The Economic Roots of Conflict

“It’s the economy stupid!”

James Carville coined this now-famous catch phrase as Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist for the 1992 presidential elections. It propelled the Democrats to victory, capitalizing on the early-1990s economic slump.

Economic conflict of interest, real or perceived, is strikingly potent. Add cultural, racial, religious and other differences and the recipe for disaster is complete!  

On 10 May, 2019, the Trump Administration imposed 25% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. “Buy American, Hire American,” again. Three days later, the Chinese dragon breathed fire in retaliation – slapping high tariffs on $110 billion United States’ imports.

Looks like the trade war will intensify.

Now, opposition to free trade is left-wing ideology. Right-wing politics has opportunistically borrowed it. They have also adopted the worst of narrow-minded nationalism. Too far east is west, and too far right is left!

And, the mix is winning / ruling round the world.

A Divided World: Fence Separating

A Divided World: Fence Separating Tijuana, Mexico from San Diego’s Border Patrol Offices
Image Courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense at

Countries with right wing governments include Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu), USA (Donald Trump), Russia (Vladimir Putin), Hungary (Victor Orban), Poland (Mateusz Morawiecki), Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogen).

Even Brazil, once a leftist bastion, has swung around and voted a rightist named Jair Bolsonaro president.

Economic Stagnation & Social Unrest

Why is right-wing populism on the rise? Insecurity inspired by refugees and immigrants, the proverbial “outsiders,” in a climate of sluggish economic growth, stagnant wages, and employment uncertainty inspired by automation technology could be the answer.

In 2015, the world witnessed a horrible migrant crisis as million-plus refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq escaped to Europe, mainly Sweden and Germany. The reaction: BREXIT and the rise of right-wing, anti-immigration politics in Europe.

Anti Immigration Protest by a Radical Group
Anti Immigration Protest by a Radical Group
Image Courtesy of Kalispera Dell at

Migration or not, slow economic growth has often precipitated social unrest by triggering cutthroat competition for scarce employment opportunities – jobs and business. Ganging up along religious, racial, caste and other such lines helps people lobby with greater strength.

Examples include anti-Semitism, Fascism, Catholic-Protestant clashes in Northern Ireland, racism, Christian-Muslim conflict in Lebanon, and communal strife in pre-independent India.  

“Immigrants are taking our jobs,” and “refugees are endangering our security and way of life” are the ruling sentiments of the day.

Conflict in North Africa and the Middle East unleashed a wave of desperate Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan, Yemeni, and Sudanese refugees seeking shelter in Lebanon, Jordan, other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Some risked a treacherous journey to Europe, the fabled land of milk and honey.  

People from around the world, particularly the highly educated and skilled ones, prefer to migrate to the United States and Europe for better employment. And, they prosper by taking the existing opportunities.

The Whole Truth

In journalism, they say the whole truth lies somewhere in between the claims made by competing sides because each side shouts out only the half truth of its convenience.  

Anti Immigrant Sticker

On one side we have right-wing politicians enrich their careers by pointing fingers at refugees and immigrants. Isn’t it easy to blame others for our misfortunes? Especially when “others” are “outsiders”.

Pointing fingers to win power is one thing. Delivering solutions that work is another. Repeated finger pointing also helps the right wingers hide their dismal track record at handling the economy.

Again, the world works on “possibility.” Just the possibility of migrant or refugee influx is enough to shift public opinion towards the right, regardless of whether such influx actually occurs.

No European nation figures in the list of top 10 nations housing over half the globe’s 25 million refugees. Yet, the anti-immigration, right-wing populism. Fear truly is viral!

But then, the door swings both ways. Consciously or otherwise, migrants and refugees often try to recreate their old homeland in their new homes. What they forget is that it is conditions in their old homes that forced them out.

Wishful thinking is a part of human nature, for we are creatures less of logic and more of emotion. But, such wishful thinking plays its part in fostering and deepening dangerous social fault lines.


Treating the real causes of distress migration – war, persecution, ecological destruction, bad governance, and poverty – will take more than the European Union’s $51 billion employment generation plan for Africa or similar other initiatives. But, it is a step in the right direction.

With a firm belief that technology creates more jobs over the long term than it destroys, technology companies are preparing school going children for futuristic jobs by introducing early computer training. They are also providing quick online training for adults wanting to update skills.

May sound farfetched, but empathy can move heaven and earth!

Indrajeetsinh Yadav @ Falcon Words has compiled this article. Write to us at or call us at +91-9822052945 for more such insightful content which analyzes current developments down to their very roots.

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