Why Trump's victory, Brexit is not a defeat for globalisation

Subhash Kak
Subhash KakNov 23, 2016 | 15:14

Why Trump's victory, Brexit is not a defeat for globalisation

Experts remain shell-shocked by Brexit and Trump’s victory. It is not only that the poll predictions were wrong; the intellectual class cannot understand why any sane person would reject the globalisation that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The centrepiece of the new order was the marketplace coupled with relatively free movement of people across nations that was immensely beneficial to exporting nations and those providing services.


The elites in the West were ready to cede low-margin manufacturing to low-wage countries so that they could concentrate on high-margin IT, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and finance.

The relative free movement of people allowed the West to gather highly educated immigrants from the poorer countries to fill shortages in high-skilled jobs, and the lesser educated immigrants for agriculture and low-end jobs in the urban areas.

This sounded great as policy since it had within it the possibility of poor countries modernising themselves, as was done by China, and it was beneficial to the banking industry in New York, as well as multinational companies on the two coasts. Both the Democratic and Republican Party establishments embraced it.

Experts knew that globalisation had its winners and losers: it benefited the skilled and the highly educated, whereas the middle and working classes did not fare as well. They hoped that those who lost their jobs will be able to retrain in new professions, which is easier conceived than accomplished.

It was also foreseen that globalisation, increasing automation and robotics will cause many jobs to disappear forever. Currently, nearly 15 per cent of the American population is on food stamps.

The intellectual class cannot understand why any sane person would reject the globalisation that emerged after collapse of Soviet Union in 199. (Photo: Reuters)

The idea of monthly basic income to each family is being debated as something on which future social policy will be based around the world.

Thus, Finland is about to launch an experiment in which a randomly selected group of 2,000–3,000 citizens already on unemployment benefits will begin to receive a monthly basic income of 560 euros.

But critics of this approach say that man doesn’t live by bread alone. Money is not all; a person needs a job to have the feeling of self-worth, and public policy without heart amounts to objectification of people.

The despondency arising out joblessness and breakdown of social support has meanwhile caused a drug epidemic in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 47,000 people died of drug overdose in 2014, mostly due to opioid pain relievers and heroin. 

It is this discontent in the middle and working classes that both the Brexit and Trump campaigns seized on. The elites, that include the media, were so convinced of the moral superiority of their position that they refused to see that opposition to their ideas was building up.

Trump made the continuing opioid deaths one of the central issues of his campaign and since he was the only politician to voice it, it earned him strong loyalty.


Brexit and Trump opponents speak of their loss as defeat for globalisation. I don’t think that is what it is. The defeat was for the manner in which globalisation has been carried out.

Brexit and Trump opponents speak of their loss as defeat for globalisation. (Photo: Reuters)

This is important because some previous globalisations done without proper thought, as during the late Roman Empire, did not end so well for the dominant power. I discuss these historical issues in my recent book The Loom of Time.

If political elites have been so wrong due to the vested interest in a certain narrative, could the same be true of business and science elites?

There is some evidence that this is so and much of what the medical and the pharmaceutical industries are telling us is not correct.

The editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Marcia Angell wrote in 2009:

It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as [editor].

Things had not improved in the next several years for the editor-in-chief of Lancet, Richard Horton, wrote in 2015 that “Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”

Doing scholarship in this age of money is fraught with many dangers and one needs to be equipped to navigate one’s way through it. This is true even of social sciences and history and other subjects.

Indeed, the post-1991 neoliberal compact was based on the collective wisdom of scholars from many different fields.

The media elites who misread support for Brexit and Trump failed the test of non-partisan journalism. The same is true of science elites in a variety of areas since they are pushing for funding in one area or the other from which they stand to gain.

I don’t think Brexit or the Trump presidency will necessarily be bad for international trade.

My sense is that new trade protocols will be developed that are less disruptive to society than what people have voted against.


Last updated: November 24, 2016 | 11:29
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