American Consequences - November 2020

appeal. But neither does it fundamentally alter the challenge these parties face. Political leaders on the left need to fashion both a less elitist identity and a more credible economic policy. As Thomas Piketty, among others, has noted, parties of the left have increasingly become the parties of educated, metropolitan elites. As their traditional working-class base has eroded, the influence of globalized professionals, the financial industry, and corporate interests has risen. The problem is not just that these elites often favor economic policies that leave middle and lower-middle classes and lagging regions behind. It is also that their cultural, social, and spatial isolation renders them incapable of understanding and empathizing with the worldviews of the less fortunate. A telling symptom is how easily the cultural elite dismiss the 70-plus million Americans who backed Trump in this election by portraying them as benighted people who vote against their own interests. On economics, the left still lacks a good answer to the burning question of our time: Where will good jobs come from? More progressive taxation, investments in education and infrastructure, and (in the United States) universal health insurance are critical. But they are not sufficient. Good, middle-class jobs are becoming scarce, owing to secular trends in technology and globalization. And COVID-19 has deepened the polarization of labor markets. We need a more proactive government strategy directly targeting an increase in the supply of good jobs.

Dani Rodrik , Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, is the author of Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy . © Project Syndicate. Photo: AP. Communities where good jobs disappear pay a price that goes beyond economics. Drug addiction, family breakdown, and crime rise. People become more attached to traditional values, less tolerant of outsiders, and more willing to support authoritarian strongmen. Economic insecurity triggers or aggravates cultural and racial fault lines. It is up to the parties of the left to develop programmatic solutions to these deep- rooted economic problems. But technocratic solutions can go only so far. A lot of bridge building needs to be done to overcome the fissures for which cultural elites are largely responsible. Otherwise, the Democrats could be in for another rude awakening four years from now. On economics, the left still lacks a good answer to the burning question of our time: Where will good jobs come from?

American Consequences


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