Is Populism Good for the Populace?
Gene Sperling, former director of the National Economic Council, draws a distinction between economic and authoritarian populism and contends that one is far more dangerous than the other:
Sperling sees some merit to economic populism, which is a movement focused on wresting economic control from a select few (think the 99 Percent versus the 1 Percent). Authoritarian populism, which has allowed for the rise of strongmen and the dissolution of civil rights, is to be feared in all forms.
Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency was hailed as a triumph of populism, but Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, says that many of the economic policies Trump has enacted are actually traditionally conservative. And the populist policies that Trump has put in place might be causing lasting harm to the US economy.
Big IdeaI’m not sure the populism which has been so politically successful on the right is delivering for the people that put [the populists] into power.Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Michael Green, CEO of Social Progress Imperative, follows up Holtz-Eakin by suggesting that many populists around the world aren’t actually concerned with how the economy is performing. What they care about, says Green, is feeling in control. He uses Brexit as an example: pro-Brexit supporters initially touted claims of economic growth as a main reason for leaving the European Union. When economic reports began forecasting dire economic circumstances should Brexit occur, many who are pro-Brexit changed the conversation to instead focus on economic sovereignty.
Populists movements in Turkey, Brazil, Italy, and the US are mostly products of circumstances within their own borders. But some transnational populist trends are emerging, and Michael Green says that innovation in politics is one of them: