About

Mark Brolin details why tribal camps of all sorts are always, almost per definition, predictably wrong. But also that the tribal mouthpieces, even when dominating the airwaves, are typically outrageously misrepresenting the only consistently moderate force in today’s society: the electorate. Meaning that all the noise about growing and unbridgeable divides is much exaggerated. In fact, Mark insists that for those willing to see we have already entered a more positive phase of the current transition period. Even if a few more years of smoke, dust and at times painful economic reset must be expected.

PROVIDER OF THE JIGSAW PIECE THAT MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO UNDERSTAND TODAY’S UNNECESSARILY CONFUSED TRANSITION PERIOD

Mark Brolin is a Geopolitical Strategist, Economist and Author who helps policy makers, business leaders and the public navigate today’s tumultuous – and analytically fascinating – transition period. He has had the opportunity to work with policy specialists, research institutes, think tanks and corporations across three continents. He is 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. He specialises in aligning the strategy of an organisation with key international trends (political and economic). It then follows naturally that he maps the technological- and socioeconomic shifts that always drive commercial shifts. He also proactively maps key player incentives and the much underreported tactics used, by some of these key players, to try to hinder or misrepresent the shifts just mentioned. Only then is it possible to flush out the fundamentals (substance) from the smokescreen fluff. A necessity if the ambition really is to understand transition periods such as the one playing out in real time. As well as why mainstream thought is often reliably wrong – and far too pessimistic about long term prospects – in totally predictable ways.

Mark 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 him. Analytically he started to focus also on the threats to a vital society. He 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 society into excess terrain stealthily. Since not even the orchestrators will see the big picture effect. “One more small step, right? Why the fuss, don’t you care about these things?”

Coffee – like Centrism – is hard not to like when the dose is right. It is today’s overdose – including the cancelling of rival thoughts – that is problematic.

Many small steps still add up. So overreach will follow through unintended mission creep. Typically dressed up as prudent balance. Given all the good faith involved intellectual confusion will inevitably follow. As well as tribal mudslinging. For the third time in a hundred years we are, in real time, experiencing precisely such a transition period. The key difference between these three periods? Voters have reacted against different flavours of political overshoot. First against right-wing overshoot (1920s), then against left-wing overshoot (1980s) and today against Centrist overshoot. True, many of us have been conditioned to think that Centrism almost always equates balance. This, however, is a major mistake that might make the current transition period seem extra confusing. However, much of this confusion immediately evaporates once acknowledging the Centrist overshoot situation. As well as how institutionalised Centrist groupthink is stifling progress in much the same way institutionalised right-wing groupthink stifled progress in the 1920s and institutionalised left-wing groupthink stifled progress in the 1980s. 

CHEER UP, A POSITIVE AND MORE STABLE RESET IS ALREADY ONGOING

Any good news? Oh yes, plenty and it is much underreported. True, there are numerous peddlers of doom and gloom but doom and gloom are the inescapable hallmarks of every transition period. Since those resisting change will always argue that the world as we know it will end unless maintaining the status quo – or even by more-of-the-same policies. When people start seeing through the self-interest the resistance to change enters yet another phase: the phase of moralism. Meaning the phase when we are told that only “baddies” object to the institutionalised mindset. So when “wokery” is used to kill debate it has thousands of moralistic echoes in history. The only original thing about it is that, for the first time ever, “righteous” people are supposed to embrace Centrist hobby horses. Also after having been taken too far. However, this is also the phase of desperation. For those willing to see there is, finally, pushback on every front. Even within academia, the “church” in secular societies. Why is academia such an integral part of the problem? Because if you end up as an academic big budgets and high status is coming your way, most easily, if simply acting as a provider of the intellectual alibis needed by the political paymasters. Also the mutual backscratching situation between politicians and “intellectuals” is old as dirt.

SURE, IN EVERY CAMP THE IDEALISTS WILL OFTEN SOUND GLORIOUS BUT IT IS ALWAYS THE REALISTS WHO SAVE THE DAY 

Mark is ideologically independent per definition while a believer in realism and political balance rather than in the individual superiority of any political ideology. Why? Because history leaves little doubt that overreach typically follows any political camp dominating the political scene over a stretch of time. Once the useful realist agenda has been fulfilled armchair idealism will always, due to the way human nature is wired, be concocted and spouted to keep the fight alive. This phase is unfortunate for just about everyone. The movers and shakers in power – those who have often built their political platforms by always consistently pushing for just a bit more – will usually not see that they have transformed into agents of excess. So voters will not be delivered the moderation they typically have been promised . Discontent and voter pushback will then follow. The good news? Even if tribal emotional hysteria is far too often dominating the airwaves a new stable equilibrium is perfectly achievable. Simply because most people in most camps actually do seek the same outcomes. Including key things like a vital democracy, a pro-free markets rather than pro-big business economic set up and an academic and cultural sphere that promotes multidimensional rigour rather than “wokery”. Etc. Meaning most quarrels, believe it or not, concern how to best arrive at a type of society most people want.

A BOOK THAT DETAILS WHY AUTHENTIC MODERATES REALLY DO NEED TO BE WARY ALSO OF CENTRIST OVERREACH

In his latest book, Healing Broken Democracies: All you need to know about Populism, he underpins the arguments made above. The book starts with Mark 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. So readers are also offered, on a silver plate, the highlights and key insights of six of the absolutely best current affairs books published during the 2010s. Thereby it is obvious that 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.

Cover design by multimedia street artist Dean Stockton (D*Face)

Healing Broken Democracies can be seen as a tribute to the realist doers of society. To individuals from all walks of life set on making things work in practice. Perhaps most obviously society’s realist doers include countless operators on the field of practical reality. People who are often shamefully neglected simply while not as close to power as the career peddlers of idealist groupthink. Included among the realist doers are also those intellectuals who pay heed to the empirical data even when not politically convenient for the politicians pulling the university budget strings. The intellectuals interviewed as part of the book project just mentioned are all model examples of such intellectuals. A key common characteristic of all (experienced) realist doers? They typically know or at least suspect that when political promises lack practical detail – and sound to be too good to be true – the delivery prospects will most likely be dismal. As a direct consequence realist doers tend to seek backtracking from every idealist strand of politics. Again from right-wing idealism, from left-wing idealism AND from Centrist idealism. 

Panel Discussion hosted by Center for Policy Studies / CapX Live

NOT ONLY SOCIETY BUT ALSO MOST CENTRISTS ARE FAILED UNLESS SPEAKING TRUTH ALSO TO CENTRIST POWER

True political independence is only possible after having first acknowledged that political overreach typically follows every political camp dominating the political scene over a stretch of time. Such an understanding is necessary to ensure political neutrality against not only politicised group-think in the past but also against politicised contemporary group-think. Meaning only with such an understanding can current affairs commentators – people like myself – stop the malpractice of mainly identifying flaws among the challengers of contemporary – today Centrist – power players. That mistake not only makes complete nonsense of the “speak-truth-to-power” claim. It even does Centrism a disservice while hindering the much needed rethink necessary for revitalisation. After all, also Centrist voters are failed by the Centrist excess politics presently on offer. How so? Because when asked few Centrist voters seek anything but realist, balanced, honest and robust acknowledgement of the trade-offs involved in politics. Or possibly cherry-picking of good thoughts regardless of political origin. This is a far cry from the idealistic – and immorally moralistic – variety that over recent years has actually been delivered. Meaning also most Centrist voters are poorly represented by their supposed representatives.

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In theory just about everyone agrees that no society can remain vital unless allowing challenges to received wisdom. In practice such challenges are still always resisted by the movers and shakers in power.

TRIBELESS UNLESS COUNTING THE EQUALLY NON-TRIBAL SILENT MAJORITY

Mark’s refusal to offer consistent support to any ideological tribe is illustrated by the fact that the permanently angry social media trolls tend to take turns attacking him. Those who always(!) swing behind the same tribe regardless of issue discussed. So many tribal left-wingers are upset due to his unreserved Brexit (and Swexit) support. Many tribal (pretend) Centrists are again upset by Mark’s claim that during recent years their camp has, for the first time ever, moved into the terrain of destabilising excess. As well as tackled the inevitable pushback through neopaternalism. Right-wingers and left-wingers sometimes express upset that Mark still refuses to instead align himself to all their positions. Many tribal covid libertarians are upset by his consistent criticism of the “relaxed” early response in Sweden to the coronavirus. Even though there should be no doubt that numerous lives could have been saved if Sweden had done like the rest of the Nordics; closed down during the first 4-6 weeks in order to catch up on at least basic protection gear. Sweden has now ended up as the only country in Europe with an exceptionally low population density and a coronavirus death rate that stands out to such a degree that more than half of all Nordic coronavirus deaths have taken place in Sweden alone. However, Mark’s argument that the rational for full lock down was only strong during those very first weeks of the pandemic – but a flexible 2-sided approach was hindered by the tribal people on both sides of the argument (leaving Denmark, Norway and Finland as the possible best role models for a truly 2-sided approach).

Tribal attacks always play out in much the same way. Facts are cherry-picked to fit a politically useful – often black-and white – narrative. Pushback hard to dispute is typically ducked through personal – so called ad hominem – attacks. Such classically tribal deception tactics certainly reflect a depressing side of human nature. 

Then again, as disheartening as tribal vitriol can be, especially when on the receiving end, it might be the case that social media platforms, at least in one sense, serve as useful anger outlets. Not unlike, in the past, right-wing gentlemen’s club smoking rooms, middle-class coffee-houses and working men’s pubs. If the consistently angry feel empowered after having insulted people they have mentally painted as “evil enemies”, they might refrain from hurting society in more serious ways. This still leaves the risk that some aggressives are encouraged rather than placated by the kinship enjoyed when joining a social media echo-chamber.

Either way, it must never be forgotten that the people who spend time and energy quarrelling on social media represent only a tiny fraction of the population. Since arguably the vast majority of people neither have the time nor the inclination to waste energy on destructive social media exchanges. There is in fact plenty of reason to think that one much misunderstood non-tribal group is more sizeable than ever before: the silent majority. Only the silent majority seems to shift between individual political positions in precisely the same way as Mark does. Meaning without paying too much heed to if others label these shifts as right-wing (like over Brexit or my pro-free markets rather than pro-big business stance on economics), left-wing (like when decidedly supporting the phase one coronavirus lockdown) or Centrist (like over the general preference for honest and grown-up balancing acts). So given that Mark Brolin’s opinion cocktail is very similar to the opinion cocktail of the silent majority it is hard not to feel a strong affinity at least to this “tribe of the tribeless”. Yes, this tribe tends to be heckled from all sides – while per definition not as vocal as the traditional tribes – but during elections it nevertheless exercises considerable clout. So, evidently it has two two sides also when swimming against the traditional tribal tide(s). Needless to say Mark expressens an immense gratitude for all the uplifting support from others who probably also often see themselves as more or less tribeless.

Commenting on why it is always destabilising to challenge well established and well respected borders, even when part of a well intended ambition to replace nationalism with supranationalism. Aired on Scope on May 27, 2019

INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION, YES PLEASE, BUT NOT AT THE COST OF DEMOCRACY

Mark was born and raised in Sweden and studied at the Stockholm School of Economics (M.Sc Economics). During almost the entire 21st century he has lived in the United Kingdom. This means he has had the privilege to experience, first-hand, not only the political debate and professional culture of two extraordinary countries; but also the way of life in a general sense. He has 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 for 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. Many of today’s problems are linked to careerists joining forces, subtly and often unknowingly, to try to make voters believe that international co-operation is not possible without transferring considerable amounts of money and power in the direction of – again surprise, surprise – themselves. 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. Not least, believe it or not, through Brexit. Mark often points out that, for those willing to see beyond the doom-and-gloom, many much underreported positive developments are also taking place.

Commenting on the UK-EU trade deal on December 30, 2020 on Swedish Expressen TV. In Swedish with English subtitles.