The culture war is a deliberate distraction

Capitalism is the best economic system for the overall creation of wealth. However it is lousy at distributing that wealth fairly between the people who contributed to the creation; and it equally sucks at all other issues which require solidarity (e.g. health care) or involve the common good (e.g. the environment). After WWII it appeared that the first world countries had solved that problem: They had all created political systems in which “the right” fought for freedom and capitalism, and “the left” fought for fair distribution, solidarity, and the common good. Alternating between left and right governments created a balance, and even allowed different countries to arrive at different points on that balance, e.g. Scandinavian countries having more solidarity, and the US having more capitalism.

However the system had one inherent flaw: Politicians are by definition members of the elite, the ruling class. And that is true for left wing politicians as well. Thus a right wing politician fighting for unfettered capitalism that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer was both following his party politics and his own greed. While the left wing elite was naturally less inclined to fight for policies that aided less well off, because it didn’t help them personally. So at various points in the 90’s the left wings in different countries simply gave up on economic policy for fairer distribution of wealth, and just joined the capitalist camp which made the elite richer. Today a left wing politician like Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn who still push for some economic fairness and solidarity are considered as “odd” and decried as “communists”.

Now this has created a growing rift between voters and the elite that leads them in politics and media. The people simply isn’t represented any more. They are being fed lies like “your salaries are only low because of immigrants” or “tax cuts for the rich will trickle down to you”. In their desperation they increasingly vote for extremists and populists, and end up harming themselves even more through the resulting policies. And the left and right wing elite in order to be seen to do something play acts a culture war to distract the masses from the real problems.

In Germany there is an organization of soup kitchens which collect food past its sell-by-date and distributes it to people who are so poor that they have to beg for food. One local organization recently made headlines because they enacted a controversial “Germans first” policy, after food fights had broken out in which younger male immigrants shoved aside elderly German grandmothers. And the discussion is all about the culture war, with the left fighting for equal rights for the immigrants, and the right defending priority for the natives. Only the extreme left is mentioning the real problem: That in one of the world’s richest countries, at the top of the economic cycle and full employment, there are still so many people having to beg for old food that the soup kitchens can’t feed all of them.

As Bill Clinton still knew, “it’s the economy, stupid”. If the centrist parties fail to represent the economic interests of the majority of the population, they will fade into irrelevance. History repeats itself, and the rise of populist parties in Europe in the 1930’s (not just in Germany) isn’t really the example we would want the world to follow. We need to see the culture was as the distraction that it is, and concentrate on the real economic problems.