Video, Past Event, Social Justice

Gwynne Dyer: The Populist Revolt — Its Causes and Cure

March 06, 2019

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. 

This event will be moderated by Charlie Smith, editor of The Georgia Straight.

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.

He received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities, finishing with a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs, which is published by over 175 papers in some 45 countries.

His first television series, the seven-part documentary War, was aired in 45 countries in the mid-80's. One episode, 'The Profession of Arms', was nominated for an Academy Award. His more recent television works include the 1994 series The Human Race.

Dyer's books include War (1983), Ignorant Armies: Sliding into War in Iraq (2003), Future: Tense (2005) and The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq (2007).

His more recent works include Climate Wars, which has been translated into French, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and a number of other languages. Don’t Panic: Islamic State, Terrorism and the Middle East, came out in October 2016 and has already been translated into Arabic and Turkish. His newest book, Growing Pains: Surviving the Populist Wave, came out in April 2018. He lives in London.

In 2010, Dr. Dyer was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

Presented by

SFU Public Square, SFU Vancouver, SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement


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