Where global political turmoil will end is anyone’s guess

The world is a very strange place at the moment. 

At an economic level the monetary policies that have been pursued with great gusto since the ‘Great Recession’ commenced, including zero interest rates and massive programmes of Quantitative Easing, are not having much in the way of a positive impact.

Indeed, there is now a growing and influential body of opinion suggesting that the longer-term negative consequences of these policies on savings and pensions could be detrimental to long-term global prosperity. 

However, policymakers are still wedded to the orthodoxy and are not yet prepared to contemplate old fashioned Keynesian solutions such as fiscal expansion, particularly increased capital expenditure. Perhaps this will change eventually, but for now it is certainly not on the agenda.

At a political level the situation is even more complicated. In the US we are now down to a straight shoot-out between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. 

Mr Trump is a reviled figure in much of the world, and even Enda Kenny strangely had a pop at him in the Dáil last week.

What was all that about, one might ask? In the US he is a dangerously divisive figure, (Mr Trump that is, not Enda) but Ms Clinton is not too far ahead of him in that regard. 

Whoever wins the presidency later this year, it appears likely that we will have the most divisive presidency in generations, with domestic and global consequences that are still difficult to fathom. Many Americans don’t appear to want either candidate, but that is not a choice.

The Brexit campaign in the UK has also become incredibly divisive. A referendum is very often used as an opportunity to settle political scores and the result may often bear no relationship with the real issues, and David Cameron would appear to have justifiable grounds for concern in this regard.

While the markets have, until now, been relatively relaxed about the possibility of a UK exit, and the bookmakers appear to be in holiday mode, the opinion polls are certainly giving deep cause for concern for those who regard Brexit as being a potentially negative development.

If Mr Cameron loses the referendum, it is hard to see how he could possibly survive. He could very easily be replaced by Boris Johnson, a development which many observers would not regard as particularly positive. 

More fundamentally, it could irreparably tear apart the Conservative party, leaving open the bizarre possibility of Jeremy Corbyn leading the country at some stage in the not too distant future. There are obviously a number of possible scenarios, most of which are not terribly appealing.

While one can safely describe US and UK politics as troublesome at the moment, the same can be said for many other countries. 

The mayoral election in Rome has been strange, with the strong rise of a nice radical, but countries such as France, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands are also seeing the rise of radical political forces. Here in Ireland we also have a very strange government and a very strange legislative background.

Russia and China are exceptions to the disturbing global political trends. China is China. Russia has parliamentary elections in three months, with the ruling party set to sweep back into power.

Indeed, for some strange reason Putin looks set to be in power for life.

The global political system, with a few notable exceptions, is becoming increasingly fractured and the old order is in danger of being torn apart to be replaced by a strange and potentially dangerous form of populism. 

It is not easy to interpret what is happening, but attitudes towards the power and authority of the state are hardening.

At one level, the state almost everywhere is being increasingly looked to for solutions to every conceivable problem, but side by side with that is a growing distrust of the State and a sense that it is becoming too powerful and too elitist. The failure of capitalism has not helped.

Back in the 1600s, the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes warned that without a strong state and outside of society, the life of man (women mustn’t have existed at the time) would become ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.

Ever since those words were uttered there has been an evolving debate about the role of the state and this still drives the political philosophy of politicians as diverse as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Where all this will end is anybody’s guess, but the global political order does appear to be in a very precarious place.


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