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Populism Versus Prosperity

LONDON – Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, claims that the twenty-first century’s defining battle will be between patriotism and globalism. US President Donald Trump appears to believe that it will be between “the very fake news media” and himself, backed by “the people” he claims to represent. They are both wrong.

The battle that will actually define this century will pit long-term thinking against short-term thinking. The politicians and governments that plan for the long term will defeat those that fail – or simply refuse – to look beyond the current election cycle.

China is famed for its supposed long-term thinking, but we do not have to resort to dictatorships to test the point. Some Western democracies have also done the work needed to manage the powerful forces of globalization, technology, and demography – and they have been rewarded with stable economies and political systems largely unchallenged by populists. Others have remained fixated on the short term, and suffered considerably as a result.

To map this distinction, I have developed a new composite statistical indicator for my educational charity, the Wake Up Foundation, called the Wake Up 2050 Index. Unlike, say, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, the Wake Up 2050 Index looks beyond statistics covering past and current performance to detect clues about countries’ future burdens and the likely productiveness of their main assets, especially their own citizens.