Fintan O’Toole: Coronavirus has ended the era of political risk

Who needs a politics of disruption when Covid-19 is disrupting the world?

Britihs prime minister Boris Johnson speaking at a coronavirus news conference inside 10 Downing Street, London. Photograph: Simon Dawson/PA Wire

Britihs prime minister Boris Johnson speaking at a coronavirus news conference inside 10 Downing Street, London. Photograph: Simon Dawson/PA Wire

One way to think about the 21st century so far is in terms of three successive waves of risk: financial, political, existential. In the years leading up to 2008, appalling risks were being taken in the global Las Vegas of deregulated casino capitalism. Anyone fretting about these risks was told: “We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” They didn’t and it wasn’t. Ordinary citizens then discovered that, while the rewards had gone overwhelmingly to a tiny elite, the risks had been borne all along, unknowingly, by the little people.

Many of those citizens responded by saying “Okay, if you want us to accept risks, we’ll show you what risk looks like.” They unleashed a wave of political risk, of Donald Trump and Brexit, of voters deciding that since the safety they had been assured was an illusion, they may as well gamble on grand gestures of rage and resentment. So what if your new ruler is a pathological liar and a buffoon? They all lie. They’re all buffoons. Better, in his warped logic, to go with the liars who were honest enough to lie openly.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.