For most Americans, the once promising “New Economy” has meant a descent, as one MIT economist recently put it, towards a precarious position usually associated with Third World countries. Even Silicon Valley has gone from one of the most egalitarian locales in the country to a highly unequal place where the working and middle class have, if anything, done worse (in terms of income) than before the tech boom.
For its part, the precariat has rational reasons to embrace socialism, particularly if capitalism seems unlikely to meet their needs. The notion of getting a steady, well-paid, full-time job has vanished for an increasing number of young people. Most millennials are not doing as well as their parents did at the same age. The idea of buying a house — once a sure sign of upward mobility — has declined in much of the U.S. for the current generation, particularly on the coasts, and even more so in the U.K., where house prices are higher and incomes lower. The Grenfell fire was not just something that happens to the poor; it could be the future for many young people who may never live in anything much better.