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Populism or nationalism?

Posted in Economics, Politics by Alex L. on November 30, 2016

Political Aside segment header

The election of Donald Trump took almost everyone (who followed the prior campaign news) by surprise. One of those who did see it coming was Cenk Uygur, the host of the progressive online news show, The Young Turks (TYT). His claim was that there was a mood of populism in the country of which Donald Trump took advantage. In a recent edition of The Economist, on the other hand, the writers of that magazine made the case that there was a mood of nationalism sweeping across the United States (and, indeed, the Western world). So which is it: did the election of Donald Trump signal a populist or a nationalist mood in the country?

One theory goes that the populace was simply dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in the country, and a leader who appealed to these feelings of discontent (i.e. a populist) could turn this negative political energy in a direction of his or her own choosing. It just so happened that Donald Trump turned this dissafected mood in a nationalist direction. This is the point of view of TYT.

Another theory is that there is a true feeling of nationalism brewing into which Trump managed to tap. This is the point of view of The Economist in their Nov 19 edition. The writers there make a distinction between two types of nationalism. Civic nationalism is the good kind that inspires universal values of caring for what is in one’s realm of responsibility. Ethnic nationalism, the bad kind, is accompanied by habits of exclusivity and xenophobia. There is a stew of nationalist feelings, the theory goes, and it’s up to the leaders of the country to turn it in one direction or another. Donald Trump marches to the drum of ethnic nationalism. (more…)

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Canada and the recession

Posted in Economics by Alex L. on December 4, 2011

Economics Sandbox header

My lovely girlfriend, a Canadian citizen, challenged me to write something about the more northerly part of North America. Since I’ve also wanted to write a post dealing with economics, badabing badaboom: here’s an article about the Canadian economy. I’m not a professional economist but this entry (and future ones like it) are my way of engaging with economic facts and data on my own so I don’t have to rely solely on the opinions of commentators. That’s why I’m counting these entries as part of my “Economics Sandbox”. Please feel free to correct, comment, question, and enlighten.

I was recently surprised to read that Canada was weathering the economic downturn much better than the United States. What does that mean exactly? I looked at some data to get a better idea.

Just looking at GDP growth, it looks like Canada’s economic output was affected in almost exactly the same way as the U.S. economy.

Chart of GDP growth in Canada and U.S., 1990-2010

Source: World Bank

But GDP growth is not the only (or even the best) measure of a country’s economic health.When I looked at unemployment rates, it’s clear that America’s labor market has been in worse straits than Canada’s since the recession started in 2008. (more…)

History off the press (October ’11 edition)

Posted in American, Ancient, Books, Economics, European, War by Alex L. on November 22, 2011

New history books header, October 2011

Swords to plowshares

President Obama recently announced that the United States will recall all of its armed forces personnel from Iraq by the end of 2011. This is a strange outcome for those of us who remember the seemingly insurmountable setbacks created by the insurgency before the 2007 surge of American troops unraveled the extremists’ grip on the country. It was hard to see back then that the situation in Iraq could improve. But it did. The following books explore in a unique way the nature of organized violence in the contemporary world.

Book coverAlthough we may not realize it from all of the news dispatches dripping with depressing forebodings of disaster either due to economic or glacial meltdown, there are reasons to be optimistic about the current state of the world. Joshua S. Goldstein, in a new book called Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide, makes the case that the human race is freer from war now than it has ever been. The facts tell a counterintuitive but inspiring story: there are currently no nations at war in the world (only civil wars are going on) and last year had one of the lowest death rates from armed conflict in history.

Along similar lines, Steven Pinker has just published a similar work. Pinker makes the same observation – “we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’s existence” – but approaches the subject from the perspective of psychology, his field of study, rather than international affairs. Both of these perspectives are worth keeping in mind the next time you hear a pundit on cable news or a sensationalistic author prophesying apocalypse for Western civilization just to get your attention. (more…)