Thursday, October 24, 2013

Political Dysfunction In The UK And The US May Have Similar Causes

The conservative UK government has agreed to a referendum on the UK's membership in the European Union. The conservative government, which is typically aligned with big business, hopes that the referendum loses because big business stands to lose big time if the UK leaves the EU.  The government has pushed the referendum because of the growing strength of Independence Party which has been gaining public support by opposing immigration.  This article suggests that are similarities to what is happening in the UK and in the US.  The Independence Party in the UK is similar to the Tea Party in the US, and both movements are being supported by the right wing media.  Rupert Murdoch is one of the media leaders in both countries who is pushing anti-immigration sentiment and other populist issues.  Simon Wren-Lewis attempts to explain this strange series of events in this article.

Rising income inequality is common in the UK and the US as well as it is in many Western economies.  Anti-immigration sentiment is always strengthened by rising inequality.  The more difficult thing to explain is the actions being taken by the conservative parties in the US and the UK which have taken positions on many issues which are against the interests of big business.  Lewis suggests that the right wing media are simply doing what they usually do.  They know their target market and they are feeding them the "red meat" that they enjoy eating.  This is simply good business.  Unfortunately, what is good for the right wing media in not good for the traditional conservative parties in both countries.  They are struggling to manage their relationships with big business and with the populist movements which have been fueled by the right wing media.

It is possible that the right wing media are simply acting to satisfy their own business interests,  and that their actions have had unintended consequences.  Its also reasonable to suggest that businesses in the UK and in the US may not have similar interests and motivations.  Small businesses are more important than big businesses in many localities.  Their business interests and perspectives may not coincide with those of multinational corporations.  They have traditionally supported the conservative parties in both countries and they are more important to them in local elections.  Some big businesses may also be more reactionary than others.  For example, the extraction industries in the US, who oppose government  to protect the environment,  have helped to fund and organize the Tea Party movement in the US.  Tea partiers have been taught that global warming is not real and that our founders did not intend to create a large federal government that might be used to regulate business and to dictate policies to state governments. 

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