This post is part of a series of posts that summarizes the book Angrynomics by Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth.
If you found this post via search, it probably makes sense to start with the link to the full series, which is both here, and above.
Is the angrynomics genie out of the bottle?
Can we pull back from this global display of political anger? Probably not.
Why? Because history tends not to run backwards.
People around the world are pissed off that the people who make the rules of how our economies are structured seem not to care a bit about the plight of the common person.
And that is why the anger is unlikely to be going away any time soon.
Eventually yes, but not soon.
Angry people regulate the behaviour of the tribe
A very interesting idea I learned from the book is the idea that the angry people within a community modulate the behaviour of the community.
They used the example of the angry sports fan who tells the other fans when to cheer, when to boo, etc, and how other fans follow their lead.
I’m been at sporting events where that happened. I did in fact follow their lead. I’m sure you have to.
The authors also draw an interesting distinction between “public anger” which we openly display, such as is seen at sporting events, and “tribal anger” which is generally “held in” until it bursts out.
Tribal anger is more dangerous, as it tends to not show itself until things are perceived to have gone “too far”.
An example of tribal anger “bursting out” is the storming of the US Capital on 6 Jan 2021 after Trump and others gave speeches that day.
When resources are limited
As stated earlier, when we perceive there is not enough to go around, we get more concerned with who is in and who is out. Who is us and who is them.
And with more and more people finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, millions around the world are feeling there isn’t enough to go around.
At least not while the richest of us take so much for themselves.
The whole “tax the rich” feelings we’re seeing around the world have to do with the perception (which I believe to be true) that the richest of us are in fact making off with a larger than deserved share of our collective growing productivity, while simultaneously paying a smaller percentage of their incomes in taxes than the rest of us.
In the US, swing states elect the President
As an extreme example of how the angriest of us modulate the behaviour of our tribes, in 2016 Donald Trump won the US election by only three swing states and 80,000 votes.
And it propelled him into the White House.
Economics of media leading to lazy reporting and sensationalism
Our angrynomics reality is also being fueled by the fact that the economics of what we call “news” is now characterized by lazy reporting and sensationalism.
In the United States, news has become entertainment whose primary goal is to sell advertising and generate revenue.
How did this happen?
Media is threatened by the internet and social media
People tend to believe things found online should be free, and as more and more of us went online to get news and stopped paying for newspaper and magazine subscriptions, the news organizations found themselves pretty much starved for revenue.
Seeks clicks and ad revenue through tribal audiences
Which in turn led news organizations to pursue clicks and ad revenue in order to keep their doors open.
The irony for me
While I personally understand the need for subscription payments to help sustain media businesses, and while I do pay for some online subscriptions, I consume far more Internet content than I pay subscriptions for.
This means I accept advertising as a business model and all the sensationalism and lazy reporting that goes with it.
It is also my intention to start selling advertising on this site when my traffic is higher, and the irony of my last sentence is not lost on me.
Sensational reporting of politicians intentionally fueling politically tribal anger, in pursuit of tribal audiences, is good for clicks and ad revenue, but adds fuel to the fire and is a potent combination.