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Gwynne Dyer to lecture at UPEI, September 13

The Populist Revolt: Its Causes and Cures is presented by the SDU Institute of Christianity and Culture
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Gwynne Dyer

Journalist, broadcaster, and historian Gwynne Dyer returns to UPEI for a lecture on the return of nationalism as a movement around the world. Dyer will present “The Populist Revolt: its causes and cures” at 7:30 pm, Thursday, September 13 in the Dr. Steel Recital Hall at UPEI. The lecture is free and is presented by the SDU Institute for Christianity and Culture.

Nationalism is back, argues Dyer, and it’s very angry. Populists have already come to power in two major countries, and some people even fear we are seeing a re-run of the 1930s. We all know how that ended. 

In Europe, the populist revolution is mostly driven by immigration. In the larger EU countries, mainstream parties have contained the insurgency so far. In the United States, it’s more complex: job losses are really the big issue. Even the “immigrant threat” is mostly expressed in terms of lost jobs.

Dyer says Donald Trump can’t “bring the jobs back”, because most of them never left the country; they just vanished because of automation. The US official unemployment rate is 4.5 per cent, but almost one-third of American men over 20 years old are not gainfully employed. There is a plausible forecast that automation will destroy 47 per cent of existing American jobs by 2033.

What got Trump elected, says Dyer, more even than racism and immigration, was the anger that comes from the misery and humiliation of joblessness. The key votes that pushed him over the top came from the Rust Belt, where automation started destroying assembly-line jobs 25 years ago. Trump has no solution for automation. More extreme populists may come after him unless the anger is extinguished. But at least his election has focussed our attention on the problem. Automation really will kill the jobs, and not just in the United States.

The main political task for the next generation (post-Trump) will be to ensure that those without work have an income they can live on, and don’t lose their self-respect. One way that is already being widely considered is a Universal Basic Income (UBI). It would put money in everybody’s pockets with no strings attached, whether they are working or not—and and since everybody gets it, there would be no stigma involved.

The anger that drives the populism comes as much from the humiliation that people feel when they are unemployed as from the actual financial pain they are suffering, so any solution must treat both aspects of the problem. UBI might be the answer, although there is still much research to be done. Various basic income pilot programmes are already running in Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, California, and Ontario.

UBI may turn out to be the least revolutionary answer to the revolutionary change that is coming in the amount of work available. Everybody would be free to top up their UBI with earned income, and half of today’s jobs will probably still exist in 2033. Indeed, there may be a lot of mix-and-match, with most people working at least part of the time. There would still be millionaires, too; UBI is a floor, not a ceiling. But big change is coming, and big solutions are needed.

Gwynne Dyer has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, broadcaster, and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years, but he was originally trained as a historian. He received degrees from Canadian, American, and British universities, finishing with a PhD in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs, which is published by over 175 papers in some 45 countries.

Gwynne Dyer’s newest book, Growing Pains: Surviving the Populist Wave, was published in April 2018 by Scribe in Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. 

Dr. Dyer lives in London. In 2010, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

The Saint Dunstan’s University Institute for Christianity and Culture at UPEI has been made possible through the cooperation of the SDU Board of Governors and the UPEI Department of Religious Studies. Working in partnership with the University of Prince Edward Island, the Institute promotes Christian education opportunities and experiences in collaboration with students, scholars, faculty, and the public.

The University of Prince Edward Island prides itself on people, excellence, and impact and is committed to assisting students reach their full potential in both the classroom and community. With roots stemming from two founding institutions—Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan’s University—UPEI has a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and creating positive impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. UPEI is the only degree granting institution in the province and is proud to be a key contributor to the growth and prosperity of Prince Edward Island.

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