme approach to adopt does keep centrism alive so far. Italy and Spain share similar situations, where the center-left and center-right parties, that at their peak could muster 80% of the votes, now have shrunk to barely above half. Germany with its approaching elections seems so far partially immune, but even here the combined share of extremes is likely to have doubled since the last elections.

Over 2000 years later, Aristotle’s theory still holds good: the middle-class voters are the moderate ones; if the middle-class shrinks, slowly but surely it will show in the electoral results. The survival of centrism depends on the prosperity of the middle-class.

“Populism” is here to stay

If our reasoning is correct then there’s only one solution to the “populist upheaval” of the economically displaced former middle-class. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the message that carries the day is: “Make the Western Middle-Class Great Again.”

Will it happen? After all, the survival of the liberal elite, occupying the center of politics for the past 70-plus years is at stake. If we have to look at the reaction of the liberal elite, flailing angrily against “fake news” and “post-truth politics” and consequently using that as an excuse for repressing dissent with censorship, then the answer is clearly no. Unfortunately for the elite, the collapse of the middle-class is real and not stopping any time soon as long as globalization continues. We’ll see why in a bit. The political repression, if we stick to Aristotle, means that we are moving towards the oligarchical phase, where the rich rule; a dangerous path leading to revolution.

Why can’t the elite fix the middle-class and thus save democracy? They are certainly educated enough to read Aristotle, and IMF’s Lagarde at Davos 2017 (the biggest aggregation of elite individuals) warned about the suffering of the middle-class, so there’s a degree of awareness. She also called for some degree of compensation for the losers of globalization. So why is it not happening? The answer is, once again, globalization.

It is the ideology of the elite and they adhere to it in its totality. As such, they don’t care about the Western middle-class, the world is their ostrich. They have zero loyalty towards their countries, often hold dual-citizenship and marry trans-nationally. You will hear from them answers like: “The West? So what? Global GDP is growing!” or “The global middle-class is growing!” It matters nothing to them that they swear on constitutions or God to serve the “nation”. They resent Trump’s “America First”. The question is when will this disloyalty towards their own countries be termed as treason. It still does not matter to them. While the ground under their feet, their core support is crumbling, the globalist elites’ focus is on rather trivial issues like “diversity” or the “gender gap”.

The “compensation for the losers” of globalization is also not going to happen or never in the size needed to re-invigorate hundreds of millions of individuals of the middle-class. No centrist party makes it a core element of its policies to begin with. Even if they did, it would require a significant increase in the taxation of high income individuals and their wealth but, thanks to globalization and capital mobility that results in offshore tax havens, it’s something that states can’t touch. Does anyone really believe that the Western globalist elites would bring back its offshore wealth and enact a heavy taxation on it?

In conclusion, despite the fact that the survival of the liberal centre depends on the economic well-being of the middle-class, the liberal elites do not care enough to salvage it. Their attitude towards the issue is a mix of sufficiency, contempt and plain unwillingness to change a system that they perceive as beneficial to them.

Sticking once again to Aristotle, revolution seems inevitable. For democracy to survive, the winners of the revolution should do what the current elites refuse to do: rescue the middle-class. Otherwise we will see oligarchy or the tyranny of the poor.


Escrava Isaura CRM114 Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:50 Permalink

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This article is not quite right. Aristotle favors democracy. Americans favor the current republic system, meaning, the minority rules over the majority. Liberals don’t favor neoclassical economics because liberals don’t believe in markets. Even less in financialization. Liberals believe that markets need to be closely regulated.  

In reply to by CRM114

Dre4dwolf Sun, 09/24/2017 - 16:48 Permalink

If the middle class doesnt hold back the masses , the poor will consume the rich.Judging from the behavior of the rich these days, it seems they are suicidal because they think they can actually pillage the middle class while simultaneously rallying the poor against the middle as well.... as if when the middle class is defeated and destroyed, that the masses of poor people wont rebel against the rich and consume them....? The elite have grossly miscalculated and perhaps it would be best for the middle class to get out of the way and let the poor consume the rich.And by rich, I mean everyone working in major media, sports, major capital level realestate developement, Hollywood, etc.The middle class knows how to hide wealth for rainy days, its been doing it for thousands of years.Where will the elite hide their hotels? their media buildings? where will google hide its servers? etc.The wealth of the elite is not mobile.The wealth of the middle class is liquid and the bulk of the middle class debt is not levied against real assets (say for mortgages) which lets face it, if the middle class dies all those mortgaged homes will be selling for pennies on the dollar.... million dollar homes will be selling for 50,000$ because of the over-supply. The middle class is civilizations final defense, if it is destroyed, thats it, there wont even be a rich, there will be poor masses vs. inevitable corpses, the middle class NEVER GETS THE BLAME DURING A FINANCIAL MELT DOWN IT NEVER HAPPENS, the crisis is always blamed rightly-so at the top, who will the mobs go after? certainly not the baker, certainly not the gas attendant, certainly not the owner of the local coffee shop, no, the mobs will go after the banks, the hedge funds, the government body. Government , Banks and institutions have a clear choice, a black and white choice.-Defend the middle class, work for the middle classor-Be consumed, destroyed, ridiculed, shamed, dragged through the streets like swine. Because the middle class is the only thing keeping the demons at bay.The hourglass economic model is a zero sum game. 

HRH Feant2 CRM114 Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:51 Permalink

Nor do they loot work boots, the local tractor place, or skil saws.

One of the richest people I know is my landscaper. Has a contract for $100K with my HOA. He has at least four other contracts. And he does good deeds too. Employs local guys on work release from jail. Guessing the county pays him for that, too. Smart guy! I am guessing he gets a combination of cash and some type of tax write off for hiring those guys on work release. At least he is teaching them something useful! How to work! One tax expense I don't mind funding!

In reply to by CRM114

Sparkey Dre4dwolf Mon, 09/25/2017 - 09:30 Permalink

"If the middle class dosen't hold back the masses , the poor will consume the rich."Dre4dewolfI guess that is known at the top Dre4wolf, the planned society has three classes of humans, the owners/rulers, the technical class and the worker or Serf class, artifical intelligence, including robots managed by the technical class will isolate the owners and their technicians from the serfs, artifical intelligence will continuously surveil the serfs and the technicians, although ideally not the owners, (being born into the owner class will grant you privacy) but they will be the only ones with this priviledge, a dream of a kind of Utopia for the wealthy, every one else will be monitored constantly so "bad apples" can be found and neutralized or eliminated quickly, perhaps it will be considered the immune system keeping the body politic healthy, there are no plans, at present to tolerate any groups which could be considered poor because there won't be any poor, everyone, who is allowed to live, with the exception of the owner class, will live as an extension of the AI system that controls them and calculates their benefit to the owners, when it is no longer beneficial ,,,,???? You can figure that one out!

In reply to by Dre4dwolf

Åristotle Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:02 Permalink

Hey, this guy gets it!

Also, the middle class cannot flourish and a perfect union prevail unless the laws of confiscation are removed and the ability to make, take, or fake money out of public offices is also eliminated. Good skill with that...

Aristotle in One Take:


[Politics - After brief intro
Ethics - at 26:06
First Philosophy - at 57:35]

falak pema Sun, 09/24/2017 - 16:50 Permalink

Hahaha!SO the rise of neo-liberalism is the work of the liberal class?I think we have our definitions wrong; neo-liberalism served the 1%, UNLIKE the OLD liberal class that died after Nov. 23 1963 served the middle class that was dear to FDR and Keynes; not to Friedman and Hayek, nor their political leaders : Nixon, Kissinger and what followed.Corporate taxes and Gl-Steagall ensured that middle class's survival and Nixon and Reagan killed that Aristotelian middle road.Piketty's study has proven that. Taxation and wealth redistribution helps that middle road, not the neo-liberal mantra of "greed is good" and trickledown is what the poor need!What trickledown? 

falak pema Anteater Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:35 Permalink

That was the work of Dubya and Paulson and Reagan and Bush snr and Clinton; aka the whole US oligarchy and Maggie of City's animal farm; all on the same "we run the world" page of Towering Colossus neocon Mantra.It ended like for the towering colossus of Rhodes! THEY WERE AND STILL Are, red and blue alike, the new Rhodians; all the more so since 2008 fall of capitalism à la USA.Don't blame that on those who were no longer in power! Krugman worked for that Oligarchy.

In reply to by Anteater

HRH Feant2 Sun, 09/24/2017 - 16:54 Permalink

Excellent article. I have said the same thing with fewer words, often the past few years. Killing the middle class is the equivalent of killing the goose that lays a golden egg every day. The golden egg laid by the middle class are the taxes we pay. When tax receipts decline so will generous welfare payments. Wait until those generous welfare payments are cut off. America's cities will explode in violence. Who will protect the wealthy? No one.

Matt Bracen's article about the day EBT is cut off: https://westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/bracken-when-the-…

rickv404 Sun, 09/24/2017 - 16:54 Permalink

Because it's the only "right-wing" ideology that can flower. It accepts the assumations of the welfare/regulatory state and will increase that state, so Donald Trump can rescue Obamacare, spend a trillion on "infrastructure" and give us a maternity leave bill and they don't care. Good luck to those at National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard or the American Enterprise Institute in stopping it. They helped it rise.

ChanceIs Sun, 09/24/2017 - 16:55 Permalink

"Progressives" would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.Except they will end up scrubbing toilets in hell with a toothbrush.  That isn't a bad result.  But they will have drug me with them across the River Styx.OBTW:  The US isn't a democracy, it is a constitutional republic.If Hillary gets her way and trashes the Electoral College, we will be one step closer to being a democracy.  Watch out you deplorable, fly-over states. 

Anteater Sun, 09/24/2017 - 16:59 Permalink

Love the Coca ad, and wonder how many realize how hard it is to paint 'patent happiness for soda' into a half-page ad space?Trump desparately needs someone who can paint like that, andtransform his El Duce "Look at Me I Am Your Emperor' mug intoa Happy Face,...not the Yellow Cake one, but the Fire and Fury!!http://thehill.com/sites/default/files/styles/thumb_small_article/publi… nothing is more soothing than patent happiness for hell."And they called him a Populist, and laid palm fronds at his feet!!"New Deluded-Christians Bible, Psalm of Mnuchin 08:21 

redmudhooch Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:02 Permalink

Blockbuster: Russian Satellite Proof, America is ISIS!https://www.veteranstoday.com/2017/09/24/blockbuster-russian-satellite-… Gordon went to the Russian ministry of defense to get the best quality photos, as they are needed to drive home two messages. One is that we have photographic proof of US advisers, Special Ops, or whatever you want to call them seeming to be able to operate inside and/or near ISIS held areas. Or two, these ISIS held areas can sometimes be SDF people dressed up as ISIS, depending what central casting in Hollywood has called up for the extras to dress as for the day. But there is a third questions. The Russians have obviously had these photos for days and maybe even weeks now, so why have they been hiding them at this critical stage of the war with the SDF now coming deep into traditional Arab territory in what is clearly and army of conquest now, with the US fully onboard.

seataka Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:13 Permalink

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. Robert A. Heinlein"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day." – Thomas Jefferson

Hapa Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:15 Permalink

Oligarchy it is.  Do democracies reinvigorate themselves?  I think not, in the end.  It goes to an extreme as the rich grab a larger slice and care less and less if their fraud is noticed.  Revolution ahead, but in its own sweet time...

Batman11 Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:23 Permalink

A rigged economics was rolled out globally, neoclassical economics.The bankers and rentiers had a field day as it hid their activity from the economists.It didn’t look at private debt and was great for the purveyors of debt products, the bankers.They party like its 1929.https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/04/Screen-Shot-2017-04-21-at-13.52.41.pngThe bankers haven't been able to party like this since the last time neoclassical economics was used, the 1920s.It hides the difference between “earned” and “unearned” income known to the Classical Economists.Rentier activity flourishes.“Income inequality is not killing capitalism in the United States, but rent-seekers like the banking and the health-care sectors just might” Nobel-winning economist Angus DeatonAngus Deaton catches up with 19th century economists in the 21st.Neoclassical economics was around in the 1920s and it produces the same levels of inequality, they don’t fix any of its problems before rolling it out again.What it hides benefits banker and real estate interests. 

WTFUD Sun, 09/24/2017 - 17:23 Permalink

Only 5 times the median income would be acceptable but directors/executives are earning nearer 500 times this amount and more importantly not contributing to the overall health of their organisation (ie on merit ) to warrant these huge variances.

Scanderbeg Sun, 09/24/2017 - 18:15 Permalink

I'll say it until I'm blue in the face. As bad as Neo Liberalism is demographic change is the root of the problem. The less white a country is the more likely it is to be socialist and internationalist in its policies and orientation.And therefore shittier and less free which is exactly what has happened since 1965 and only accelerated in the 90's.

cape_royds Sun, 09/24/2017 - 18:30 Permalink

One thing I might add is that the neoliberal elites are themselves extremists.

They are Extreme Globalists. They are committed to the ideology of Globalism. Every single time the Globalists get something, they immediately demand more. They never make any concessions or compromises on globalism.

Even when they see that policies of theirs do harm to millions of people, the Globalist does not relent.

Every problem caused by Globalism, the Globalist insists on solving by...more Globalism.

Globalist liberals are not any kind of political "centre." They are ideologues, they are extremists, and their extremism is galvanizing extreme reactions as other groups of people are forced to protect themselves from the incessant and insatiable demands of the Globalists.

RedBaron616 Sun, 09/24/2017 - 18:39 Permalink

Why don't we ever see populism in Congressional elections?  Also, ironically Trump only won because of the Electoral College. So if the sheer numbers weren't with Trump, why are we supposed to believe that populism is here to stay? Crickets.