In the American political lexicon, few words are as prevalent — or as confusing — as “populism.”
The Great Debate
The party that brought you “death panels” and “socialized medicine” has rolled out another term — carefully selected, like the others, for its power to freak people out. “Court-packing” now joins a Republican rogue’s gallery of poll-tested epithets.
After the nation’s major social program finally became law, critics regularly blamed it for a slowing economy and a swelling federal bureaucracy. Fierce congressional opposition led to the formation of a blue-ribbon panel to overhaul the measure. Obamacare in 2013? Not quite. It was Social Security in 1937.
We have been told throughout this presidential campaign that the contest is a referendum about two visions of government, one activist, the other passive ‑ like every presidential election since 1980. But that may actually understate the stakes. In a larger context, it is a choice between maintaining the last 80 years of American governance or abruptly ending it.
(Correcting name of academic to Peter Reuter on Feb 27)
Want to help fund the bank bailout, ease California’s budget crisis and shore up strained U.S. finances? Legalize drugs, tax the trade and save on interdiction, domestic enforcement and the prison and court system.
Liaquat Ahamed is the author of “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World”, a book about the causes of the Great Depression to be published by Penguin Press in January 2009. After working as an economist at the World Bank, he spent twenty-five years as a professional investment manager in London and New York. The opinions expressed are his own.