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The Real Roots of Populism

Precisely because populism – whether leftist or rightist – is ugly, menacing, and destructive, its growing strength calls for nuanced explanation. A weak grasp of causes would lead to poorly conceived solutions – at which point populism truly would be unstoppable.

MONTEVIDEO – Out-of-control globalization has destroyed jobs, caused middle-class incomes to stagnate, and deepened income inequality. In response, angry voters are turning to populist politicians. Without a radical shift away from liberal economic policies, populism will be unstoppable.

This narrative is simple and increasingly popular. It is also dead wrong.

Precisely because populism – whether leftist (Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Podemos in Spain) or rightist (Donald Trump in the United States, the National Front in France) – is ugly, menacing, and destructive, its growing strength calls for nuanced explanation. A weak grasp of causes will lead to ill-conceived solutions – at which point populism truly may become unstoppable.

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