LINCOLN–While movements like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump shocked a large number of people across the world, Mark Blyth was not one of them.
The political economist is noted for predicting both events, and he discussed how these and other movements occurred during Tuesday night’s E.N. Thompson Forum, “Why People Vote for Those Who Work Against Their Best Interests.”
Blyth, native of Scotland, is a political economics professor at Brown University. The E.N. Thompson Forum is an annual lecture series at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in which prominent speakers examine current issues.
Blyth pointed to price changes in consumer goods and services in the United States in recent decades, including the rise of certain services like college tuition, health care and childcare. Additionally, Blyth said the gap between the middle class and top one percent of earners has continued to grow since the 1980s.
“Sixty percent of the country hasn’t had a pay rise when you adjust for inflation since the 1980s,” he said.
When a large number of candidates were looking at data that showed the GDP rising and unemployment falling, Blyth said they failed to realize that these average numbers don’t represent a majority of the people.
So when candidates were campaigning across America talking about how great things were for millions of Americans, Blyth said many Americans disagreed. This made the political candidates and other politicians who called out the appalling conditions appealing.
Blyth said even if these people weren’t a fan of the politician, they might admire him or her for “telling the truth.”
Blyth presented a five-step solution to ending populism. This includes free college tuition, subsidized child care, single-payer health care, corporate reform of shareholder value culture and the end of digital monopolies.
“People have had enough,” Blyth said. “In one way or another, they’re going to vote for change.”