November 21, 2016

JOEL KOTKIN: Here’s How Donald Trump Could End America’s New Feudalism.

One obvious, if little discussed, reason the progressive wave receded last week: The left’s increasingly unappealing economic agenda. In the past, progressives focused on improving conditions for working and middle class Americans through economic growth, home ownership and expansive infrastructure projects.

Today, notes former Bill Clinton aide William Galston, progressives rarely promote economic growth, having developed a particular hostility to many of the industries—energy manufacturing, transportation and agriculture—that offer economic opportunity to millions of Americans. This new environmental orientation has been less than enthusiastically embraced away from the coasts, where Trump, not coincidentally, triumphed.

In contrast to the old Democratic notions embraced by the likes of Harry Truman or the late California Governor Pat Brown, today’s progressives promote social control and the consolidation of a cognitively determined world order. Its promise amounts to forging a kind of high-tech middle ages in which the new aristocracy—techies, media grandees, financial moguls, academics, high-level bureaucrats—dominate while the middle class becomes increasingly serf-like.

In this new neo-feudalism, property ownership, like power, is concentrated in ever fewer hands.

The Trump victory tapped into a class rebellion among middle- and working-class voters who feel the most alienated and pessimistic about the future. The post-industrial, asset-inflated world so beneficial to the Apples, Googles, media stars and the trustifarians in glamour cities has been less kind to the middle and working class, whose incomes have dropped or stagnated over the past decade and a half.

Indeed. But what matters now is that he follows up with policies that will make things better.

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