I am a truly independent British-Swedish Political Analyst, Economist and Author who has had the opportunity to work internationally with corporations, think tanks as well as research institutes. I am moreover a regular contributor to the current affairs debate in both the UK and Sweden (link to regular speech topics here and link to my Chartwell Speakers profile here). Well-known employers include the Swedish Foreign Ministry, OMX (Nasdaq) and Cantor Fitzgerald. I was employed by Cantor during the September 11 disaster (Cantor Fitzgerald was the company most severely affected; 650 colleagues passed). This disaster proved a career turning point for me. Analytically I started to also focus on the threats to a vital society. I have found that groupthink, when idealistic and marketed by the political camp in vogue, has always been much more destabilising to society, long term, than even terrorist attacks. How so? Because external enemies are easy to unite against while easy to spot. Political camps with institutionalised powers, on the other hand, will typically move into excess terrain through the accumulated effect of many small steps. The thousand of un-coordinated well-meaning orchestrators will typically be the last to see the big picture effect. So, the overreach will follow through unintended mission creep while also typically dressed up as prudent balance. Intellectual confusion will inevitably follow. We are experiencing precisely such a phase right now.
My latest book – Healing Broken Democracies: All you need to know about Populism – starts off with me interviewing six of the world’s foremost thought leaders in relation to their (book) masterpieces: Daron Acemoglu, David Goodhart, Matthew Goodwin, Eric Kaufmann, Jonathan Haidt and Luigi Zingales. Thereby readers are offered, on a silver plate, key insights and highlights of a selection of the absolutely best current affairs books published during the 2010s. This matters because if only knowing where to look the arguments explaining the populist phenomenon have been readily available for years. Meaning plenty of division and agony could have been spared if leading politicians in many countries had been willing to properly take on board what the thought leaders involved in this project have already been saying for a long time. However, better late than never.
My key argument following the interviews is that the establishment-versus-the-people divide has, this time, emerged as a result of Centrist overreach. Usually the Centrist orchestrators have started exceptionally well – by adding thoughts previously suppressed – but without properly acknowledging the trade-offs linked to any course of action. So eventually thoughts and ideas really have, inevitably, been taken too far. Take any controversial political issue today. For example the unprecedented open border policies, the transfer of voter power to unelected bureaucrats in internationalist organisations, the corporativist links between politicians and big business, the no end to the artificial money boosting of the economy, the moralistic “wokery” facing down anyone challenging received (Centrist) wisdom and the also unprecedented way many so called intellectuals are set on rarely acknowledging Western World progress when Centrists were not in charge. The typical response when disillusioned voters have the audacity to push back against their supposed establishment “betters”? “Too uneducated to know their own good”. This is how the smell of 21st century Centrist overreach is now also mixed with the 19th century smell of paternalism. It is no small irony that the really uneducated thing is to fall for that neopaternalist argument. Since also a textbook example of an argument always used by so called benevolent autocrats to ‘temporarily’ offset democracy. Leading straight to a slippery slope that, regardless of intentions, will guarantee a vicious circle of division, bitterness and mutual calls for extraordinary powers. The latter to hinder the other side from coming first.
Still, contrary to many others who primarily talk about polarisation and unbridgeable divides I am arguing that positive correction is already taking place. For several reasons. Despite all the anger there is, for example, plenty of good faith on both sides. Yes, the angry tribal people are vocal but they are also far from representative of the voter majority. Moreover, there is little to no fear from a silent majority that is collectively reacting against the overshoot features of Centrism “only” – not against Centrism per se (additional reasons mentioned in the book). I do believe my cross disciplinary approach contributes to a uniquely comprehensive – and rounded – take on populism. I also believe honest acknowledgment of the Centrist overreach fiasco – no ifs and no buts – is key to not only revitalising society but also to revitalising all varieties of political thinking. Left-wing, right-wing AND Centrist.
Healing Broken Democracies can be seen as a tribute to “doers” of society. Individuals from all walks of life but still united by an openly truth-seeking and empirical mindset rather than by a mindset dominated by tribal ideology and wishful thinking. This perhaps most obviously includes countless operators on the field of practical reality who are often shamefully neglected simply while not as close to power as the peddlers of idealist groupthink. It certainly also includes intellectuals who focus on rather than shrink away from the empirical legwork. The intellectuals interviewed as part of the book project are all model examples of such intellectuals. A key common characteristic of all such “doers”? Typically they are fluff resistant while one of their prime motivations really is to make things work. In practice. As a direct consequence they also tend to seek backtracking from every variety of out-of-touch (ideological) overreach. Right-wing, left-wing AND Centrist.”
I dislike witch hunts of all sorts not least while I have found that most people everywhere tend to act in good faith. The politicians we might enjoy thrashing are typically products of their (our) times. After all, many of us have, at least at some point, voted for them. Politicians dismissing disillusioned voters as uneducated throwbacks also need to learn a thing or two about looking beyond their personal comfort zone. It is clear that we frail human beings all have a tendency to convince ourselves – even when patently wrong – that the world view that benefits us personally also happen to benefit society. The latter helps to explain why self-righteousness has always been the key enemy of a truly bridge-building – respectful – political debate.
Professionally I relish digging into complex analytical problems, pulling out the truly relevant points and leaving the noise behind. Before working out the key conclusions as objectively as possible. Next to family and sports there is little that lifts my spirit as much as intellectual honesty.
INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION, YES PLEASE, BUT NOT AT THE COST OF DEMOCRACY
I was born and raised in Sweden and studied at the Stockholm School of Economics (M.Sc Economics). During most of the 21st century I have lived in the United Kingdom. This means I am privileged to have experienced, first-hand, not only the political debate and professional culture of two extraordinary countries; but also the way of life in general. I have simultaneously experienced how the political culture has changed quite dramatically over recent decades. The perhaps most influential general change? In both countries mentioned the connection between politicians and the people was, not long ago, uniquely strong. Rooted in the fact that numerous leaders had spent their formative years on the field of practical reality. Leading to a grassroots understanding of real problems. Slowly but steadily numerous politicians in both countries have slided into the type of top-down territory that typically emanates from too much armchair thinking – and distinguishes just about every unsuccessful society.
Then again, if acknowledging that the weaker connection to realities on the ground is a root cause of today’s troubles there is also a natural way back towards yet again more democratic societies. Including a variety of international co-operation that does not look the other way when democracy is eroded. Meaning showing respect for those previously discriminated as well as those who have not turned out winners during the globalist transformation. Only thereafter are truly inclusive as well as politically stable societies possible. Most people know this. Much of today’s problems are linked to careerists joining forces, subtly and often unknowingly, to try to make us believe that international co-operation is not possible without transferring considerable amounts of money and power – surprise, surprise – their way. As soon as a critical mass of people has stopped sanctioning such neopaternalism it is perfectly possible for society to move forward constructively. In fact, this process has already started – so for those willing to see beyond the doom-and-gloom there are certainly also many positives.