商业领袖是时候回顾这一波全球的民粹主义浪潮了。尽管这听起来像个奇怪的建议，因为这股浪潮似乎才刚刚开始。虽然奥地利的民族主义候选人诺伯特•霍费尔在昨天的总统大选中失败，但意大利总理伦齐在修宪公投中的惨败更加引人瞩目。主要的受益者是“五星运动”（Five Star Movement）这个在七年前由电视喜剧演员贝佩•格里洛建立的反体制、反欧元的民粹主义政党。在英国脱欧和唐纳德•特朗普的当选之后，民粹主义这次引人瞩目的胜利，让法国、德国和荷兰的民粹主义者势头更进一步，这些国家都将在明年举行大选。
It’s time for business leaders to start looking past the global populism surge, which sounds like decidedly odd advice considering that the surge seems just to be getting started. Though Austrian nationalist candidate Norbert Hofer lost yesterday’s presidential election, the more significant result was the drubbing that Italian voters inflicted on Prime Minister MatteoRenzi in a constitutional referendum. The main beneficiary is the populist, anti-establishment, anti-euro Five Star Movement, a party founded just seven years ago by TV comedian BeppeGrillo. This new high-profile populist victory, coming after Brexit and Donald Trump’s win, gives momentum to already strong populists in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, all of which hold national elections next year.
So why look past populism, which is still gaining strength? Because even in this incredibly uncertain world, we can predict a couple of things with moderate confidence.
Populists won’t be able to deliver on their promises
Many of their favored policies won’t be enacted because legislatures won’t approve them or because the populists, on assuming the burden of power, will have to face the real-world consequences of what they propose to do. In the U.S. we’ve already seen Trump back away from major campaign promises on trade, deregulation, and immigration, even before his inauguration.
Adopted policies will fail
To the extent the populists’ policies are enacted, they won’t work; that is, they won’t deliver the promised benefits to supporters. Slapping heavy tariffs on imports won’t bring the old heavy manufacturing jobs back to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, or Wisconsin, as Trump promised. Abandoning the euro won’t make any European nation more prosperous. Prohibiting or severely restricting immigrants won’t bring more and better jobs to a country’s citizens.
There will be a revolt
We can also be reasonably confident that as failed promises stack up, the revolt of the populists’ supporters will be just as sudden as the populists’ rise was. In a hyper-connected world filled with constantly connected people, prevailing opinion can lurch radically. Italy voted for Renzi as an iconoclastic, anti-establishment savior just two years ago; now voters are fed up with him. In 2012 France swung from center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy to extreme socialist Francois Hollande, who is now so reviled that he will be the first French president since World War II not to run for re-election, and nationalist Marine Le Pen is the country’s fastest rising candidate.
Business leaders should prepare for the possibility that the populist surge may be, by historical standards, a brief phenomenon, burning itself out within maybe a few years. No one can say precisely how that scenario might unfold, and major disruptive events such as war could always rewrite the script. Nonetheless, even now, it isn’t too early for leaders to prepare a scenario plan on what’s past populism.