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Angrynomics

How we can rearrange our economies to produce more equality and less anger

By Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth
10-minute read
Audio available
Angrynomics by Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth

Angrynomics (2020) examines the growing atmosphere of anger around the globe. Part political theory, part social science, this approachable text diagnoses the cause of the rising resentment and proposes a few popular solutions.

  • News junkies seeking fresh takes on the current political climate
  • Activists wishing to understand popular movements
  • Anyone with an interest in where the world is headed

Eric Lonergan is an economist and hedge-fund manager. His work on contemporary political issues has been published in Foreign Affairs, the Financial Times, and the Economist

Mark Blyth is director of the Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance at Brown University, where he teaches international political economy. He is also the author of the best-selling book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea.

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Angrynomics

How we can rearrange our economies to produce more equality and less anger

By Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Angrynomics by Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth
Synopsis

Angrynomics (2020) examines the growing atmosphere of anger around the globe. Part political theory, part social science, this approachable text diagnoses the cause of the rising resentment and proposes a few popular solutions.

Key idea 1 of 6

Anger can actually help societies succeed – but only when it’s justified.

Northern Ireland, 1980. The population is divided between those seeking reunification with Ireland and those loyal to Britain. Unfortunately, over the next decade, thousands are killed and wounded because of the conflict.

Iceland, 2017. The “Panama Papers” leak reveals that top government officials operate offshore tax havens. Reykjavik is flooded with protesters. They don’t leave until the government collapses.

Philadelphia, 2018. The Eagles win the Super Bowl. In the hours after the game, fans riot and tear up large parts of the city.

These seem like disparate actions, but they’re not. The uniting element is anger. This fiery emotion is a key driver of contemporary events. However, all anger isn’t the same. Indignation can work to rectify injustice, but it can also be used to discriminate and divide.

The key message here is: Anger can actually help societies succeed – but only when it’s justified.

Anger is an inherent part of society. Despite its bad reputation, it often serves a useful purpose. You see, anger reinforces the social norms we establish to protect the collective good. If an individual violates a norm by, say, cheating or stealing, they will be met with the collective ire of their peers. 

This form of collective anger can be called “moral outrage.” Fear of this fury is great for preventing people from acting selfishly; it can also fuel the fire needed to fix injustices. This was the case in Iceland. When citizens found out that politicians had been secretly shirking their duties, their moral outrage toppled the administration in favor of a more fair government. This is justified anger – that is, anger directed at the roots of actual injustice.

However, there is another form of collective anger that presents itself as tribalism. This anger encourages people to adhere to an identity group and aggressively attack those perceived as outsiders. It’s a collective response to stress, fear, and uncertainty. In modern politics, this tribalism often takes the form of nationalism. As we’re witnessing today, appealing to nationalism can be a very effective way to motivate voters without having to address any actual policy problems.

Just look around the globe for examples. Politicians like Narendra Modi in India, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and Donald Trump in the United States have all used this type of anger to build political support. Specifically, Trump took the dissatisfaction felt by Americans in economically depressed regions of the country and transformed it into tribal anger against immigrants. It was effective in getting elected, but it didn’t solve any problems.

So, what are some legitimate sources of anger in today’s world? We’ll look at that question in the next blink.

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