For those with a short memory, it’s tempting to blame the world’s problems on surging populism. In this telling, Brexit, the US-China trade war and America’s botched response to Covid-19 become part of a single narrative. Rabble-rousing leaders in the mold of Donald Trump pander to the worst instincts of the body politic, expert voices are drowned out in the echo chamber of social media, and the economy pays the price.
The trouble with that version of recent history is that though they’re responsible for some real doozies, populists don’t have a monopoly on policy failure. Remember the global financial crisis? The European sovereign debt crisis? The stagnation of middle-class wages and upward spiral in inequality? All major shocks to the system. All taking place when the supposed grown-ups were in charge.