12/17/2019

2019: The year revolt went global

"As his daunting list indicates, Cowen is among the few who have paid attention to the big picture, and his economist’s perspective on events is intriguing. Many of the protests, he observes, began with price or tax increases. Consumers, mustered online, may be the twenty-first century’s subversive class, much as factory workers were for the nineteenth. That would account for the protesters’ almost universal lack of interest in power or revolution, programs or ideologies – the traditional objectives of politics. A consumer revolt has no need for such baggage. In fact, as Cowen remarks, a political blank slate can be an advantage in rallying huge numbers against a specific grievance.

I agree with Cowen that the public has erupted into politics with the mindset of the digital consumer. The “producers” are the elites who inhabit the government, above all, but also the parties, advocacy groups, the media – they manufacture laws, programs, decisions like impeachment. The public stands aside, as it would from any production and marketing process, but it retains the ultimate consumer’s veto. It can say No. All its implacable fury is invested in that act of negation."