Globalization and technical progress are long-term forces that will probably feed populism for a long time to come. Its economic and political consequences do not bode well.
When hatred rules or is propagated by politicians, nobody should be surprised when hatred spreads in a society. Before the US presidential election in 2016, economists made an experiment: They offered Americans money if they could donate to an organization that was strictly anti-immigration on behalf of the recipients.
Most of the test subjects were outraged and rejected this suggestion. After Donald Trump was elected, the economists repeated the experiment. Especially among Trump’s voters there was a great willingness to support the organization that is critical of immigration.
Did Trump’s election make people more xenophobic? No, the authors conclude. In her opinion, xenophobia existed before in parts of American society. But before Trump’s election it was not considered socially acceptable to express them publicly. In Germany, opinion polls explain the growth of the AfD, among other things, with the mobilization of numerous voters who are beyond the consensus of democrats, but who previously had no outlet for their contempt for our state.
The episode from the United States can be found in a very instructive article that summarizes and organizes the populism research carried out by economists in recent years and which will appear in the prestigious journal “Journal of Economic Literature”. Of course, populism, which is not a new phenomenon but can be traced back to at least the 19th century, has not only economic causes. But it also has economic causes. Even the issue of migration, which has certainly contributed to the rise of populism, has an economic dimension.
More populism leads to more hate crime
The use of modern media has been characteristic of populism from the start. The role that Twitter plays today was previously played by the Volksempfänger, said the economic historian Albert Ritschl recently at an event organized by the Institute for the World Economy in Kiel. For the United States, two researchers have shown statistical connections between Trump’s anti-Islam tweets and an increase in hate crimes in areas with a high national average of Twitter.
Studies for European countries such as Great Britain and Italy also show a connection between the spread of populism and the increase in hate crime. In Germany, some people react either with indignation or with mock naivety to the idea that verbal abuses by right-wing populists would have detrimental consequences for the social climate. A look at modern social science research could open the eyes of the indignant and pretended naive.