Home > Uncategorized > Tony Blair, who brought us the war in Iraq, lectures on the evils of populism

Tony Blair, who brought us the war in Iraq, lectures on the evils of populism

from Dean Baker

Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is best known for lying his country into participating in the Iraq War, lectured NYT readers on the evils of populism. Once again he gets many key points wrong.

He criticizes the left for abandoning centrist politicians:

“One element has aligned with the right in revolt against globalization, but with business taking the place of migrants as the chief evil. They agree with the right-wing populists about elites, though for the left the elites are the wealthy, while for the right they’re the liberals.”

Blair then tells us:  

“The center needs to develop a new policy agenda that shows people they will get support to help them through the change that’s happening around them. At the heart of this has to be an alliance between those driving the technological revolution, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, and those responsible for public policy in government. At present, there is a chasm of understanding between the two. There will inevitably continue to be a negative impact on jobs from artificial intelligence and big data, but the opportunities to change lives for the better through technology are enormous.

“Any new agenda has to focus on these opportunities for radical change in the way that government and services like health care serve people. This must include how we educate, skill and equip our work forces for the future; how we reform tax and welfare systems to encourage more fair distribution of wealth; and how we replenish our nations’ infrastructures and invest in the communities most harmed by trade and technology.”

Blair obviously is unfamilair with the basic facts about the economy. For example, even workers with college degree have seen almost no growth in real wages in this century. And with a large dispersion of earnings among male college grads, the bottom quartile of grads don’t really see any premium at all.

But more importantly, Blair is wrong when he treats globalization and technology as natural forces. The decision to put our manufacturing workers in direct competition with low paid workers in the developing world, while leaving doctors, dentists and other highly paid professionals largely protected, is a policy choice. It’s predicted and actual effect is to put downward pressure on the wages of most of the workforce, while benefitting the small elite in the protected occupations.

  1. patrick newman
    March 13, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Blair has little credibility in the UK these days but that does not stop him being intensely irritating through his pronouncements especially as he gets instant media coverage. He did not understand how free markets work and he did not just admire bankers and financiers – he worshiped them along with his Chancellor, Gordon Brown. Fortunately he cant talk his way out of facts and figures (not even the Donald can do that!).

  2. March 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    One of Blair’s most telling self descriptions that separates him from concern for normal humans is an incomplete sentence describing populists on the left and right;

    “Both believe in the nation-state as opposed to international alliances.”

    Here Blair castigates populists for supporting their old-fashioned notion of the nation as a guardian of citizens and civilizations over a modern presumably wealth enlightened international organization of world class corporatists seeking competitive advantages wherever they find or create them.

  3. March 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    “This must include how we educate, skill and equip our work forces for the future; how we reform tax and welfare systems to encourage more fair distribution of wealth; and how we replenish our nations’ infrastructures and invest in the communities most harmed by trade and technology.”

    I don’t know. He sounds pretty reasonable here. Just because job retraining hasn’t increased wages doesn’t mean we give up. The key thing is to not make it center of the platform, and he goes on to say that inequality needs to be addressed, possibly with public infrastructure investment playing a role. This would seem to put him left of HRC.

  4. March 15, 2017 at 8:32 am

    The problem Blair and other like him have is they’re attempting to defend a way of life that was never necessary. In the words of the song, Woodstock,

    We are stardust, we are golden
    We are billion year old carbon
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

    Humankind lived 90% of its existence in one set of arrangements. Humans were hunter-gathers. This system has to be termed successful since it provided humans with sufficient food, shelter, and resources for a healthy and productive life. But it could not provide security in the face of weather, disease, accident. For that people set up government. The industrial, scientific, and capitalist revolutions are generally linked as showing the way out of deprivation and pain for humanity. But most of this pain and deprivation was the result of war, disease, and weather. With the invention of the western version of science and the use of this science to create machines, scientific theories, and medicine many of these concerns could be dealt with effectively. And western democracy’s advent provided a means to do just that. Neither capitalism nor its fascination with growth were necessary to achieve these ends. They were rather “hangers-on” intended to further the ends of a new merchant and business class fresh from helping to tame monarchy. Over the last 500 years this class has has great success in shaping the world to suit its needs, especially in the UK and USA. Blair merely repeats the same tired arguments used by this class for the last 500 years. After 500 years the arguments are no longer fresh or it appears believable or acceptable for many people in the world.

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