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Election Shows Tribal Divisions Are U.K.’s Biggest Challenge

The stunning Conservative victory in the United Kingdom’s election, which had less to do with the U.K.’s recovering economy than with identity politics, provides fascinating insight into trends shaping the country.

On the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the first of many documents that produced the uncodified British constitution, British voters seem incapable of agreeing on who they are and what binds them together.

The country’s politics now resemble a set of Japanese bento boxes with separate compartments representing various collectivist identities—European, British, English, Scottish, Anglo-Saxon and so forth.

On paper, the overriding issue in the election should have been the economy. After five years of austerity, the United Kingdom is growing at twice the rate of the European Union and the rate of participation in the labor market is at a record 73%, significantly higher than the U.S. labor participation rate, which has been stuck for months just below 63%.

On the other hand, productivity in the U.K. has barely grown, and the prospects for reducing the deficit further are dim without major new spending cuts. But all this took second place to identity-related issues.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is Senior Fellow at The Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute. He is a native of Peru and received his B.Sc. in international history from the London School of Economics. His Independent Institute books include Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America, Lessons From the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, and Liberty for Latin America.

From Alvaro Vargas Llosa
GLOBAL CROSSINGS: Immigration, Civilization, and America
The erosion of national boundaries—and even the idea of the nation state—is already underway as people become ever more inter-connected across borders. A jungle of myth, falsehood and misrepresentation dominates the debate over immigration. The reality is that the economic contributions of immigration far outweigh the costs.

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