The Retreat from Globalism

In the wake of liberal globalism’s failings, a nationalist tide is rising today, not only in China and Russia but also throughout the West. It is a dynamic eerily similar to 100 years ago, when war, pandemic and economic insecurity brought national tensions to the surface. Yet today’s undoubted turn against globalism need not herald a return to the dark days of aggressive nationalism. Instead, we are seeing the rise of a new community-based and self-governing model of localism.

This new localism counteracts some of the worst aspects of globalism – homogeneity, deindustrialisation and ever-growing class divides – while eschewing the authoritarian tendencies often associated with nationalistic fervour. It essentially seeks to replace, where possible, mass institutions and production with local entrepreneurship and competition.

This approach has demonstrated remarkable appeal. The promising evolution of technologies like remote work and 3D printing is already creating opportunities to enhance local economies. In the US, strong majorities trust local governments, compared to the more than half who lack trust in Washington, notes Gallup. Big companies, banks and media receive low marks from the public, but small businesses continue to enjoy widespread support across party lines.

This is not merely an American phenomenon. In France there have been consistent protests against globalisation for decades. Poland and the rest of eastern Europe, recovering from decades of central control and imperial edicts from Moscow, have also favoured localism. There is also pushback against federal encroachment in Canada, while the UK’s turn against globalism was best exemplified by its withdrawal from the EU.

The movement against globalism constitutes an alternative to increasingly intrusive government: such as in Europe, where the unelected EU bureaucracy seeks ever-expanding powers, and in North America and Australia, where national bureaucracies work to undermine traditionally vibrant local communities. It also has strong connections to populism, particularly in Europe. Its base, small business, tends to tilt to the right in most countries, including the US.

Yet the new localism is not fundamentally a question of left vs right. It is about sustaining local economies and self-governing institutions. According to Kevin Albertson, professor of economics at Manchester University, in politics today it often seems that the only choice on offer is between ‘big state or big business’. Faced with this unenviable dilemma, he argues, the ‘only viable alternative’ is localism – that is, ‘small state and small business’.

Essentially, localism looks to humanise the economy. Whereas global or national conglomerates respond largely to capital flows, local businesses rely heavily on networks of customers and suppliers. In the food industry, many start off as home-based businesses, and then become food trucks. Some evolve into modest restaurants, and occasionally open numerous locations, usually in the same region. These offer an alternative to the sameness of chain stores, at a time when many once ubiquitous traditional venues – pubs in London, bistros in Paris, as well as kosher delicatessens and Greek diners in places like New York – have declined.

Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Famartin via Wikimedia under CC 4.0 License

California’s Budget Surplus Has Vanished; Its Economy Faces a Harsh Reality

The much-celebrated California boom is facing a harsh reality.

Everything was looking good, based on enormous growth in capital gains in tech stocks and property, and some in Sacramento assumed the bounty would last — until it didn’t. The latest bad news is the evaporation of the state budget surplus that is now rapidly turning into a deficit that could run as high as $22 billion to $40 billion, particularly if there’s a recession. Read more

Can Capitalism Save Hollywood?

After a decade of rapid growth, the nation’s media and entertainment complex is facing retrenchment and, perhaps, a necessary reappraisal. Firms are consolidating. Workers are being laid off at Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, CBS, and other production houses. News media firms like CNN, Gannet, and Buzzfeed are planning similar actions. In 2022, stocks in media companies lost $500 billion in value, and stocks in tech firms, increasingly big players in entertainment and news, suffered a reversal of an astounding $4 trillion.

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North America Has An Opportunity to Lead the World

For generations, pundits the world over have insisted that the future will be forged elsewhere — Europe for some, Japan for others and, more recently, China. Yet, in reality, the United States and Canada may well be best positioned for a changing world, if our leaders can leverage our natural advantages.

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The New Global Class War

In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels warned that the ‘spectre’ of class war loomed over a rapidly industrialising capitalist world. Today, the neoliberal world is increasingly haunted by a similar spectre, this time of a global class conflict.

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The Democrats’ False Victory

For all their cautious optimism earlier this week, a mild Midterms victory may prove the last thing the Democrats need. If they had performed as predicted, the Democrats and their media adjuncts would now be busily dissecting their defeat. But what has to be considered a lost Republican opportunity — gaining little in a country where lifespans are now dropping — also means that the Democrats will be slower to address their weaknesses, and may be forced to accept the unpopular Joe Biden as their leader in 2024.

With no sign of a Republican resurgence, the Democrats will likely be lulled into thinking that Biden’s polarising agenda is a vote-winner, in the same way the conspiracy-minded MAGA wing of the GOP refuses to move on from 2020. Until it’s resoundingly disproved in the ballot box, stridency tends to whip up your base: Trump’s supporters have become, as the President suggested, “semi-fascist”, while his political mentor, South Carolina’s James Clyburn, goes further, decrying the GOP as the architects of a Nazi state.

When Democrats performed poorly in the past, they were forced to rethink their politics. After Walter Mondale suffered a landslide defeat to Reagan in 1984, the Democratic Leadership Council was set up to steer the ship towards the centre — and ultimately supported both a young Bill Clinton and, to an extent, Biden himself. In turn, the DLC was inspired by the moderate Coalition for a Democratic Majority, founded after Nixon’s trouncing of McGovern in 1972. Today, however, it’s hard to say that now is the time for a new political vision when virtually all the high-profile blue state Democrats won, sometimes by wider than expected margins.

So, rather than using the next two years to regroup and craft a political programme that could win the next election, the Democrats now appear stuck with a weak leader who appears unfit to deal with the global challenges that will define America in the coming decade. Internally, too, the Democrats look increasingly unstable. A stronger-than-expected Midterms performance doesn’t mask the fact that the progressives remain a dominant faction in the party — with an associated agenda that, outside of deep blue-college towns and core cities, commands remarkably low levels of support, as Barack Obama and others have warned.

Sticking to such a programme threatens the party’s already weakening hold on working-class voters, in particular those threatened by climate policies. Over time, the economic implications of Biden’s green agenda may be obvious, but for now they are hidden amid massive deficits and increased transfer payments. However, as Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira has noted, in the longer run, the party’s emphasis on “de-growth” and austerity is unlikely to attract middle and particularly working-class voters. Already, the political implications of climate policy have ruined the Democrats’ best chance to take the GOP seat in Ohio. Their candidate Tim Ryan may have claimed to support fracking, but his backing of the Pelosi Congressional agenda proved disastrous in a state whose economy is fueled by natural gas production and hopes to attract new investment, including a possible $20 billion new Intel chip plant in the Columbus suburbs. In Florida, meanwhile, Ron DeSantis won heavily in Latino, historically Democratic regions.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

West Coast Blues

Few regions have been more consistently Democratic than the West Coast. Even compared with the Northeast, where Republicans occasionally win governors’ offices, the appropriately named “left coast” has been adamantine in its progressivism. Republicans haven’t won statewide office in California in years; in Oregon, it’s decades. Washington has elected a Republican secretary of state, but she now serves in the Biden administration. And the region’s major cities are overwhelmingly blue.

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Is America Entering a New Age of Democratic Capitalism?

Most everyone outside the Biden administration knows that a recession is now more than likely. We could be entering what economist Noriel Roubini describes as the “Great Stagflation: an era of high inflation, low growth, high debt and the potential for severe recessions.” Certainly, weak growth numbers, declining rates of labor participation and productivity rates falling at the fastest rate in a half century are not harbingers of happy times.

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Our Mad Aristos

In the past, ruling classes sought to protect the system that secured their coveted positions. But sometimes, as in the era before the French or Russian Revolutions, some in the ruling circles stopped believing in their religion, their traditions, and their state, only to be exiled, executed, or turned into what the Soviets called “former persons.”

Like our current elites, many French aristocrats lived dissolute lives but also supported revolutionary ideas which threatened “their own rights and even their existence,” as Alexis de Tocqueville noted. Today a large, even dominant portion of the wealthiest and most privileged parts of our society—including the heirs of nasty capitalist titans such as Henry Ford or John D. Rockefeller—are key funders of an increasingly anti-capitalist left. Others are still young tech billionaires and—increasingly—their discarded or former spouses.

This elite has arisen at a time when, as in France before 1789, inheritance is becoming ever more important as a vehicle for upward mobility, which is otherwise increasingly remote for most of the population. Home ownership among middle income Americans, for example, the primary means for asset accumulation for the non-rich, has dropped by over 8 percent in the past decade, while the wealthy have garnered the greatest gain from increased housing prices. American millennials are three times as likely as boomers to count on inheritance for their retirement. Among the youngest cohort, those ages 18 to 22, over 60 percent see inheritance as their primary source of sustenance as they age.

To be sure there will be a lot of wealth channeled to the offspring of the affluent. The consulting firm Accenture projects that the Silent Generation and baby boomers will gift their heirs up to $30 trillion by 2030, and up to $75 trillion by 2060. But this will benefit only a relatively small group, given the intense concentration of assets in ever fewer hands, with the top 1 percent in the U.S. increasing their share by roughly 50 percent since 2002. The class implications of this process are profound. There are over 70 million millennials in the U.S., and fewer than 1 percent of them are millionaires, while the median millennial household earns around $40,500, 20 percent less than boomers at the same stage of life.

The Great Disconnect

Given this vast wealth, we might expect a ruling class with a strong desire to protect capitalist accumulation. But instead, we have one that almost invariably, and perhaps suicidally, adopts progressive positions. Figuring out the psychological personal motivations of this impulse is way above my pay grade, but the economic underpinnings are fairly clear. The elites on Wall Street, and even more so in Silicon Valley, emerged from a highly competitive economy that impressed even leftists. At the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, anti-capitalist demonstrators held moments of silence and prayer for the memory of Steve Jobs, a particularly aggressive capitalist. One progressive writer, David Callahan, portrays the tech oligarchs, along with their allies in the financial sector, as a kind of “benign plutocracy” in contrast to those who built their fortunes on resource extraction, manufacturing, and material consumption.

Yet the tech elite today, as well as their Wall Street allies, no longer resemble the entrepreneurs of the past. The masters of our increasingly “woke” corporate elites are, for the most part, now second-generation bureaucrats presiding over the wealthiest, most pervasive monopolies on the plant. Controlling 90 percent of a market like search (Google), operating system software (Microsoft), dominating the cloud and on-line retail (Amazon) or 90 percent of phones (Google and Apple) does not turn executives into-risk takers but acquirers. Three tech firms now account as well for two-thirds of all on-line advertising revenues, which now represent the vast majority of all ad sales. Once paragons of entrepreneurial vigor, these firms, as Mike Lind has noted, have morphed into exemplars of “tollbooth capitalism,” which receive revenues on transactions that far exceed anything they lose in failed ventures and acquisitions.

Read the rest of this piece at American Mind.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: America’s New Aristocracy by Alan, via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

There’s Nothing Progressive About a Universal Basic Income

‘Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.’ This colourful quote, sometimes attributed to Lenin, could well apply to the many free-market ideologues and tech oligarchs in the US, who are now pushing for increased welfare payouts and even a universal basic income (UBI). Through the expansion of welfarism at the expense of work, these capitalists could well be hastening the decline of the very economic system they profess to support.

Even devoted free-market advocates, like former senator Phil Gramm and economist John Early, now argue that increased welfare payouts, or ‘income transfer payments’, should be championed to reduce inequality in the US.

The welfarist solution may reduce income inequality on paper. But it does nothing to address the far more pernicious problems caused by the rapid concentration of assets in ever fewer hands. The top one per cent in the US has increased its share of assets by roughly 26 per cent since 2002.

There are further consequences to the expansion of welfare and the devaluation of work. It changes people’s character. The income you earn is empowering, whereas the dole nurtures dependence. Increasingly, the aspirational side of capitalism is being squelched by the rollout of ever more benefits.

Supporters of welfarism can point to the experience of Covid-19, when emergency pandemic aid cut poverty substantially in the US. But the Covid subsidy regime has not been a rollicking success for most. Indeed, for the past year, wages have grown, but not nearly as much as inflation.

One widely cited reason for the recent labour shortages relates to a post-pandemic reluctance to take low wages, or jobs in the ‘gig’ economy, where pay and hours are often uncertain. Indeed, according to one UK account, self-employment and gig work do not provide sustenance for anything like a middle-class lifestyle. Many jobs that could support families have disappeared, and so too has the motivation to work.

Under such conditions, what Karl Marx called the ‘reserve army of the unemployed’ is simply disengaging from the economy. Male labour-participation rates have fallen from over 80 per cent in 1950 to 68 per cent today. Almost one-third of American working-age males are not in the labour force, and are suffering from high rates of incarceration, drug, alcohol and other health issues.

This withdrawal from the labour force is happening amid a demographic downturn in the high-income world. The proportion of the US population aged between 16 and 64 grew by 21 per cent during the 1980s. During the 2010s, it grew by less than five per cent. The EU and East Asia are suffering even stronger declines in their working-age populations.

Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: Chart developed using data from ACS poverty statistics, via Wikimedia under CC by SA 4.0 License.