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Supporters of the federalist and regionalist Italian political party, Lega Nord, and far-right activists demonstrate against immigration MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images

Nationalism Will Go Bankrupt

The opposite of populist nationalism is not globalist elitism; it is economic realism. And in the end, countries such as Britain, the United States, and now Italy will learn the hard way that reality always eventually wins.

ROME – Nationalism versus globalism, not populism versus elitism, appears to be this decade’s defining political conflict. Almost wherever we look – at the United States or Italy or Germany or Britain, not to mention China, Russia, and India – an upsurge of national feeling has become the main driving force of political events.

By contrast, the supposed rebellion of “common people” against elites has not been much in evidence. Billionaires have taken over US politics under President Donald Trump; unelected professors run the “populist” Italian government; and all over the world, taxes have been slashed on the ever-rising incomes of financiers, technologists, and corporate managers. Meanwhile, ordinary workers have resigned themselves to the reality that high-quality housing, education, and even health care are hopelessly beyond their reach.

The dominance of nationalism over egalitarianism is particularly striking in Italy and Britain, two countries once famous for their phlegmatic sense of national identity. Flags in Britain are notable for their absence even on government buildings, and until the Brexit referendum the people there were so relaxed about their nationhood that they could not even be bothered to agree on the country’s name: the United Kingdom, Britain, or England, Wales, and Scotland.

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