Wednesday 7th March 2018
The first step to an effective response by progressives to the rising tide of rightwing populism in Italy and elsewhere (Editorial, 6 March) is to realise that ever more open borders are the problem. It was predominantly the opposition to inadequately controlled immigration that resulted in the Italian election result, the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election. The other contributing factor was globalisation, with its job-destroying and far-too-open borders to goods such as steel. Lastly, inadequately constrained flows of capital and financial services assisted in the economic crash of 2008. The only counter will be some form of protectionism.
However, Trump’s threatened trade war over steel (Report, 5 March) is the wrong kind of 1930s-style one-sided protectionism. He wants to curb imports that cause domestic unemployment, but at the same time plans to use all possible leverage to open up foreign markets to US exports. To avoid a re-run of the 1930s will require a very different “progressive protectionism”. This could benefit all countries by nurturing and rebuilding local economies through the permanent reduction in the level of international trade in goods, money and services, while enabling nation states to control the level of migration that their citizens desire. This approach can return a sense of optimism to the majority through championing policies geared to achieving more job security, a decrease in inequality and protection of the environment. It is also the only way to see off a further rise of the extreme right.
East Twickenham, Middlesex