Multiculturalism has broken the glass, unleashed populism

Published 6:59 am Sunday, January 1, 2017


Contributing columnist

If you are dazed, confused, or bewildered by events, I recommend a little counseling by Jonathan Haidt, the renowned social psychologist, to sort it out. He argues the rise of populism in the U.S. and the European Union (EU) is a classic democratic response to out-of-touch and aloof governing elites. On the other hand, populism is so powerful it is dangerous and should only be used in emergencies. Haidt says it should be kept under glass with a sign saying “in case of emergency break glass.”

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The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the collapse of the Marxist economic model. The Marxist model failed, and always fails, because the incentives are inconsistent with the social objective. In brief, individual actors cannot achieve their own objectives by pursuing the social objective; hence, the social objective cannot be met and the economy fails.

Many thought the issue was settled when the Wall came down. It was not. The true believers in Western countries (not the newly liberated citizens from former communist states) were convinced the problem was the existence of nation states; i.e., communism failed because it had to compete in a world full of capitalist countries. Looking for external causes to explain your failures should sound familiar.

The assumption is if we rid the world of nation states, then Marxism for the whole world can work; no competition, no problem. Clearly this is a narco-dream since the incentive compatibility problem remains the core issue.

Out of this deep think, cultural Marxism was born, another gift from social theorists who live in liberal Western democracies while working overtime to undermine them. Cultural Marxists are found among open society advocates, multiculturalists and purveyors of identity politics. The multiculturalists and identity politics advocates labor intensely to build walls between marginalized groups and the rest of society by scapegoating society as responsible for every disappointment experienced by the aggrieved parties.

Jonathan Haidt says real multiculturalism is bonding different groups with shared values.  What matters is if they share the values or not. Forcing a wedge between groups has nothing to do with multiculturalism — it is just a very destructive political strategy.

Many years ago, Milton Friedman argued that no welfare state can survive with open borders. Inevitably, foreign poor will flood such a state and that will bankrupt the country.  This very process is underway in the EU. To be a member of the EU, each nation state surrenders control of its borders to unelected leaders. These leaders are remote, detached and unresponsive to the citizens they govern. The globalists opened the EU borders and now Milton Friedman’s prophesy is being fulfilled.

The EU government made matters worse by arresting some of their own citizens for criticizing the policy. In addition to the strains on their welfare systems, violent crime and terrorism increased throughout the EU. The people were right and their leaders were wrong. The British voted to exit the EU and others are likely to follow.

Haidt considers fundamental human nature — not the philosophy of human nature but the science of human nature. He notes that humans are tribal animals and tribes are “bound” together by their “sacred values.” The downside is sacred values also “blind” us. Further, those who isolate themselves in “tribal bubbles” become progressively (no pun intended) more radical. These characteristics were finely honed by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.

Cultural Marxists work to destroy the “sacred values” that bind people together in the tribe or nation. Should they succeed, there will be chaos and revolution. It is beyond my understanding why they think that would be good or why they think they will survive the crisis. The entire plan is dubious because the immediate effect of attacking the “sacred values” is it binds those who are attacked more tightly. Eventually, cultural Marxism breaks the glass that constrains populism.

All of those who support multiculturalism are not cultural Marxists; however, the moderate’s objectives cannot be achieved by the strategies and tactics employed by cultural Marxists. Maintaining a welfare system in a homogeneous country is relatively easy. Constructing and maintaining a welfare system in a heterogeneous state without shared sacred values is at best a Herculean task.

We desperately need the moderate multiculturalists and conservatives to reach a compromise. A logical place to start is to see if we can agree on the sacred values expressed in the Constitution and then insist that anyone who wants to join the tribe must share those sacred values.

Bob Martin is Emeritus Boles Professor of Economics at Centre College.