Middle class angst

‘So much voter disquiet [in the USA] is linked to nostalgia for hazily-remembered golden decades when factories offered jobs for life, baby booms filled maternity wards and millions of families enjoyed the fruits of post-war prosperity (though women and non-whites may recall those years a bit differently). But coal mines, steel mills and factories have closed throughout the rich world, in countries with very different governments, labour laws and environmental rules. What all faced was an explosion in global competition, followed by a second wave of automation. That helps to explain why voter unhappiness sounds so similar across the rich world. In rich country after rich country, under governments both of the left and of the right, the biggest worry for voters is that middle-class incomes are stagnating and the job-for-life is dead. Let political leaders everywhere tell their publics the truth: the years of easy post-war growth are gone, replaced by competition that cannot be wished away, and so must be met head-on—and ideally harnessed. That will take hard work and new ideas,’ (‘Lexington: The nostalgia trap’, The Economist 15th Nov 2014, p.42).