Us vs. Them by Ian Bremmer Book Summary – Review

Globalists promised a future of economic development, increasing salaries, increased openness, and liberal ideals triumphing. You may be understood for wondering what’s wrong with the world around you.

Trump has come to prominence in the United States, riding a tide of populist unhappiness and fury against elites. Populist parties are gaining popularity across Europe. People in emerging nations are becoming more disgruntled as a result of economic inequity, government corruption, and a polluted environment.

In a nutshell, globalization has produced winners and losers. These chapters tell the tale of how losers are beginning to speak out for themselves. It’s a tale of rage, frustration, and strife. It’s also a narrative about governments – in both rich and poor countries – failing to meet citizens’ aspirations.

In these chapters, you’ll learn

  • Why is immigration at the heart of populist politics?
  • How robots will exacerbate global – and intra-national – inequity.
  • Why governments should reconsider their tax and education policies.

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Chapter 1 – Globalization has resulted in economic winners and losers, as well as a mentality of “us versus. them.”

Globalization, or the free movement of ideas, trade, services, and people across borders, has been pushed by Western political leaders for decades.

Globalization improves economies by relocating manufacturing and operations to areas of the world where labor and materials are less expensive. This has helped people all over the world become wealthier – consumers in developed countries have access to lower-cost goods on store shelves, and workers in developing countries have access to new opportunities.

However, many people have lost their employment as a result of corporations moving work elsewhere or automating them. For example, the United States has lost over 40% of its industrial employment since 1979. The middle class in the United States, which has traditionally been the country’s economic majority, is dwindling. In 1970, middle-income households in the United States received 62 percent of all income. In 2014, that percentage was 43%.

Globalization’s effects are being seen in our culture and politics. Growing economic uncertainty is fueling discontent and, as a result, populist forces.

According to a 2015 poll, just 6% of respondents in the United States, 4% in the United Kingdom, and 3% in France thought the world was becoming better.

With a “we versus. them” rhetoric, populist politicians on the left and right are tapping into this sense of dissatisfaction. It pits “us” against “them,” with “us” being the lower and middle classes, and “them” being the upper and middle classes or both.

When Senator Bernie Sanders or Greek socialist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras argues against large companies, predatory bankers, and the political establishment, they use this “we vs. them” paradigm.

From the right, we’ve seen that globalism’s influence, particularly the perception of a danger to American employment, has aided Trump’s election. Trump was able to speak directly to people who were unhappy that local industries had closed and jobs had been lost, while bankers and politicians in New York and Washington looked to prosper, and Mexican and other Latin American immigrants discovered new possibilities.

Furthermore, while French far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen did not win the presidency in 2017, her election campaign resembled Trump’s in many ways. She called for a “revolution” against open borders and the influx of foreigners who are allegedly taking employment in France.

This notion of us vs. them is not just about employment, as the appeal of people like Le Pen demonstrates, but also about culture and identity. Let’s look at it more closely.

Chapter 2 – In many nations, globalization has heightened cultural concerns.

Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration rhetoric focused on more than only the danger to jobs and pensions, as well as the influence on public services. She also cautioned that an inflow of foreigners will dilute France’s cultural character.

Concerns over immigration are causing discontent and major political instability in several countries.

As a result of the European Union’s idea of public mobility for people, the proportion of UK residents born outside the country increased from 3.8 million in 1993 to 8.7 million in 2015. And the 2016 Brexit campaign capitalized on people’s fears about the inflow. One of the campaign’s leaders, Boris Johnson, claimed that uncontrolled immigration puts “massive unfunded strains” on the health system and other government services. Immigrants aren’t simply snatching your jobs; they’re also crowding your schools and lengthening the lines at the doctor’s office.

In the years 2015 and 2016, 1.1 million refugees applied for asylum in Germany. Alternative for Germany became the first far-right party to win seats in the German parliament since World War II in 2017, owing to the societal issues that resulted.

Electoral victories for populist parties and platforms demonstrate how immigration concerns are influencing public opinion and values. Multiculturalism and acceptance are being questioned increasingly frequently.

At the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, the French daily Le Figaro released a survey that found a majority of Western European voters supported abolishing the present system of open borders between 26 European countries.

Generally, anti-immigration and anti-foreigner sentiment has increased, and the underlying tendencies are expected to persist. Approximately 65 million people were living as refugees throughout the world in 2016, and there are few signs of any political solutions to reduce that number. Terrorist assaults that fuel anti-Muslim prejudice aren’t going away anytime soon. If Trump’s border wall is completed, it will not keep all migrants out.

In Europe, the United States, and other affluent countries, rising immigration, coupled with an economy and society that seems more insecure than ever for middle- and working-class people, means populism will keep rising.

That’s a concern since the same vulnerability in poor countries is a major motivator of immigration in the developed world. It’s also on the increase, as we’ll see.

Chapter 3 – People in developing countries are frustrated by a combination of economic, environmental, and political factors.

When it comes to repressing protests, few regimes are as effective as China’s. However, official government data show that the number of demonstrations in China increased from 8,700 in 1993 to over 127,000 in 2010. The state ceased publicizing the figures at that time.

These demonstrations were sparked by a combination of economic, environmental, and political concerns, all of which were either triggered by or exacerbated by globalization.

One of the very first effects of globalization was the industrialization of underdeveloped nations when factories and other sectors were relocated to lower-cost areas. Industrialization also brings environmental harm, such as polluted air and water.

Every year, one million Chinese citizens are projected to die as a result of air pollution, prompting reasonable outrage. People in the smoggy city of Chengdu, China, began putting pollution masks on the faces of monuments in the city in December 2016, and demonstrators went to social media with images that read, “Let me Breathe.” Signs of dissatisfaction in everyday life increased as well. Eventually, demonstrators swarmed the city’s main plaza, prompting riot police to unleash a massive response.

Other developing countries have become victims of their own success, with governments unable to meet the demands of a growing middle class.

Turkey has been a shining example of globalization. Between 2002 and 2014, the number of Turks living in poverty fell drastically, from 30% to 1.6 percent. However, there are still grounds for the country’s growing middle class to remain unsatisfied.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, stated in 2012 that the average salary will climb to $25,000 by 2023. However, by 2016, it had to a halt a little under $11,000.

However, like many other developing countries, the Turkish government has failed to invest in the infrastructure required to make its cities livable as more people migrate from rural to urban regions in pursuit of jobs.

As we’ve seen elsewhere, failing to provide for public services may result in enormous protests. A nine-cent rise in municipal transport rates in So Paulo, Brazil, in 2013 prompted massive protests around the country, seen as emblematic of an incompetent, corrupt administration.

Environmental damage, dismal economic outcomes, and inadequate public services are causing citizens all around the world to become angrier. And, as we’ll see in the following blink, a major source of rage: inequality, exacerbates all of these issues.

Chapter 4 – Today’s society is plagued by economic disparity.

In 1981, the richest 1% of adults in the United States earned 27 times as much as the poorest 50%. That’s already a significant gap. In 2016, however, the top 1% earned 81 times more than the poorest half of the population. Thousands of miles away, the richest guy in Nigeria may make more than 8,000 times what a poor Nigerian can spend on basic requirements in a year in only one day.

Economic disparities exist all across the world, especially in nations that have seen rapid growth.

Take, for example, Russia. Between 2000 and 2010, once the turmoil of the post-Soviet period had gone, Russian earnings soared. Since then, however, economic stagnation brought on by low oil prices has disproportionately impacted the poor. In reaction to the economic downturn, the state halted inflation-adjusted pensions and public-sector pay. The living conditions of the poorer Russians have deteriorated.

Moreover, Russia’s political and economic elites have become extremely affluent, with 24 percent of the country’s wealth kept abroad, where it cannot be taxed to pay government services. In comparison, the wealth disparity in Russia now is greater than in nearly every other OECD country.

Inequality is a source of resentment in Russia and worldwide, and it frequently inspires upheaval.

People grow irritated when they believe they are working hard for little reward while political and economic leaders are doing very well. Anti-government rallies in Russia in 2017 included demonstrators brandishing yellow rubber ducks. This was a jab at Prime Minister Medvedev’s opulent and supposedly corrupt lifestyle, as one of his many expensive homes included a duck refuge.

Furthermore, those who are oppressed lash out. In the United States, data crunchers FiveThirtyEight concluded that economic inequality “stood out” as a predictor of hate crimes based on publicly accessible FBI data. States with higher levels of income inequality were much more likely to experience higher levels of racist attacks both before and after the previous presidential election.

The bad news is that a new movement of globalization is emerging that has the potential to exacerbate inequalities.

Chapter 5 – Robotics and technological progress are posing a challenge to job creation and opportunities.

It took a half-century for the first million industrial robots to be placed throughout the world. The second million will be installed in only eight years.

Robots, machine learning, and other technological advancements are rapidly advancing, and they are displacing an increasing number of people’s employment.

According to a 2017 research by the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis, by 2035, technology will have replaced 50% of all employment in nearly every big American metropolis. Your career is in jeopardy if you work in meal preparation, at a doctor’s service counter, as an administrator, or even as a driver.

The general impact of artificial intelligence, according to economic theory, is favorable. Robots may eliminate low-wage employment, but they also generate new opportunities with greater compensation. Humans can advance up the economic ladder while robots take on lower-level, low-paying jobs.

However, data discovered by academics at MIT and Boston University in 2017 challenges this idea. Between 1990 and 2007, 670,000 industrial jobs were lost to robots, according to the study. However, the employment that had been lost had not been replaced since new, higher-paying occupations for humans were not being developed rapidly enough.

It will be difficult to replace all of the jobs lost to automation. People will require greater degrees of education as low-skilled and medium-skilled occupations are lost to machines.

Those who can afford it will be able to obtain the knowledge they need to succeed in an industry dominated by automation, such as becoming a software developer or healthcare professional. Those who cannot afford it, however, will face significant difficulties.

Education is costly. According to financial corporation Vanguard, tuition expenses in the United States are growing at a rate of 6% each year. Four-year college education for an American born in 2017 would cost $215,000 in a state school and $500,000 in a private school at this pace.

Chapter 6 – Emerging economies are both more sensitive to and less capable of responding to automation.

Computer science and automation are expected to threaten 47 percent of jobs in the United States, according to UN estimates. But, if you think that’s awful, consider the numbers for developing nations. In Nigeria, 65 percent of people are in danger. It’s 69 percent in India and 77 percent in China.

Take a look at the populations of these and other emerging nations. There are 180 million people in Nigeria, 260 million in Indonesia, and 1.4 billion in China. There are a lot of folks whose jobs are in jeopardy.

Having a big and expanding population used to be a benefit. For example, India’s young population – half of all Indians are under the age of 25 – has provided the country with a rising and inexpensive workforce, allowing it to expand economically. However, even when the economy is booming, the growth of technology has resulted in fewer jobs being produced, putting the huge labor pool at a disadvantage.

Developing markets have a bigger number of occupations that are at risk of becoming automated, as well as larger, younger populations to care for. As a result, they are far more sensitive to the effects of automation. Many people are also unable to adequately respond to it.

Countries with affluent populations, such as the United States or South Korea, may invest that money in high-quality educational standards. Take, for example, South Africa. A legacy of insufficient spending on infrastructure, among other things, is stifling economic progress. For instance, bad transportation infrastructure isolates residents of poor townships and rural regions from jobs, which tend to be concentrated in metropolitan areas. And such issues are exacerbated in a democracy that has had just one major political party for much of the previous two decades, a government that is prone to corruption, and continuously bad leadership. Inequality is rampant, as is young unemployment, which stands over 40% among black youth.

As a result, the government lacks the financial resources to spend on education and research, and development, which would better prepare South Africa’s economy and population for future changes. Escalating the problem, populists in the United States – like populists across the world – are increasingly blaming immigrants. Instead of truly addressing the lack of funding that is hindering growth, they accuse outsiders of taking South Africa’s resources.

As affluent nations handle the consequences of the technological revolution, countries like South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, and Venezuela risk being left behind. Inequality and resentment will rise substantially in these nations as residents are unable to benefit from it and are impacted by its impact on working- and lower-middle-class jobs.

Chapter 7 – In reaction to populist concerns, governments and citizens are constructing new barriers.

Globalization has posed a number of problems for governments throughout the world, ranging from infrastructural demand to cultural concern. What are their reactions?

Governments frequently respond to globalization’s openness by constructing additional obstacles to control the movement of commodities, information, and people.

Nowadays, Donald Trump is the face of rising economic nationalism throughout the world, but he is not alone. For instance, according to UN data, the number of non-tariff trade barriers in Southeast Asia increased from 1,634 in 2000 to over 6,000 in 2015. Developing nations, like the United States, are looking for methods to safeguard their own interests.

Governments are also constructing barriers to prevent information from flowing freely. These barriers can be rather tangible at times. In 2016, China imprisoned 38 journalists, and Turkey imprisoned 81. However, just turning off the internet is a more effective approach to stop the flow of information. During the Arab Spring demonstrations, the Egyptian government was the first to turn down the country’s internet connection, but it wasn’t the last. Russia’s efforts to maintain information control include banning internet material as it sees fit. Russia has even built a government-controlled internal internet, allowing the country to withdraw from the global internet and run its own state-run version in the event of a conflict.

Ultimately, people’s obstacles are increasing. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, more than 40 nations have constructed fences or barriers against their neighbors, according to The Economist.

It appears that governments will become more selective in who they allow into the country. The economic case for immigration will deteriorate as automation replaces many of the positions historically held by migrants in rich nations. Critics of migration might argue that the United States doesn’t need migrant construction workers from Latin America since 3-D printers can create the foundations for a new home in a couple of hours.

Also as the focus of immigration changes away from low-wage workers, admission privileges may become more readily available for purchase. In the United States, for example, visa policies currently make it simpler for wealthy foreigners to get green cards by investing in real estate.

When individuals are intimidated or irritated, it’s natural for them to construct barriers to defend themselves. Rethinking what citizens may expect from their governments might be a better strategy.

Chapter 8 – Governments grappling with globalization must rethink the state-citizen relationship.

In exchange for paying taxes and abiding by the law, what do you want from your government? What do you mean, law and order? Are there any job openings? Is there a way to get high-speed internet?

All citizens of the United States are guaranteed the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, according to the US Declaration of Independence. However, many people now have larger aspirations of their social contract, or of the government, they may have. They demand, among many other things, access to education, transportation infrastructure, safe drinking water, medical care, and internet access.

Dealing with globalization’s problems, today’s governments must consider the social compact in a way that is meaningful in a globalized society.

Education, which must now be a lifetime process, should be a fundamental component of this.

Because of the rapid pace of technological development, workers will need to retrain frequently and fast. Workforce Singapore, a government agency in Singapore, assists businesses in retraining their employees, developing new skills, and maintaining their value to the firm. Every person over the age of 25 in Singapore is also given an “individual learning account” – money to spend on new technology courses. This strategy might be used by other governments.

They’ll have to reconsider taxation as well. With a more mechanized workforce, there will be fewer incomes to tax. Bill Gates has proposed a tax on robots to help pay for worker retraining and the costs of individuals who have lost their jobs.

Others, notably in Europe, are exploring a universal basic income, in which the government provides a little income to everyone, affluent or poor. Citizens may then choose between education, full-time job, involvement in the so-called gig economy and freelance labor, or caring for children or elderly parents, with their fundamental requirements met.

What is apparent now is that globalization’s forces still have the ability to destabilize societies. Trump supporters, Chinese demonstrators, and European populists are all likely to be enraged — and with good cause. It is unlikely that the process of rewriting the social contract will be simple. However, in the long term, it is a better strategy than erecting more barriers.

Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism by Ian Bremmer Book Review

It’s easy to detest populists such as Trump. But he didn’t invent us vs. them the reality that allowed him to win. Change is desired by many people in America, Europe, and the developing globe. They also believe that the political and economic elites are unaware of the true consequences of globalization. If we don’t take these individuals seriously, society and politics will face significant challenges.

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