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Bob Dylan asked these questions decades ago, and ‘populism’ is not the answer

Ian Verrender comments on the ABC’s website (21.11.16) about why today’s crop of political leaders and analysts can’t seem to fathom what the problem is behind the rise of Donald Trump and other populist figures.

‘”Because you know something is happening. But you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr Jones?”

‘Little wonder Bob Dylan cannot be bothered turning up to collect his Nobel Prize.

‘Four decades after he wrote Ballad of a Thin Man, an excoriating account of a society that could not grasp the changes afoot or the seething discontent driving them, the troubadour must marvel that so little has changed.

‘Whereas Dylan became the voice for a generation that overthrew the stifling shackles of post-war conformity and conservatism, the revolution now underway is a reversal, a lurch to the past.

‘Like the hapless Mr Jones in Dylan’s song, our political and business leaders simply cannot fathom what is wrong, or why anyone would be unhappy.

‘… The challenge for governments now and into the future is to devise a way to maintain a productive workforce and to ensure income and wealth are spread across society.

‘That’s what the masses, those voting for the populists, are crying out for.

‘No-one has the answers. But they surely won’t be found in a globally competitive race to the bottom of the corporate tax barrel that will only serve to further inflate the salaries of those at the top.’

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