The Age of Anger
There is clearly a lot of anger out there, a seething discontent over perceived establishments and elites that is fuelling considerable political energy. All three groups of the Precariat are reacting in their different ways to the growth of inequality and economic insecurity over the past three decades; all have seen the dismantling of the 20th-century income distribution system that linked incomes and benefits to jobs.
In the interests of competitiveness in a globalizing world economy, governments of all complexions introduced labour-market reforms that promoted flexibility, but accentuated the Precariat’s insecurities. They weakened regulations for banks and financial companies, enabling financiers to gain more income while pushing the Precariat into greater debt. They strengthened property rights of all kinds – physical, financial and intellectual – that gave an increasing share of income and wealth to asset holders at the expense of everyone else. And they granted tax cuts for the rich and generous subsidies for corporations, while demanding reductions in public spending to balance budgets, cutting benefits for the Precariat and lowering relative and absolute incomes.
In each case, the argument was that the measures would boost economic growth, expanding the pie for all to share. Instead, almost all the gains have gone to a small global elite – who have, not surprisingly, pushed for ever more of the same. There has been no quid pro quo.
And the longer this fraudulent prospectus is presented, the angrier all parts of the Precariat will become. The ugly political consequences should by now be clear to everybody.