Will the future of political conflict pit a hyper-capitalist Left versus an anti-capitalist Right?
By Michael Brendan Dougherty
There was once a fanciful idea that the internet and all its attendant technologies of cheap communication would reverse the pattern of urbanization in developed countries. Some people still believe this: People could telecommute to work while enjoying the comforts of the small towns and country roads of their childhood. A few people, in fact, do this. But the for the most part the opposite phenomenon is playing out. The information age is the age of moving people. And if that’s true, Donald Trump is just the first manifestation of a new era in global politics.
The information age makes it very easy for a small town kid to find an apartment, a job, and a social network in the big cities and growth areas. It also allows him to stay connected with friends at home. In other words, it lowers the price of moving and the cost of leaving. It reduces the feeling of disorientation in new places, while allowing people to still belong, in some sense, to where they came from. New York, Los Angeles, D.C., Silicon Valley, Portland, and Austin have all benefited from these trends.
And the truth is that this is a global phenomenon. It’s easier than ever to establish social, commercial, and employment relationships in places thousands of miles away from you. So why not go there? According to the U.N.’s figures, by 2013 the number of emigrants from the Global South that emigrated to the Global North was equal to the number of emigrants in the Global South that emigrated within the Global South. One of every nine Africans with a tertiary diploma was living in one of the elite nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It’s not a coincidence that Trump is surging ahead because of his anti-immigration views in America, while Europe is roiled by debates over how to handle migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
This, incidentally, is why I am convinced that there was no way that the GOP could have precluded the Donald Trump moment in American politics by passing comprehensive immigration reform two years ago. The movement of people from country to the city, from poor nations to richer nations, from the Global South to the Global North, may be the great political problem of the next age in global development. Just as the building of trade routes and the maintenance of empires defined the mercantile age, then the construction of a political economy (capitalist or socialist) became the major problem of the industrial age, the mass movement of people may be the defining issue of whatever we’re calling the information age.