Video, Past Event, Social Justice
Gwynne Dyer: The Populist Revolt — Its Causes and Cure
An SFU Vancouver Speaker Series presentation
Nationalism is back, and it’s very angry. Populists have already come to power in numerous countries, and some people even fear that we are seeing a re-run of the 1930s.
In the US in particular, job loss is a central issue. But Donald Trump can’t “bring the jobs back”, because most of them never left the country; they just vanished because of automation. The US official unemployment rate is hovering around 4 percent, but almost one third of American men over 20 years old are not gainfully employed. And there is a plausible forecast that automation will destroy 47 percent of existing American jobs by 2033.
What got Trump elected, more even than racism and immigration, was the anger that comes from the misery and humiliation of joblessness. The key votes that pushed him over the top came from the Rust Belt, where the automation started destroying assembly-line jobs 25 years ago. Trump has no solution for automation, and more extreme populists may come after him unless the anger is extinguished. Automation really will kill the jobs, and not just in the United States.
The main political task for the next generation (post-Trump) will be to ensure that those without work have an income they can live on with dignity. One way that is already being widely considered is a Universal Basic Income (UBI). It would put money in everybody's pockets with no strings attached, whether they are working or not — and since everybody gets it, there would be no stigma involved.
The anger that drives the populism comes as much from the humiliation that people feel when they are unemployed as from the actual financial pain they are suffering, so any solution must treat both aspects of the problem. UBI might be the answer, although there is still much research to be done. But big change is coming, and big solutions are needed.
Gwynne Dyer’s newest book, Growing Pains: Surviving the Populist Wave, was published in April 2018 by Scribe in Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
About our Speaker
Gwynne Dyer has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years, but he was originally trained as an historian.
SFU Public Square, SFU Vancouver, SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement