These days, economic nationalism is the prodigal son of the political right. Tom Walkom writes:
An ardent form of nationalism has fuelled the rise of right-wing political leaders, such as Donald Trump in the U.S. and Marine Le Pen in France.
Nationalism is driving Britain from the European Union, a move that — whether justified or not — threatens to deal a major blow to the continent’s common market experiment.In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan adroitly uses nationalism to maintain and solidify his hold on power. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin does the same.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Indeed, John A. Macdonald's National Policy was one of the cornerstones upon which this nation was built. And it was a centrepiece of 20th century political policy:
Canada has had much experience with economic nationalism, running right back into the 19th century when John A. Macdonald’s Conservative government imposed protective tariffs to build up domestic manufacturing.More recently, Canadian economic nationalism was very much a project of the centre-left. In the NDP, it was expressed first through the short-lived Waffle faction and later through the mainstream party. The Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau implemented popular nationalist policies in the ’70s. The free-trade election of 1988 was fought over economic nationalism.
After the 1988 election, all the political parties changed their tune:
For the Liberals, the solution to the ills of globalization is to press for more. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government praises the still-not-quite-yet-concluded Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union.It wants similar arrangements with Japan and China. And it promises to remedy any dislocation caused by all of this with a vague cocktail of retraining programs and innovation subsidies
The Conservatives remain wedded to the orthodoxy of free trade. Some of the party’s leadership candidates have flirted with the darker elements of Trumpian nationalism, such as his suspicion of Muslims.But on the main theme of globalization, the Conservatives and Liberals are indistinguishable.
The New Democrats have a more complicated view of free trade. They like some deals but not others. Among NDP leadership candidates, Ontario MP Charlie Angus comes closest to articulating the despair of those left out of the game.
And it's the despair of those who have been left out that is roiling the political landscape. The problem is that people like Donald Trump -- whose cabinet boasts a combined net worth of $12 billion -- who are using that despair to further the interests not of the many but of the few.
It's fraud -- pure and simple.
Image: Reformed Libertarian