I was re-reading a book by the leading economist (and Nobel Prize for Economics winner), Joseph Stiglitz, called The Price of Inequality, and was struck by a passage in chapter 5, Democracy In Peril. Talking about the influence of moneyed interests in the political system, and the erosion of trust among the public that the political process fairly serves their aggregate interests, Stiglitz wrote, “While the most immediate symptom is disillusionment leading to a lack of participation in the political process, there is always a worry that voters will be attracted to populists and extremists who attack the establishment that has created this unfair system, and who make unrealistic promises of change.” This book was first published in 2012.
Now, given the popularity of Trump and Sanders in the 2016 US Presidential race, Stiglitz has essentially predicted the 2016 race perfectly. While I’d argue that Sanders does offer many realistic promises, and necessary ones – e.g. removing the influence of money in politics that led to this awful situation in the first place – Trump on the other hand, has shown himself to be nothing more than an extremist and a populist.
Interestingly, Stiglitz himself prescribes policies very similar to that of Bernie Sanders in order to rebuild trust in the political process and to transform the economy into a fairer and more productive economy than the one that is currently in place. Given those similarities, it is unlikely that Stiglitz would be warning against a Sanders-figure given that Stiglitz supports Sanders’ policy positions. Additionally, many of Sanders policies have already been tried and proven successful in many other advanced democracies around the world and, given Sanders’ emphasis on the detail of policy (he places a much stronger emphasis on detail than any of his rivals in either party), he can’t be accused of being populist or extremist in the same sense that Trump is.
Maybe when the Guardian gets bored of hiring Clinton surrogates to write for their US Politics opinion section, they could invite Stiglitz to author something about it instead.