The EconomistThe Economist

Politics will move further to the left in 2023

01 Jan 2023 · 4 min read

In this thoughtful piece, the Economist asks why public opinion appears to be moving to the left in rich democracies. Threatened by climate change, most of us seem to want more than business as usual.

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Some years have a way of giving countries, even continents, a shove in a new direction. In 1945 Europeans decided that the state had to take the lead in establishing a modern economy, a broader welfare state and a more peaceful continent. In 1979 a doubling of oil prices, which followed a decade of stagflation, brought about a swing away from cosy co-operation between the state and business towards a bigger role for markets and private enterprise. Might 2023 be another such year? It comes as a decade of low interest rates is ending, as high energy prices and inflation return to the world economy, and as war stalks Europe. It also comes in the wake of one of the deadliest pandemics in history and as China retreats from closer global integration.

If these trends were to presage broad political shifts in rich countries, you might expect politics to move left, if only in reaction to the mainly centre-right governments that dominated rich democracies during the previous decade. That already appears to be happening. In 2022 in the Bavarian Alps, at a meeting of the G7, a group of rich countries, Joe Biden could look around the table (see picture) and count five other leaders from the centre-left: those of Canada, France, Germany, Italy and, stretching a point, Japan—Kishida Fumio describes himself as a dove on foreign policy. (An election later moved Italy to the right.) In contrast, when Mr Biden’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, met his counterparts in 2010, all of them came from the right or centre-right.

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