The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization, with John B. Judis

Oct 16, 2018

Why has nationalism suddenly returned with a vengeance around the world? Why are nationalists so angry about free trade and immigration? Why has globalization become a dirty word? In this insightful talk, John B. Judis has some answers to these questions--and prescriptions for the United States.

JOANNE MYERS: Good evening, everyone. I'm Joanne Myers, director of Public Affairs programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I would like to thank you all for joining us on this very rainy night.

Our guest this evening is John Judis, and he'll be discussing his latest book entitled The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization. Just as his previous book, The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics, helped us to understand the forces that swept Donald Trump into office, The Nationalist Revival provides a deeper understanding of why "us-versus-them" nationalism is coming back with a vengeance.

In the next 30 minutes or so, John and I will have a conversation about these phenomena, and in the end I believe you'll have an understanding of why having a new and different conversation about this issue is so important.

John, in your previous visit to the Carnegie Council in February of 2017 you majestically helped us to understand how populism was affecting elections around the world. It is now 22 months later, and it appears that your focus has shifted from politics to governance. Why the pivot?

JOHN JUDIS: Because all these governments have changed, particularly ours. I think when I was here—it was before the election.

JOANNE MYERS: No, it was February 2017. [Editor's note: This is correct. Judis spoke at Carnegie Council on February 1, 2017.]

JOHN JUDIS: Really? It was after?

JOANNE MYERS: Populism was big at that time, and it was just exploding here and in Europe.

JOHN JUDIS: Let's put it this way. It continues to be big.

What I was looking for was a certain underlying aspect of populism. In other countries where it's not a matter so much of populism—Hungary, Poland, Eastern Europe—they have different political traditions than the political traditions that I talked about in The Populist Explosion, which were countries that had longstanding democratic traditions.

JOANNE MYERS: But why the pivot? Why are you now focusing on nationalism?

JOHN JUDIS: I had to do another book. I'm an old guy. I got a few more books to go.

JOANNE MYERS: But it was politics, and now it's governance. You're talking about the way these populists are governing. Maybe you could explain a little bit about that.

JOHN JUDIS: The difference for me in discussing nationalism and discussing populism is that nationalism has a deep psychological dimension that populism doesn't necessarily have. Obviously, it comes out of people's minds. Nationalism is a kind of social psychology. It's based upon sentiment. It goes back to the beginnings of humankind, identifying with somebody beyond yourself, beyond your family, then beyond your tribe, beyond your kin group. There is a deep sentiment that underlies nationalism.

The thing that struck me in thinking about it again was that you really can't begin by typing it as something coming from the right, which is what we came to think of after World War II because of the Nazis and Mussolini. Nationalism was thought about as something very bad. When I was doing the Populist book and I was in Europe, for instance, the Danish [People's] Party wouldn't describe themselves as "nationalists" because that would conjure up the memories of Hitler.

Again, in the United States we have a different view of it, and it is a more neutral view. What I see underlying that sentiment is that the sentiment itself is the basis of many of our institutions. You can't have, for instance, a democracy without a common understanding of a "we," and that we involves you're giving power, you're ceding the vote, you're allowing people to determine your fate who you've never seen before who live 1,000 miles away from you. That's essential to the idea of democracy, and it's framed within a nation, within a "We are all Americans," "We are all France."

JOANNE MYERS: But it has become more difficult to define who "we" are as a nation now because there are so many different identities.

JOHN JUDIS: Let me just go on for a moment, and I can come to that.

If you think again of the modern welfare state or of social democracy in Europe, that involves peoples' willingness to pay taxes: "I'm going to pay my taxes to support some guy who is disabled in Orlando, Florida, or some woman in Reno, Nevada, who has just lost her job. I've never met those people." The whole idea of a modern welfare state again is based upon this sense of a common nationality.

When that starts to break down, when you have people saying: "Well, these people aren't really Americans. They don't really belong there, but we're paying taxes to support them, and they're voting, but they shouldn't be voting." When that happens—and obviously it has happened in a lot of countries in Europe—or when you have a sign of separatism where people say, "We're Catalans, we're not really Spanish," then democracies, then nations begin to break down.

We're in the beginning. We're seeing those fissures, and they really began in the United States in the 1980s, and they're increasing. We have this sense of a breakdown, and the breakdown again is a breakdown of this common nationality, of this "we."

JOANNE MYERS: We are commemorating the end of World War I, where fractious nations and power plays came into being, and it was hoped that at the end of World War I and at the end of World War II that this would end all this fractious nationalism. Do you think we're returning to that again today? What do you see happening down the line?

JOHN JUDIS: With the end of the Cold War, 1989, and the Berlin Wall there was a certain utopian feeling that swept the world and our country, the idea that we were a unipolar world with the United States as a dominant power, but also what would happen would be that we would have a liberal democratic capitalist world. A lot of the institutions that were created—the World Trade Organization (WTO), for instance, the European Union within the framework of Europe—were based upon this hope that we would universalize liberal capitalist democracy, that we wouldn't have the kinds of problems that we had with World War I and World War II.

Obviously, we're returning to a situation where we do have a very fractious situation among countries, not necessarily leading at this point to war but leading to the kinds of rivalries and discord that we didn't expect, let's say, in 1993 to be occurring.

JOANNE MYERS: If we're moving away from this internationalism, is there something that is constructive that can replace it in some way so that we won't divide into fractious groups fighting one another?

JOHN JUDIS: Look, I'm not a seer, and I can't tell you how it's all going to turn out. What I understand better is why there is this kind of discord internationally.

It's very hard for me to understand, for instance, how we're going to rebalance our trade relations in the United States. Trump is obviously doing it, and he's doing it in a very awkward way, but something has to be done. I'm not going to be able to sit here and tell you how we can do that or how we can finally resolve the problems about climate change. There are a lot of problems that can only be dealt with internationally by countries ceding a certain amount of sovereignty to other countries, climate change being an obvious one, pandemics, nuclear proliferation. If anything, we're going in the opposite direction right now.

Again, I'm not going to be able to tell you what in the year 2030 it would be like or to prescribe exactly how we're going to be able to put all these things together.

JOANNE MYERS: Nationalism in times past has been shown to be left-wing as well as right-wing, but why today does nationalism seem to be coming mainly from the right?

JOHN JUDIS: Again, just to make this point clear, because this is what we start off with. Lincoln was a nationalist, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle—so it hasn't all been Hitler and Mussolini. Anti-colonial revolutionaries were all nationalists. They were binding together a nation against an oppressor.

What we've had now for the last 20 years is primarily nationalism on the right, a nationalism directed at Muslims, illegal immigrants, Mexican "rapists," refugees, what have you. Again, that's where the us versus them has broken down.

Why has that happened? There are several reasons. Just bear with me because it will take a few minutes.


JOHN JUDIS: It goes back again to the failure of utopian designs that come out of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s when this fairly pacific and prosperous world order that we built after World War II begins to break down, and we try to replace it with something else.

First of all, on the economic front, Bretton Woods, international monetary system based upon the dollar. Countries have to get approval if they're going to have large devaluations of their currency. They control other companies leaving their country to invest in other countries, in other words, capital moving from one country to another. They control what happens to their currency. That begins to break down in 1971 during the Nixon administration.

What replaces it is a world order, the underlying assumption of which is something like this, that what the economist Adam Smith in the 18th century hoped for in the national economy would occur in the international economy. That is to say, if we remove all these barriers—trade barriers, barriers to currency speculation, barriers to corporations moving wherever they want in the world—you would get a kind of prosperity where each economic actor pursuing his or her own self-interest would result in the best interest of everybody.

What has happened really is that there has been a rising standard of living in the world since the 1970s obviously, and countries like India and China have arisen, Brazil. Lots of countries have prospered during this era. But something else has happened. First of all, much greater economic instability, financial instability, beginning in the 1980s, a succession of financial crises that culminate in the Great Recession and continue to this day in Turkey and in Argentina. So that's one thing.

The second thing is, within the countries themselves there is greater inequality, and that includes China and India as well as obviously the United States and Europe.

If we're looking at politics and the political effect of this, one of the things that happens as a result of this is that you get this new order based upon these Adam Smith assumptions of breaking down all these barriers. But not all the countries play by the same rules. When we wanted China to join the World Trade Organization, the assumption was that it would become eventually like us. We always had this view of ourselves, that we could mold the world around our own image. The idea was that it would also become a liberal capitalist country. Same thing about Russia in the mid-1990s, when a lot of American advisors went there to consult.

That didn't happen. What happened instead was the rise of these tremendous trade imbalances between China and the United States. In Europe, the dream of the euro and eurozone doesn't produce equal prosperity among the countries, but in fact the exact opposite happens. You have a division between the prosperous North and the South in trouble, and that continues. You have these kinds of divisions.

The groups that are most affected by this process that goes by the name of "globalization" are many of the workers—and we're talking here again about the United States and Europe—who made things—manufacturing, mining—who lived in small towns, medium-sized towns in the United States in Middle America and in the South, in England in the Northeast part, in Northern France, and in Austria outside of Vienna.

These people who were most seriously affected by the kind of instability and hollowing out created by globalization become the base for both right-wing populism and nationalism. British sociologists call them the "left behinds," and that's a pretty good term. They're not necessarily people who are impoverished. They're not on the street with a tin cup, but they're people who have lost their expectations about the future and who feel that they have somehow been left behind, that their way of life has been endangered.

That's the relationship between the economics of the last 20, 30, 40 years and this kind of rise of right-wing populism and nationalism.

JOANNE MYERS: That's where immigration fits in as well.

JOHN JUDIS: You're doing a good job, because that's the next subject.

This is the group, the left behinds, but the issue that animates them above all is immigration in both the United States and in Europe. In the United States, again beginning in 1965, for humanitarian reasons and not for business reasons and for civil rights we change our immigration laws, but built into that is family reunification. Over the last 50, 60, 70 years and accelerating after 1990 when we changed the law, a tremendous number of unskilled and low-skilled workers enter the country, and they put a lot of pressure below. They bring a lot of cultural clash because they don't necessarily speak English, they demand social services, certain kinds of industries like meatpacking and construction and janitorial get transformed from mid-wage unionized to more low-wage non-union jobs, creating a tremendous amount of tension.

A similar kind of thing happens in Europe with this idea of the "single Europe" where you have workers from the less-developed parts of Europe going from Poland or Hungary to France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. You have those kinds of tensions created by immigration.

Add to that Islamist terrorism starting in the early 1990s and then, of course, 9/11, again, since 9/11, more probably in Europe than the United States. So it becomes not only an economic issue or an issue of culture but an issue that we're letting in some people who are going to blow up a shopping mall. You get that kind of combustible combination, and you get the right-wing populism and nationalism, and the primary group that it appeals to again are the left behinds, the people created by these economic forces over the last 20-30 years.

People always debate this thing: Is it economics or is it culture? It's both, and it's people who feel their way of life is threatened.

JOANNE MYERS: Is there ever a way to keep the destructive potential of nationalism in check?

JOHN JUDIS: Let me talk for just a second about why there's a clash in the United States or in Europe over this kind of nationalist politics, what it involves, because then it'll be easier to talk about how to keep it in check.

I would bet that the people here are not Trump nationalists. You're not all "America First" people. Some, maybe 40 percent of you are, right? No, I know. I'm just kidding.

What you get in the modern economy, in this post-1970s economy, is a social and geographical division where you get extremely prosperous metro centers, largely finance, electronics, high-tech, and at the same time small towns, mid-sized towns—Hazleton, Pennsylvania; Erie, Pennsylvania; Akron—that are suffering. Now think about the people who live in them.

For a moment let's talk about the people who live in the metro centers like New York City, San Francisco, Washington, DC, where I'm from. David Goodhart, this British journalist, has a book called The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, and he describes the difference between "somewheres" and "anywheres" in trying to explain Brexit, and I'm going to put that in terms of nationalist versus cosmopolitans.

Cosmopolitans in the United States aren't people who are disloyal to the country, who hate America. There are always people like that, just like people still might belong to the Ku Klux Klan, but we're not talking about the extremes. But they are also people who have many different associations and interests and identities. They're a university professor, they have a medical practice, they belong to clubs, they have a family with kids who are very successful, they have many different kinds of identities to fall back on in addition to that of "the nation."

If you go for a minute, if you shift from Washington, DC, and go about 700 miles to the west, you'll run across towns where people did once have a very clear identity. They worked their lifetime for a certain corporation or business, they belonged to a union, they lived mostly in cities, not in suburbs, they had a corner bar, they had their teams, etc. What has really happened and what has created a lot of this social and cultural division is that for people like that the nation becomes all-important. It becomes much more important than it does for, let's say, the university professor at NYU or what have you. For those people it becomes a kind of be-all and end-all. When the National Football League (NFL) guys don't stand up for the national anthem, that's a really big deal. They're not going to watch the game anymore even.

Other things, again, that don't make sense I think to cosmopolitans but that are very important to the left behinds: Guns. I spent an afternoon in a suburb of an industrial town in the Midwest interviewing Trump people. I don't do these focus groups where you have a list of questions and stuff like that. I just let people talk, and we talked for a long time. I was amazed how much guns came up. Why is that? They want to go hunt? Not that many of them were hunters. A gun is part of the home, it's part of the safety of the home, it's being able to protect your family. It's a way of life, again, that they see as under attack. It's a part of their identity. It's part of what it is to be an American. Religion, the same thing.

You have this complex of values, of sentiments, that are very important to people but aren't necessarily as important to other people. What's happening now in politics and what worries me a lot is that among the, let's say, cosmopolitan group there is a Manichaean dismissal of these people—and we're getting around to your question: "They're all evil. They're all white supremacists."

In fact, again people are complex. There are a lot of different sentiments swirling around us. You live in these fancy places. You're not immune from the same occasionally racist thoughts or any of these various things. Some of these people voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

It's a question of what comes to the surface at a particular time, what sentiments are aroused. Trump's brilliance was exactly dramatizing those particular sentiments, that there is a threat to the way of life. It doesn't have to be that way. Again, there are economic issues, there are different issues that people appeal to, but I think what's happening now is that we have a politics that is very divided on a cultural level, and it's hard to see the differences. I think it's very possible to break through them.

JOANNE MYERS: That's the main question: Is there any prospect for reconciling these two visions of America, Trump's and cosmopolitans'? I think that's what we're all wrestling with.

JOHN JUDIS: Sure. There is a very basic issue that Americans feel about economic security. It doesn't matter whether you live in Akron or in Silver Spring.

JOANNE MYERS: With the market starting to go down in the last few days, do you think that's going to change?

JOHN JUDIS: Right. Even if you look at the dynamics of this election in the last two or three months, in the beginning of the election when the Democrats were really doing well and it looked like the Democrats might take the Senate as well, the health care thing was coming to the surface, and it's still very important, because that's an issue again that cuts completely across.

Now unfortunately, what we're having is another election that is about Donald Trump. It is going to repeat the 2016 election.

JOANNE MYERS: It's a referendum on him.

JOHN JUDIS: It's going to be about either how wonderful or how egregious he is. I think the Democrats will do a little better this time because particularly women voters are going to be much more in an uproar than they were in 2016. But it's still not going to get us to a point where we can break through and start to recreate the social coalitions that we had 40-50 years ago between the bottom of society and the middle of society.

The Democratic Party today really looks a little like an hourglass. They've got minorities and the poor, and obviously a lot of minorities are middle class, upper class, but again a concentration of people at the bottom and then upper-middle, very strong among college graduates and particularly people with advanced degrees and professionals. A lot of the middle, what used to be the base of the Democratic Party, has gone over to the Republicans, so we have this weird clash in the country. That's the problem we have politically.

From my standpoint as a Democrat, the key is to try to bring back the middle.

JOANNE MYERS: Before we open it up, I guess the central question is whether the current trend is just a democratic recession from which the world will eventually recover or whether the forces visible today will strengthen and threaten liberal democracy as a form of government in more countries.

JOHN JUDIS: You mean, what will happen in the future?

JOANNE MYERS: That's right. It's whether or not this is a blip, a historical trend, or how do we repair what is chipping away.

JOHN JUDIS: I wish I could say it was a blip. If you look at Europe and the euro, I'm really pessimistic—I'm not an economist—that they're going to be able to put it together. I think there are so many restrictions that having a common currency puts on the poorer countries in terms of being able to devalue their own currency and get out of these kinds of situations that we're going to have conflicts continuing.

They may come from the left as well as the right, and they certainly did during the Great Recession in Greece and in Spain, but I don't see how that genie is going to be put back in the box. I don't think that's going to be resolved.

I worry about China and the United States. One of the things that struck me in doing this book was the power of nationalism.

I was raised economically in the school of Karl Marx. Basically we think of economic forces as being fundamental. But if you look at what happened with Russia, for instance, the Soviet Empire falls apart, and we think we can put it all together. Then they make this promise, Baker and Bush, to Gorbachev that we won't move the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) eastward, and in fact they do it, and you see a complete resurgence of Russian nationalism. There is no mystery to why we have a Putin. He didn't come from nowhere. We have a recurrence of some of the similar tensions that have existed for 60 years or so.

People have a certain vested interest in their nation and in their nation doing well. The analogy I'd use is sports. I'm a Cubs fan, and when the Cubs win in the summer I go to bed happy; when they don't, I'm very unhappy; and I'm very unhappy now, but there's a certain part of me that lives or dies with the team. They talk about Giants' fans. What do they say, the New York Giants, you bleed blue or something like that? There's something to those metaphors. It's life or death. It's your identity. Your immortality is vested partly in the nation, in that identity. So it's very important for countries, and it has been the basis of a lot of wars and divisions for thousands of years.

Again, as I look upon the China-U.S. thing it worries me. If you want to see conflict, China, Korea, and Japan—maybe I can say this, even though it's on tape. I was doing interviews in Japan. I didn't want to use this in my book, and somebody was translating for me, and it was with a prominent professor in Japan. We were talking about the current conflicts with China and with Korea still over World War II. He referred, according to the translator, to the Chinese and the Koreans as "assholes." I checked back again: "Is this a correct translation?" There was a lot of hostility there.

Pachinko: Any of you read that novel? It's a wonderful novel, and you see again the basis. Nationalism is very important. Obviously, we can temper it, and that's the goal of having some kind of international organizations.

There are two sides to Trump. Trump is not really a warmonger. I think he learned something from Bush entering the Iraq War, that it doesn't make much sense to start these wars where it's not directly in America's interests. But at the same time he has—if I can use this distinction—you know Hobbes versus Locke? Locke, everybody bound together by a social contract; Hobbes, people are very naturally competitive with each other, and you need a monarch in order to keep the lid on the pot. Trump's vision is much more Hobbesian, with conflict going on all the time and the United States standing up for itself and not having in that sense real allies or friends.

So his vision and his politics are very much antithetical to the kind of international agreement we need to be confident that we wouldn't get swept suddenly into a war, say, on the Korean peninsula or in the Middle East with Iran. But at the same time, he's not a Hitler. He doesn't see military glory as the be-all and end-all of a nation.


QUESTION: Thank you. James Starkman.

I'd like you to comment on labor costs and globalization. It seems to me there is an interplay between those two factors, nationalism, the blend of communism and capitalism, which is so successful to bring China up from nowhere to where they are today. Is this a constantly evolving structure between these different factors?

JOHN JUDIS: Again, with the labor cost thing you're not talking to somebody from the IMF. I'm not an expert on these matters. I think the thing that I would worry about is the race to the bottom that is occurring, in other words, companies leaving one country or one region for another region or another country because of labor costs. In the United States there are certain kinds of commodities like T-shirts and things like that that are going to be made overseas. That's settled.

But again, if you look at our balance of trade with, say, China and other Asian countries, computers and electronics are big in terms of trade deficit. Those are things that we could make in America but that are going overseas to a great extent because of labor costs. Labor cost is an issue. Another issue that is related to it is taxes. There is a tremendous pressure, again, to lower particularly business taxes competitively, and Trump has fallen into that.

What that means basically is that it's a threat to the modern welfare state because you don't have the money, again, to support the population so you have a situation where you might have firms becoming more profitable, but where the profits themselves are going into stock repurchases or what have you and not into the public welfare. We increasingly have that situation. They're starting to have that problem in Europe as well as in the United States.

QUESTION: Don Simmons.

One of the tropes of the Trump administration has been the desire to withdraw from agreements and other foreign entanglements. It has led us along a path of acting alone. The right-wing pundits refer to that as "recovering our sovereignty," even when talking about commitments freely entered into and so on.

How is that desire for the United States to act alone related to populism? Do you think the members of Trump's base really don't want to be in international organizations or treaty agreements? Going on further, could you see even a few years from now a Democratic president restoring and reentering these agreements without running into howls of outrage from Trump's base?

JOHN JUDIS: That's not just Trump's base also. The question of foreign aid has always been controversial in America. Unless an administration can show that it is directly in the national interest to spend money, then it's going to be unpopular. This was a problem after World War II that Truman and Acheson faced in 1947 and 1948 when they wanted to send money to Greece to fight the insurgency there. We're going to have this problem with us for a long time.

Trump again in the wake of the Iraq War I think has a lot of credibility in saying that we shouldn't get involved in foreign entanglements that aren't directly in our interest. There's a passage in Woodward's book Fear: Trump in the White House where they're debating Afghanistan. A lot of the portrayal in the book is there were the adults and then there was Trump, the moron. But if you read it, actually Trump was asking a lot of the right questions: "Why are we there? We've been there so long. We haven't gotten anywhere. Why are we spending all this money on it?"

Again, the American military's impulse is always more and more until we can finally resolve this thing, but there's no resolution in sight. Given that background of our current interventions, it's all the more harder to make an argument for international organizations.

The NATO thing, for instance. NATO was to fight the Soviet Union, the Cold War, central to it. It was in 1949. The Cold War ends, and we still have NATO, and not only NATO, it starts expanding. Why? What's its purpose? What's its point?

I'm not telling you here that it doesn't have a point, but it's not clear. In those respects, Trump acts like the man in the street, a kind of common sense whereas the Washington establishment, all the policymakers, won't even entertain questions like that. But they have to be answered, and they're not being answered.

QUESTION: Hi, Jim Traub.

I was happy that you ended on the nonmaterial causes for nationalism because I think it's very easy for us to reduce everything to economic change, in part because it's easier to think of answers.

When you think about these other things that you were talking about—the sense of resentment of cosmopolitans, anger at the elements of globalization that have to do with new people, immigrants, refugees, and so forth, what do you think can be done, if anything, to bridge the gap between what you might think of as an increasingly globalized, cosmopolitanized world and the enormous number of people who as you say feel left behind, not just economically?

JOHN JUDIS: You're asking for my political program for America.

QUESTIONER [Mr. Traub]: Yes, but without having a bunch of bullet points. I mean in some broader sense, are these things addressable?

JOHN JUDIS: When you think about what's happening with immigration in the United States, you have to think about the 19th century. We had crises over immigration in the 1840s, we had an American party called the Know Nothings; from 1880 to 1920 straight conflict from them over immigrants.

Cultural assimilation doesn't come that easy to the United States. Ethno-racist legislation in [1921] and 1924 and 1929 that restricts immigration both in numbers and in who gets into the country in an odd way becomes a blessing because it gives us a breathing space to assimilate.

It also was one of the reasons we had unionization in the 1930s because if you think about it, at a time when the economy is in trouble is not necessarily a good time to organize unions. But we also didn't have a tremendous labor surplus at the time, so it turned out to be okay.

Again, we've had this experience before, and we've had this tremendous wave of immigration from 1965. It has gone from 4 percent to 13 percent of the population.

I'm not unsympathetic to the idea of a breathing space in two respects: more priority on high-skilled rather than unskilled, and maybe even going from 1.2 million to 600,000 a year. I think that's important for the process of assimilation.

The second thing is the issue of economic security. I don't think we're ever going to get to a point where we have 2 percent unemployment every year. We're always going to have—and I don't think we're going to be able to avoid recessions, but we have to rid Americans and rid ourselves of the kind of everyday anxiety we feel about health care, about education, educating our children, about our old age. We have to do some of the same things that the Europeans did 50, 60, 70, 80 years ago, and that's an important element. I think that will change the country.

The last thing I'll say is that one of the things that was most mistaken about the kind of utopian economic ideas in the 1990s was that instead of believing that we were going to convert the Chinese or the Koreans or the Japanese into liberal capitalist countries, we should recognize that some of what they do would benefit us in terms of industrial planning, in terms of developing advanced manufacturing in the Midwest and many of these areas now that are virtually ghost towns.

I'd say those three things. That would be my platform for America.

QUESTION: I'm Helena Finn.

My question has to do with nationalism in Europe. The current administration has been actively supportive of right-wing groups, very friendly to right-wing groups; Nigel Farage, for example; in Germany the Alternative für Deutschland; and former administration official Bannon has even gone out and been talking to all these groups.

My question is: First of all, how would they think they could form a movement of nationalist groups when they are absolutely going to define themselves separately from one another rather than as part of the European Union?

But my more important questions—thank you for what you said about Locke and Hobbes. That was a good clarification.

JOHN JUDIS: I'm a former philosophy graduate student.

QUESTIONER [Ms. Finn]: How does this possibly benefit us? That's my question.

JOHN JUDIS: Which benefit us? Do you mean the Bannon stuff?

QUESTIONER [Ms. Finn]: No, I mean the support of this administration for the right wing in Europe. How does that benefit us? Encouraging Brexit, which is about to be finalized?

JOHN JUDIS: I have a question whether the Bannon project in Europe can work because there are a lot of differences among those nations. For instance, Poland is very worried about the Russians. Hungary and Italy—the League and Italy are very pro-Putin. So it's not like you have a common politics there.

QUESTIONER [Ms. Finn]: I agree with you that it can't work. By its nature the idea of creating such a movement is flawed. My real question is: Why would they be doing this, and how could fomenting this kind of thing possibly benefit us?

JOHN JUDIS: You mean, why are they under this illusion that it would work?

QUESTIONER [Ms. Finn]: Yes.

JOHN JUDIS: You should go back and look—I was doing this recently—at the statements that American lobbyists and American officials made in the late 1990s about China when we were doing the permanent trading thing as a prelude to championing them in the WTO, and what was going to happen to China and what kind of country it was going to become.

People foster illusions. I was a revolutionary from 1966 or so to 1976, when I gave up the gun. We thought—I was writing for the New American Movement newspaper, and we had to end up every article by saying that the only real solution was socialism.

People have illusions, and they have illusions that they're going to create a global movement. But I don't think it's going to happen.

The one area where they really have developed allies—and I told myself never to talk about this after writing a book on Truman and Israel—is the Middle East, with this guy from Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu. It's a nightmare. And the hostility toward Iran. There we could really get into trouble.

QUESTIONER [Ms. Finn]: I'm a former diplomat, so I believe in balance of power.

JOHN JUDIS: I thought what would be consistent with the Trump foreign policy, if you thought of what realism would be, would be offshore balancing, that we would be friends and enemies with all these people but not get involved. But in fact, in that region we've already gotten over our heads as the recent events in Turkey with the journalist probably getting hacked up, though we don't know.

QUESTION: Thank you. Ron Berenbeim.

First of all, just a historical comment. The National Labor Relations Act excluded agricultural workers. Without it you probably never would have gotten the Southern votes in the Congress to pass that act. Of course, that created a limited group of empowered people. That was a good thing, but it left a lot of people out.

Second, I would say that immigration does not threaten these people's jobs particularly. It is automation that does, and that is what is hollowing out the factory towns, that is what is creating globalization, which by the way has I think in the last decade pulled some 6 billion people out of poverty, so that in terms of global stability nothing beats globalization.

You have to do everything you can to keep those labor prices down so the people who are complaining can still afford to buy their shirts at Walmart. If they were made in the United States, they couldn't. Everything to keep prices at a point where people can afford them.

Just one of the more interesting episodes in my life is whenever I am overdue on my credit card, which is all too often, I used to get calls from Bangalore, a city I know well, but I seldom do anymore because Bangalore has become too expensive, and now they're coming from the Philippines.

This is not something you can put a stop to. I don't see an alternative to globalization. I don't see a solution. I think there's got to be more acceptance of it and a creation of new kinds of occupations and managing new kinds of machines and automation because otherwise I don't see any solution.

JOANNE MYERS: Is there a question?

QUESTIONER [Mr. Berenbeim]: I'm looking for a non-immigration-focused solution. That's what I'm looking for.

JOHN JUDIS: You often hear this argument: "What's the basic cause?" Usually it's not immigration versus automation, it's usually China and "runaway shops." You know what runaway shops are? This is not a foreign phrase. It's companies that go from North to South or out of the country in order to get lower wages and less regulation.

Again, beware of unicausal arguments. Both are involved. The economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), their estimate was 2.4 million factory jobs were lost to Chinese competition from whatever, 2000 to 2014. So it was substantial. Automation also was a factor.

Immigration: Again, what you see most is again at the lower levels of the economy, not necessarily—I was thinking about this as I was coming to New York. I did a story for The American Prospect that I originally wrote for a business magazine that went out of business about a Kawasaki factory in Yonkers that started. They had black employees, and the Teamsters wanted to come in and unionize, and they fired all the employees and brought in Korean immigrants. It does happen.

There are industries like meatpacking that again used to be unionized that aren't. I always remark upon the political reporters who go to Iowa and they discover these small towns—you know this guy Steve King, he's a raving nativist, but he represents a part of Iowa that is very important for meatpacking. It used to be fairly prosperous. A lot of those plants took immigrant and illegal immigrant labor, low wage now, not mid-wage. So certain industries did get transformed, again not necessarily autos and steel.

So it's all three. They're all factors.

I wrote about this in an article for The American Prospect, one of the very odd things about American politics is probably the group that got most damaged in a sense by the low-skilled immigration from the South was African Americans, particularly in Southern California. There are studies of this, and the Civil Rights Commission in 2012 did a study, but again it's not an issue, and if you look at polling African Americans are not necessarily militant on the issue of immigration. So, low-skilled, those kinds of jobs, yes, very much.

Automation. I'm for automation, but again if we have automation, we're going to have a larger economic surplus. Where is it going to go? Who is going to use it? To what extent will it accrue to the nation itself, and that's where the nationalism comes in.

QUESTION: Alex Dumouza.

I'm very intrigued by your discussion so far. I wanted to ask a question just to piggyback off what Ron said in terms of the automation and because I see that there is a growing movement right now in regard to the universal basic income. I'm not sure if you're familiar about that.

JOHN JUDIS: I've heard of it.

QUESTIONER [Mr. Timosa]: The notion of basically allowing people, giving them $1,000, doesn't matter your socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or whatever, everyone will be getting $1,000. It is going to cost about $1.5 trillion and is supposed to be cost-effective. They're already trying it out overseas in Europe.

My question is basically do you think that will help reshape the economy. A lot of low-skilled jobs, as you say, are in danger, and people need to find a different way of contributing to society and the economy, so my question is, do you believe in it? What are your thoughts, and do you think there will be enough pushback from a specific political party? Do you see it gaining more traction in the United States?

JOHN JUDIS: The former owner of The New Republic who caused me and 15 other editors to quit, Chris Hughes, a Facebook billionaire, wrote a book proposing the universal basic income, so I'm familiar with it.

That kind of approach is not going to fly in America. The Protestant [Work] Ethic is very much again part of our basic idea of what it is to be an American. To be an American involves working for a living. That kind of proposal is just going to awaken all the problems about freeloading and stuff like that.

On the other hand, again universal health insurance—there are all kinds of things you can do that are the equivalent of a universal basic income, but the idea of handing out money like that . . . Nixon and Moynihan had a certain version of that in 1970, but I don't see that as coming about in the United States, and I think it's not the kind of proposal that the left itself should bank upon.

JOANNE MYERS: After this discussion, it just makes me wonder if nationalism serves any other purpose other than to inflame its citizens.

At this point, I know there are still questions, but the time has come to an end. I want to thank you once again for giving us a better understanding, and I'd like to invite you all to continue the conversation. Thank you.

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