We’re in favour of Beppe Grillo around here. No, we don’t know all the details of varied policies and no doubt some of them would horrify us. That we do think he’s a generally good thing would probably horrify our friends Alberto Mingardi and his colleagues fighting the Good Fight at the Instituto Bruno Leoni. However, Grillo is generally against the euro and given that that’s quite possibly the worst economic policy ever perpetrated upon the people of Italy in modern times that’s enough for us. We’d haver over whether it’s worse than Mussolini’s “Tutti nell stato” idea but then most would.
Our point here though being, well, what’s wrong with populism? Yes, sure, we’re against Poujadism, which is a form of petit bourgeois populism, we’re against Momentum and its kin, usefully described as Teenage Trot populism – possibly lumpenproletariat populism – and if we’re honest we’re against many different political ideas and ideals, not just populist ones. But populism itself, no, we’re really not quite sure it’s viable to oppose that:
Italy goes to the polls amid talk of another ‘populist revolt’
We’re really making what is a linguistic argument. There’ve been two great national upchucks recently, the Brexit vote and Trump’s election. Sure, lots of people don’t like either. We’re entirely and totally in favour of one, were anti-Hillary so will accept the other. But they definitely both were vox populi informing the ruling elite that they didn’t agree. The ruling elite doesn’t like that very much and that’s entirely understandable. But this is where the linguistic peculiarity comes into play.
What’s the difference between populism and democracy? We get to vote the bastards out fits both and either. We’re thus in favour of populism itself, just as we are of democracy, despite all its faults.
Yes, we entirely agree too with Bryan Caplan, voting is cheap. Revealed preference is a much better guide to reality. If you’re deploying your own resources you are faced with that reality of trade offs and opportunity costs and so this is a much better guide to what you really want within the bounded choices available. A tick on a piece of paper every 5 years is cheap by comparison and is that much cheaper, thus less valuable guide to behaviour, expressed preference.
Yet we’re still left with this basic fact. The entire point and purpose of democracy is that the people get to say what they want so they can be given it good and hard. We just don’t see the difference between that and populism.
Except if we retreat into another linguistic point, which is that populism is the democracy in which people say they want what the ruling elite doesn’t wish them to have.