It’s still the same it’s always been through the history of mankind – the thirst for justice and the expectation of justice. But because it is the 21st century and we’re supposed to be living in an egalitarian global village, waving at hipster high-living people across the grassy commons, many of us also have the possibly naïve belief that we are entitled to justice and that we will get it.
Mostly, that doesn’t happen.
And it can drive people to desperate measures.
I’m paraphrasing but broadly, that’s how Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel explains the #Brexit vote, the rise of Donald Trump and other right-wing nationalists. Professor Sandel specializes in complicated subjects such as justice. He’s deeply interested in the greater common good.
If you’ve been wondering why relatively well-off Americans voted for Donald Trump (of the 64% of American voters who earn more than $50,000 a year, 49% chose Trump) I urge you to listen to this short interview with Professor Sandel:
But if you don’t, consider this:
- It wasn’t only the hunger for jobs that drove people towards Mr Trump and to vote against Britain’s membership of the European Union. It isn’t just a desire to consume goods and services that leads some Dutch and French people to clap along with Geert Wilders’ and Marine Le Pen’s nationalist ideas.
- It is the search for justice in a time of growing inequality
- Professor Sandel repeatedly points out that the top one per cent of the US population has more wealth than the bottom 90 per cent combined. And the average CEO makes more money in a day than the average person makes in an entire year.
- This can hardly be seen to be just, but why now, why did the search for justice hit the western world in the second decade of the 21st century?
- Professor Sandel explains it rather brilliantly. After Reagonomics and Thatchernomics, which believed that the market could fix everything, a new clutch of centre-left leaders took charge. But Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder didn’t tinker much with the system. Crucially, they did nothing to make the social system fairer and more just. This meant, in Professor Sandel’s words, that we went from being market economies to “market societies”, a wholly soul-less and value-less status that does not allow man to dream.
- Nationalism, ie a search for values and belonging, are the response.