Populism and its dangers

Free-market democracies have seen a wave of populism, from the far right, far left, and religious parties, lapping the defences of western political systems.
Paul Lewis
Jun 05, 2017

Populism has enjoyed huge success from the US, across Europe, to Russia. Even the success of centrist Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential election should not obscure the strong showing of his Front National opponent. Now, UK voters go to the polls in a febrile atmosphere in which a far-left message is proving to be alarmingly potent. One thing that populists share is their disregard for the fundamentals of free-market economics which has helped companies thrive for many decades.

It’s therefore worth corporate executives and investors pondering the damage that populism can wreak once it has taken power. The FT’s account of developments in two democracies, Turkey and Venezuela, illustrate those all-too-familiar paths to political and economic ruin. This short FT documentary describes how citizens of formerly oil-rich Venezuela (for long an inspiration for western-based socialists), are now scrambling desperately to find bread and medicines. Meanwhile, the political regime in Turkey is firing or imprisoning political ‘opponents,’ by the hundreds of thousands. This is sure to affect the country’s economic and investment prospectstoo. As the FT’s Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent argues, ‘Turkey’s slide into a repressive autocracy serves as a warning to American citizens’ too.

Paul Lewis

Editorial Director at Headspring