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A Difficult Balance

Across the globe, there are two types of voters : the "local" and the "global".

By Alessandro Magnoli Bocchi

What differentiates them is not income, nor access to rights, nor social class. It is the Weltanschauung, their worldview. They have different values ​​and lifestyles.

The “locals”, the majority, have a lower educational level and live rooted on the territory: they do not like to move away from loved ones, community or tradition - mother and soccer team included.

The “global” is in the minority (even if he pretends not to realize it) and has a higher educational level. He does not like borders: he has traveled - and often lived - in more than one country.

Over the last thirty years, the “locals” have lost out - economically and socially. Forgotten by politics, they have suffered the downside of globalization. Exposed to the hardship of competitiveness, they want security - at work and in the street. They resent immigration, especially if it translates into competition. They believe in the welfare state and do not intend to surrender national sovereignty. “Politically correctness” irritates them, as they consider it an imposition (and instrument of power) of the “global”. On the contrary, they are convinced it is necessary to be “politically incorrect” to face and resolve future challenges. If left unattended, their resentment translates into nationalism, with nostalgia for authoritarianism. The most extreme fringe is uncompromising, anti-democratic and xenophobic.

In the same period, the “global” - politically well represented - benefited from globalization. Richer in rights and money, he considers his privileges sacrosanct. He supports liberal democracy, but gracefully disregards the opinion of the majority and is in favor of ceding national sovereignty. He does not oppose immigration, but rather uses it (in all its forms, from domestic help to blue-collar workers). He enjoys and abuses his status, often without realizing it. The most extreme fringe belongs to the liberal élite or to the progressive left, is cosmopolitan, owns properties abroad and falls into radical-chic contradictions: for example, he is an environmentalist but takes a plane a month, worries about rising inequalities while driving the SUV, and loves multiculturalism because - more than paying the costs - he benefits from it.

The “locals” cannot stand the privileges of the “global”, who - in their opinion – talks the talk but does not walk the walk: he is “fiscally conservative” but avoids taxes - always legally. He opposes the welfare state, but tries to obtain the most social security benefits he can: often an early-retiree[i], he claims retirement benefits from the country of origin even if he lives abroad. In short, he imposes rigor (to others) but is very flexible (on himself).

The “locals” have a definite identity, which they feel is under threat. They defend themselves by looking for certainty and protection in their group of origin. The “global” has a composite identity and defends the rights of ethnic minorities, even if they do not integrate in society. He does not care about the impact of migratory flows on the life of the “locals”; he ignores their fears and worries.

So, when there is BrexitorTrumpbecomes President, the “locals” identify and applaud. The “global”, astonished, struggles to understand what happened.

The “local” and “global” have different projects.

The “global” does not conceive alternatives to the “open society”[ii]: he wants more international trade and more Europe. He is convinced that most challenges are resolved “with more” globalization, and not “with less” – including immigration[iii]. He hates bureaucracy, public debt, unproductive enterprises controlled by politics, taxes and unnecessary rules. He opposes the protection of “jobs”: he is convinced that workers – once they lose their employment - can (and should be helped to) retrain for the next one. For young people, the recipe is “study and work”.

The “locals” do not disdain isolationism and welfare. They prefer a domestic economy shielded from international competition, protected via tariffs and subsidies. They do not like “efficiency-and-productivity” at all costs, as a condition of survival. They demand protection of “jobs” and regulation of immigration. To wage deflation and a strong currency, they prefer inflation and competitive devaluations. For young people, patronage, mismanagement of public spending and public debt are not anathema.

What to do?

To avoid conflicts, some rethinking is needed. A new balance must be found between the “centrality of the community” (priority of the “local”) and the “opening of minds, frontiers and markets” (priority of the “global”). It is necessary to propose a project - socially and economically sustainable - that satisfies both. Otherwise, we are in trouble.

[i]In Italy, the “baby pensions” - introduced in 1973 by the Rumor government (Article 42, Presidential Decree 1092) and jointly voted by the ruling coalition and the opposition - are pensions granted by the Italian State to public employees who have: 1)stopped working before turning 40-50; and 2)paid social security contributions for: a) 14 years, 6 months and 1 day if married women with children; b)20 years if state employees; and c) 25 years if employees of local authorities.

[ii]A society (theorizedby Karl Popper) in which several coexisting cultural minorities are able to: a)interact even if different; b) maintain the identity of origin, while identifying in the values ​​of the host society and respecting its fundamental principles and regulatory framework.

[iii]The “global” is convinced that: 1)the free movement of goods and capital increases per-capita income in the countries of origin and – by reducing inequalities between countries - reduces the economic incentive to migrate; 2)immigrants are useful: they work, produce, pay taxes and keep the pension system in place. According to the “locals”, immigrants are a cost to the state; the labor market does not need them and the community can easily do without them, especially if they do not identify with the local values ​​and do not respect the laws and most fundamental principles of the host society.

[1]See: David Goodhart, “The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics”, Hurst, 2017.

[1]In Italy, the “baby pensions” - introduced in 1973 by the Rumor government (Article 42, Presidential Decree 1092) and jointly voted by the ruling coalition and the opposition - are pensions granted by the Italian State to public employees who have: 1)stopped working before turning 40-50; and 2)paid social security contributions for: a) 14 years, 6 months and 1 day if married women with children; b)20 years if state employees; and c) 25 years if employees of local authorities.

[1]A society (theorizedby Karl Popper) in which several coexisting cultural minorities are able to: a)interact even if different; b) maintain the identity of origin, while identifying in the values ​​of the host society and respecting its fundamental principles and regulatory framework.

[1]The “global” is convinced that: 1)the free movement of goods and capital increases per-capita income in the countries of origin and – by reducing inequalities between countries - reduces the economic incentive to migrate; 2)immigrants are useful: they work, produce, pay taxes and keep the pension system in place. According to the “locals”, immigrants are a cost to the state; the labor market does not need them and the community can easily do without them, especially if they do not identify with the local values ​​and do not respect the laws and most fundamental principles of the host society.

Picture Source: Strategyonline.ca, 2018.

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