The only thing worse than Trump in the White House, is Trump out of the White House

Years ago. I worked in an office whose head one day got religion about gender equality. To prove his feminist bona rides, he announced he would henceforth hire only women. I told him he wasn’t doing his bit at all. Having benefited from his male privilege, he was now giving back with someone else’s job.

I didn’t last very long there. But I find myself thinking of that conversation a lot these days, each time I see one of the rallies or marches that have become a sad feature of life in the Trump era. It’s all too easy to get smug and dismissive about angry white males. Just as it was all too easy for my colleague to reverse centuries of oppression in time for happy hour. If the dismissal is coming from someone who availed himself (or herself) of all the white privilege on offer before deciding to make the world a better place, it rings rather hollow. Beware of strangers bearing gifts.

Let’s start with the obvious. By definition, any ‘fine person’ would leave a crowd as soon as it started chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ Nothing can excuse the tiki torch-bearers of Charlottesville. But in amidst the predictable long beards and shaved heads one would expect to see at a white-supremacist march, there were a few young men who looked like button-down naifs that wouldn’t have appeared out-of-place at a suburban PTA. Who knows, that could even be where some of them might have opted to spend the evening, had they the chance.

I have a quiet admiration for the online campaign to out the march protesters, and cheered silently when I read of one who lost his job after his pic went viral. But let’s be honest: if we think losing a short-order cook his job at a burger joint is going to end white supremacy, we may well be its dupes: the real legacy of white supremacy persists among the Berkshire billionaires in their monochromatic communities who tut-tut about deplorables while reaping the fruits of centuries of oppression.

The left fell for the gift-bearing strangers who dressed up in progressive clothing to sell their neoliberal potions, in no small measure because their wares suited this technocratic elite. They told us redemption was free, or that it might even make us richer. I recall the speeches Bill Clinton used to give in the 90s, when he said the way to eradicate poverty was to chase profit-opportunities in depressed communities, or Al Gore’s insistence that investment in new technology would both save the planet from global warming and make us wealthy beyond compare. Well, both gentlemen made off pretty good from their shtick. But as we know, relative deprivation continued to worsen in America and as for the environment, the fact remains that the best years for the global climate have been those in which recessions slowed emissions output (but that’s a story for another day).

No, morality requires sacrifice – and we shouldn’t hesitate to make it. The neoliberals had merely found a way to pass the tab onto others. As I’ve written before, the economic policies of the Reagan years, subsequently championed by Clinton and his successors, essentially reallocated economic output in such a way as to preserve the lifestyles of the upper and middle classes at the expense of workers. That’s why I’ll go out on a limb and guess that at least some of the people attending these dark rallies might have yet become fine people had they been given the opportunity their elders received. If the others who went before them aren’t now minded to make the sacrifice needed to make the world a more just place, why should they?

Trump’s White House days are numbered. As Nate Silver has been chronicling, beneath the surface dips and rises, his net disapproval rating has steadily worsened throughout his presidency. Eventually he’ll reach the point that even Republicans consider him expendable. Internally, his administration is barely functional. I had drinks this week with a former student of mine who was in London on business – a highly-placed executive who speaks regularly with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. After Trump’s bizarre defence of neo-nazis, he asked Mnuchin how much longer he could last. Mnuchin, who is Jewish, replied ‘Me and Gary (National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, who is also Jewish) have to stay: we’re the only grownups here.’ Everyone else on the White House team is apparently ‘aghast’ with a President who, to their knowledge, never, ever reads a book.

The odds of the Trump presidency collapsing thus rise by the day. However, all the angry young men to who Donald Trump gave hope, however false, have had a taste of power. They will bitterly resent if their hero is forced from office. The resistance needs to peel the potentially decent folk away from the genuine deplorables with a narrative that offers them something more promising than the ridicule we now deliver. Most importantly, it needs to lead by example, demanding that all of us who benefited from white privilege ‘tithe’ some of their gains so that the angry young men, if still receiving fewer benefits than previous generations, aren’t actually forced to pay everyone else’s tab as well.

Usain Bolt’s Redeeming Finale

I remember the day years ago, sitting in an auditorium at the University of the West Indies as a gangly teenager was summoned to accept a scholarship, having just become the youngest person ever to win the world junior championship. Although he was then barely out of boyhood, Usain Bolt had to have already known that this was a prize he would never claim, superseded as it clearly was going to be by many others. It was a measure of his grace that he not only showed up to accept it, but held it aloft with that ‘Really, me?’ look he would go on to make world-famous.

That humility amid extraordinary achievement was perhaps what the world loved best about Usain, and it overturned a sport that until then had been defined by testosterone-pumped triumphalism. Other sprinters shouted they would kick your ass and mop the track with you. Usain said he’d see you at the party afterwards.

It is a paradox of the sort that defines his homeland, a country that abounds in them. I lived in Jamaica for much of my life (and have the certificate of naturalisation to prove it!). When I first moved to the island to accept a lecturing position at the university, expecting to do a few years then move on to other things – it turned out the island had other plans for me – I came across an odd trait among my students. In their seminar groups, they’d digress into long diatribes against the evils of their country, its corruption, its abundance of thieves and criminals and layabouts and liars; yet their rants would always conclude with an un-ironic ‘How I love this place.’

I didn’t understand how people could describe a country that seemed so worthy of disdain, yet cling to it like a wayward but beloved child. I didn’t understand it until, after a few years, I found myself using the same phrase. You have to live it to get it: you have, as Jamaicans say, to be a ‘sufferer.’ But at its heart is a belief that everyone, and everything, is capable of redemption.

‘Jamaica no problem’ may have been a clever bit of branding, but the slogan invented to lure tourists to the island has never captured the essence of life for its residents. Life in Jamaica is not a trip to the beach. It is hard, demanding and filled with moments of rage and even despair. Yet throughout it all, you encounter a relentless generosity of spirit, a yearning to live in the moment since you don’t know what will come tomorrow, and a recognition that those who have much, have much to give.

Bolt, and perhaps even moreso the many sprinters that cleared the path for him, embodied that. Asafa Powell, Melaine Walker, the universally-loved Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, to say nothing of the legions of great runners past and present, have all embodied a humility and sense of duty to their families and communities. For all the ‘boassiness’ of Jamaicans, those who triumph tend to recognise that they did not so much create their greatness, as build upon what others did for them.

They could hardly do otherwise. There’s an unspoken rule in Jamaica that no matter what your celebrity or achievement, when you return to the island, you get to revert to your quiet life. I’ve sat on airplanes alongside Sean Paul and Beanie Man and watched as passenger after passenger files past, clearly noting the person in their midst but doing little more than smile. Usain Bolt’s global achievement pushed this rule to its limit. Nevertheless, when visitors to the island would say it was their lifetime dream to see the great man in the flesh, all I had to do was take them for a stroll down to the grassy field in the valley where you could see him in training, all while middle-aged ladies strolled by on their evening constitutionals.

Jamaica is an island that not only allows you to go home, but insists you remember you where you came from. And at heart, since you were once an innocent child, that means you can be so once again. Probably nobody booed more lustily at Justin Gatlin’s shock victory in Saturday’s race than Jamaicans. But most of them will grasp the generous spirit shown by Usain Bolt. If Gatlin will kneel before the great man, who are we to judge his plea for redemption?

We will never resign ourselves to him. But we had our say, and now it’s time to move on. As for Usain, he’s earned the right to return to a hero’s welcome. But when the party’s done, some elderly aunt will no doubt remind him that for all the trouble he gave them as a boy, it’s the least he could have done.

 

How Money Has Become Our God

The recent publication of an excerpt from my newest book in London’s Guardian newspaper set off a huge amount of discussion on social media, blogs and news sites around the world. Not surprisingly, opinion divided. Among economists in particular, those outside the mainstream welcomed it as a breath of fresh air, those closer to the neoclassical orthodoxy repudiated it as a cheap diatribe against their profession.

It isn’t quite that. Oh sure, some economists come in for their share of criticism. Yet my book is really a challenge to all of us to examine the way we think about money and the doctrines associated with it. You see, we in the West like to think of ourselves as modern. Declaring ourselves atheists because we don’t need a god to do what we can do for ourselves, we have abandoned the old religions. Instead, we say, we trust in science.

But this is just one of those reassuring stories we tell ourselves. Take one currently-popular narrative, popularised by the ‘new atheists’ like Richard Dawkins, which maintains that Charles Darwin’s discovery of evolution eliminated god’s role in creation and shattered the Biblical narrative. In its place came a new, enlightened narrative based on facts.

In truth, although fundamentalism emerged in reaction to evolutionary theory to assert the old gospels, most churchmen actually embraced Darwin’s theory. Famously, Darwin himself did not consider it incompatible with the old religion, becoming an atheist only when his beloved daughter died and he lost his faith in a caring god. Even today, research on ‘scientific literacy’ has found that few of us know much if anything about science and the way it works. One British survey discovered that half of this highly secularised country believes that humans and dinosaurs coexisted (apparently we we got our paleontology lessons from Flintstones reruns).

No, what really enabled us to put aside belief in god was that money stepped into the breach left by the decline of the old religions. Money has become our god. I don’t mean that in a new-agey, self-help kind of way. I’m merely speaking about the function it performs in our lives. Our ancestors looked to the heavens for health, wealth, security and justice, we look to money to buy us all that.

Fittingly, therefore, we organise our lives around money. If you’re like the average person in a Western country, you spend about three hours each day thinking about how to get money – how to pay your debts, invest wisely, get a new job or increase your savings. You then pass roughly the same amount of time spending the money, online, in shopping malls, paying bills, sitting on the phone with your bank or cable provider or some other help-line which is probably managing to elicit as many religious oaths out of you as a defrocked priest. Add it all up, and you probably devote nearly half of your waking life to pondering money, and most of the rest to making it. Our ancestors mortified their flesh to gain access to heaven, we’ll take a job we can’t stand or add more hours we don’t need to our workday if it enables us to rise the income-ladder and thereby gain more status.

Money is virtually as old as humanity, but it only assumed this godlike quality in the modern period. What made that possible was capitalism. The development of capitalism, in turn, was inseparable from the rise of empire – the European empires at first, and latterly the US-dominated global order. The improvements in technology and organization that helped facilitate the explosion in living standards of the last three centuries were real, but at the base of our prosperity lay a good deal of oppression, even barbarism, as I document in the book. But rather than acknowledge this as a breach with the Christianity that had shaped the West, we opted for a new moral narrative which attributed our wealth to our superior creed and efficiency. Economics thus grew up alongside the empires, giving us a new code for living.

But here’s the funny thing.  Although economics devotes itself to the study of money, as David Orrell indicated in one of his contributions to the discussion around my book excerpt, few economists actually understand money. In most models, it is a numeraire, a representation of underlying value, a mere medium of exchange that exists to lubricate transactions.

However, money is more, so much more than that. And when you really begin to understand it, many economic models begin to break down. For as I write in Twilight of the Money Gods, money is both a personal relation and an act of faith. Economists emerged as the modern priests who would help us improve our access to that spiritual entity, but of late, we’ve begun to suffer a crisis of faith. That makes ours a troubling time – but also an exciting one.

Whether or not He Wants to, President Trump Now Owns Obamacare

After the failure of the Republican Congress to replace Obamacare with their own health bill, President Trump said they should now just let it fail. He says that when it does – and there are a variety of measures Mr Trump can use to ensure it collapses – Democrats will cry uncle and will come on board with some sort of new replacement legislation.

And if they don’t? If the Democrats hold fast and refuse anything which repeals rather than merely repairs Obamacare? President Trump predicts that Americans will blame Democrats, since they are the ones who crafted Obamacare in the first place. ‘I’m not going to own it,’ Trump said, ‘I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.’

Seem fair enough, right? They built it, they own it. Yet while, as a matter of principle, Mr Trump may be correct, unfortunately for him that’s not how things work in politics. It instead lives by the old adage of every gift-shop owner: you break it, you own it. That might not be fair, but who said politics was fair?

As a rule, Presidents get credit, and blame, for the state of the country when they’re in office, regardless of their actual responsibility for the outcomes on which they’re judged. Economists have correlated various economic indicators with presidential approval ratings and found that, by and large, if people are feeling personally good about their economic situation, they approve of the President’s job – regardless of what they they might actually think of the President.

Back in the 1990s, Americans routinely said they found President Bill Clinton to be something of a scumbag, but with the economy going strong, they stood by him throughout his impeachment scandal. Republicans then groused that the booming economy of the 1990s owed more to the legislative and policy changes that had taken place a decade earlier, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Be that as it may, nobody wanted to mess with success, and Hillary was still trumpeting Bill’s economic achievements when she ran for office last year.

And it’s not like Republicans haven’t benefited from this game. Since Donald Trump was elected last November, the stock market has risen by nearly a fifth. This stellar performance has little to do with anything Mr Trump or Congressional Republicans have actually done. Indeed, other than a bit of deregulation, the main planks of Mr Trump’s economic programme have yet to be put in place. His plans for a big spend on infrastructure, for tax reform, for a repeal of Obamacare (and with that a fall in taxes) so far lie in wait.

Nevertheless, the mere hope that big changes might be afoot has caused investors to bid shares up to the sky. Whenever there is talk of a Trump rally, I don’t exactly hear folks in his entourage saying ‘hold on now, that’s just wishful thinking, we haven’t delivered yet.’ On the contrary, they point to the market as a measure of the success of Trumponomics, and most people give him the benefit of the doubt. So it goes for anyone who has found a job, or received news that the job they were going to lose will now be preserved. Most of those people credit Trump.

However, as it is on the way up, so it is on the way down. The stock market is a discounting mechanism. You call sell the sizzle, but sooner or later investors will demand to see some steak. The failure of Obamacare under Trump’s watch will cause hardship to millions; few of them will blame it on Obama. Worse, if Mr Trump’s legislative agenda continues to be tied up, as it has been over the failure to repeal Obamacare, soon the shine will go off his Presidency. Should the market then turn south, don’t expect much indulgence from investors as they watch their portfolios shrink.

No, whether or not he likes it, Obamacare is now Mr Trump’s. If he works with Democrats to repair it, his base may resent him for selling out – or they may reward him from being pragmatic. But if he really does try to speed its collapse so as to engage in a game of chicken with Congressional Democrats, he’ll probably find them holding a steely calm as he heads for the cliff. Because if Obamacare goes down without any kind of replacement, Mr Trump is likely to go down with it.

Brexit is Now a Sentence without a Subject

Since last month’s British election, when Theresa May got walloped and lost her Conservative government’s parliamentary majority, there’s been no official change to the rhetoric around Brexit. The sentence is the same – its object is Brexit and the verb is ‘will implement.’

The problem is, the subject has disappeared. There is no longer a ‘We’ in ‘We will implement Brexit.’ Say all you will, but Brexit can’t, at least for the time being, go ahead. For while we know what the action and its intended consequences are, there is no actor. A tree falling in the forest can’t make any noise if there’s no tree.

Theresa May can put on a brave face, but she and her government are no longer the ‘we.’ With her slender majority in parliament, propped up by a small Northern Irish party that has her just where it wants her, she’s hemmed in. If she tries to proceed with the hard Brexit her party’s Eurosceptics demand, her party’s Europhiles will rebel and join the opposition to bring down the government. If she tries to please that lot with a softer version of Brexit, the Eurosceptics will do likewise.

There had been some talk of turning to Labour to help shore up her support, since the party promised in the election campaign to respect last year’s referendum result. But that idea lasted the better part of a day before Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pointed out that he could deliver Brexit himself – as soon as the next election puts him in Downing Street.

Fearing just that eventuality, the Tories have rallied around Mrs May. All the same, her days are numbered. She will be replaced, quite possibly before year’s end. That’ll hardly help matters, though. It’s not clear that any other Tory can unite the divided party, let alone win an election in the foreseeable future. Any eventual replacement may well end up biding his or her time in the hopes the party’s numbers improve and it can risk another poll – a gambit which could, of course, backfire, as it did for Mrs May. And all the while, with the future outlook so unclear, ministers openly contradict and even mock one another, each advancing his or her own vision of the future.

Every minute that the government is frozen in such inertia, the future shape of Britain grows murkier. Businesses, which hate such uncertainty, have begun to suspend long-term planning until they can get a clearer picture of what Britain’s future economic and trading arrangements will be. Investment drops, and with that economic activity. At the time of last year’s referendum, Britain’s was the fastest-growing developed economy, and could plausibly claim Europe was holding it back. Today, it is the slowest-growing of the bunch, and the gap between it and Europe looks set to only widen further.

That’s because the clock is ticking on the two-year countdown that began when Britain formally gave notice it was quitting the EU in March. It was always hopelessly optimistic that Britain could negotiate an exit, agree a new trade deal, and replace the mountain of EU legislation that will expire, all in just two years. Every day that passes with no clear direction, that hopelessly optimistic task moves further into the impossible column. Yet since nobody can offer a plausible route forward, the economic uncertainty only deepens.

As the economy worsens, support for Brexit will weaken, making it even harder for a new ‘we’ to emerge to complete the sentence. Many of the voters who chose Brexit in last year’s referendum did so in the expectation it would make Britain richer – £350 million a week richer, if they believed Boris Johnson’s campaign bus – or at least no worse off than it was within the EU:  as Mr Johnson added, just to further elongate his nose, we’d get to eat our cake and still have it. It’s a wonder anyone still listens to Bojo (though to judge from the regularity with which his cabinet colleagues slap down his remarks, maybe they don’t).

With the new reality dawning, some Leave voters are starting to lose faith. Coincidentally, the 52-48 margin by which the Leave vote won last year’s referendum happens to be the same seat-margin that US Republicans, who are trying to pass an equally divisive health-care bill, have in their Senate. They know all too well that if just a few senators are peeled away, the whole enterprise fails – and that is with someone directing the process.

However in Britain, it feels like we’ve all gone to the circus to see a much-hyped high-wire bicycle stunt, only to find that when the spotlight shines on the platform, the bicycle sits empty. We’ll shuffle around in our seats and eat popcorn for a little while. But sooner or later, if nobody turns up, we’re going to want our money back.

 

Now in bookstores: ‘Imagine one day you went to a cash-machine and found your money was gone. You rushed to your branch, where a teller said that overnight people had stopped believing in money, and it all vanished. Seem incredible? It happened, and it could happen again.’

Canada Turns 150

Born in Canada of British parents, I grew up speaking French, and went to school with Portuguese and Italian kids. For me, that always captured the essence of a country which remains, in a way, an experiment: Hybrid, perhaps a little unsure of itself, but certainly open to new things. Somehow, the country makes it from one year to the next against improbable odds – surviving and, of late, thriving.

It’s hard to overstate what a remarkable achievement this is. If two centuries ago a soothsayer had predicted a major conflict on the North American continent without specifying where it would break out, few would have guessed at an American civil war. It was Canada that was then riven with divisions. The French and British were historically enemies, and with the arrival of British refugees from the American Revolution in what had been French colonies, they now lived cheek by jowl.

Canada survived this inauspicious birth by taking a unique approach to consensus-building: you could celebrate your culture in the home, but had to leave it behind when you entered the public square. That agreement didn’t come without a price. Canada is, yes, famously boring, restricting all but the most anodyne of cultural expressions to close quarters. The first Canadian commandment is, be nice, and don’t offend. If the Brits are like a glass of warm bitter and the Greeks a shot of ouzo – flavourful, but not to everyone’s taste – Canadians are a glass of water: everyone likes it, but won’t exactly write odes to it.

You see, negation lies at the heart of Canada’s existence. A Canadian is an American in denial. If you doubt that, just ask a Canadian audience to define their identity. They’ll reel off a long list of the things we do better than the Americans, from looking after our sick to keeping our streets safe and clean. But it’s more nuanced than the inevitable inferiority complex that comes from being – as one Prime Minister put it – a mouse sleeping next to an elephant.

Created when the British settled American refugees in lands they’d recently taken from the French, the English settlers of Canada were from the start culturally and linguistically American. But the ‘Loyalists’ wanted to keep the monarchy and strong state, and the French settlers left behind when Paris vacated its North American colonies were willing to go along. To this day, therefore, Canadians have an attachment to the state and its institutions – public health-care, public broadcasting, public schools, state universities, the police and the laws – that can look supine to American eyes. But that unity around the state’s institutions has proved sufficient to bond peoples with disparate, even at times contradictory cultures. Wave the flag, pay your taxes and respect the laws – and boy, do Canadians respect their laws; the Swiss look rebellious by comparison – and you pass the citizenship test.

When I fly back for visits, I now enter a country I barely recoginise from my childhood, but which in ways never really changes. One time, I found myself in an airport queue behind a group of women, some of whom were veiled, all of whom spoke in Canadian accents and were keen to get home to see the Canadian hockey team play their arch-rivals, the Americans. And while politicians will occasionally try to make people reveal their true colours, nativism seldom gets far. In the last federal election, for instance, the Conservative government tried some dog-whistle politics by proposing a ‘Barbaric Cultural Practises Hotline’ to out Muslims engaged in dark deeds (critics pointed out drily it already existed: dial 911 and ask for the police). Challenged on whether a terrorist could keep his citizenship, then-opposition leader Justin Trudeau replied ‘a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian’ and left it at that. The rest, as now-Prime Minister Trudeau can tell you, is history.

Of course, for this compact to work, there must also be a healthy dose of denial. The country is, after all, built atop what is essentially stolen land. Not surprisingly, many First Nations Canadians are foregoing the weekend’s celebrations. Similarly, for all the warm embrace Canada gives its refugees, the fact is they have first been subjected to a vetting process that would make Steve Bannon blush. Canada picks and chooses from among the finest and most endowed, leaving the poor, huddled masses to other countries. It’s all very well to say the world needs more Canada; the country doesn’t actually intend to offer that much of it.

However, what you can say about Canadians is that more than most other peoples, they do recognise that their country is still a work in progress, complete with its design flaws. Amid the rising ethnic populism and cultural insecurity of the Western world, Canada serves as beacon that perhaps the greatest legacy the West offers the world is its institutions. So raise a glass to boring, stable Canada, for it shows that politics can still be a noble endeavour.

 

 

 

The Youthquake Begins

I always get a chuckle whenever I hear someone ‘of a certain age’ ask innocently why their children and grand-children are worse off than them, as if they don’t already know. ‘It’s because you ate all their pudding’ I tell them.

The baby-boomers defined the politics of the postwar West. Born amid peace and prosperity, when the generosity of the welfare state reached its highest point, their sheer numbers made them the dominant cohort once they started reaching voting age in the 1960s. They demanded, and got, freedom, choice, and ever-improving well-being.

As I write in my new book, governments were able to meet these demands for as long as economic growth could generate the tax revenues needed to fund them. But once growth began slowing at the turn of the century, the well started running dry.

By then, the promises the boomers had made themselves, via the politicians they’d elected, had become a bit dear. When Western governments introduced public pensions early in the twentieth century, for instance, the average time a person spent in retirement was about a half dozen years. Today, you don’t have to look hard to find someone who has spent, or will spend, more of their life collecting a pension than they did paying into it.

The model was plainly unsustainable. But rather than accept a change in their lifestyles, the boomers elected politicians who cut spending elsewhere to maintain their share of the pie. The obvious target was young people – numerically a smaller group, and prone to skipping polling queues on election day.

Governments preserved spending that targeted the boomers – like pensions and health care – and slashed spending on young people, like tuition subsidies at university or entry-level jobs. Private employers most often followed that cue, cutting entry-level wages so as to squeeze enough revenue to keep funding ever-more expensive pension-pots – all while restricting generous defined-benefit pensions to the boomers, telling younger workers they’d have to be make do with more meagre defined-contribution schemes.

Unions generally went along, their membership – and leadership – tending to still be dominated by older members. They thus began negotiating differential contracts, whereby older members got to retain their privileges but new hires had to accept lower wages and less-generous pensions.

When the financial crisis hit a decade ago, many young people saw it as an exciting time of possibility. New blogs and websites, from Lena Dunham’s chronicle of life in the recession to radical mags like Jacobin started to crop up. There were bold experiments in communal living, the sharing economy emerged and above all, the collapse in property and share prices now made it possible to contemplate finally affording a house or starting a business.

Fat chance of that. Whatever renewal might have resulted from low asset-prices, existing asset-owners in the older population, and the institutional investors – pension-funds included – that serviced them were going to take a huge hit. So, central banks flooded the markets with cheap money, buying both government and corporate bonds in order to restore asset values. As a result, while today real wages for young people continue declining and the dream of owning a house is once again a distant prospect, the baby-boomers are now more than £2 trillion richer than they were before the crisis started. That buildup of debt will in turn sap future growth – in effect, robbing from future generations to spoil the present one.

But now, quite suddenly, young people have decided they’ve had enough. In the recent US and British elections, participation by first-time voters surged, tipping the balance towards a new, more radical left, most notably in Britain. While Theresa May was correct to say there’s no ‘magic money tree’ to pay for all the promises Jeremy Corbyn has made, she was also being just a wee bit disingenuous. Her government has been robbing young people for years in order to pay the rich – the pensioners who vote Tory consequently being the only group in Britain whose real incomes have risen since the Great Recession.

If you’re just settling into a quiet retirement and looking forward to a couple of quiet and prosperous decades, you can always hope the life-cycle effect, whereby people grow more conservative as they get older, kicks in. Then this youthquake might dissipate as everyone finds their favourite chair. However, the life-cycle effect is largely a function of the fact that as they get older, people accumulate assets, including houses, thereby augmenting their investment in the status quo. But with a generation now priced off the property ladder permanently, that effect may no longer operate.

Instead, as it becomes clear there is no magic money tree to feed everyone, the rising cohort of younger voters may decide it’s now time to turn the tables. I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction. If things continue the way they’re going, in another decade or so, we’ll still have populists like Donald Trump roiling our politics. But instead of  ‘Mexicans’ or ‘Muslims,’ they’ll substitute the word ‘pensioners’ in the angry speeches they make.