All around the world, rage against the elites

It’s a stretch, perhaps, to look for shared themes in such disparate countries. But these movements seem to have a common indignation toward leaders who are failing to maintain social justice along with global economic change.

That’s certainly true in America, where the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street both rage against a financial elite that stumbled into a ruinous recession — and then got bailed out by a Washington elite that’s in hock to special interests. The Tea Party, especially, tapped the bedrock American mistrust of big banks, which dates to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Growth and prosperity would restore public confidence, as in the past. But this time, the anticipated recovery — and deflation of popular anger — still seems a few years away…

Much of the world’s neo-populist anger is justified, given the greed and folly of recent years. What worries me is the echo of the 1930s, a similar period of economic change and dislocation. When the traditional business and political leaders seemed to have failed during the downturn of the ’30s, populist indignation veered sharply right and left — toward dangerous movements that expressed national indignation at the point of a gun.