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Populism is an economic and political theory in which the means of production are privately owned and operated democratically; decisions regarding supply, demand, price, distribution, and investments are made by private actors in the market, but are regulated by the government; profit is distributed to owner employees who invest in businesses.
During the 20th Century and early 21st Century Populism was defined by the Cambridge dictionary as "political ideas and activities that are intended to represent ordinary people's needs and wishes." Many prominent politicians and activists of the 20th Century were considered champions of Populism, both on the left and right of the political spectrum. On the left icons such as President Theodore Roosevelt, Louisiana Governor and Senator Huey Long, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Robert F. Kennedy, Barack H. Obama, were some of the most notable politicians to use populist fervor to garner support. On the right politicians like Alabama Governor George Wallace, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Presidents George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, also used grass roots populism to move the public discourse in their favor.
Populism as and Ideology, however, shifted in definition from left to right before its modern tenants were established. When Populism first appeared as a political ideology
It wasn't until the then United States Senator of Texas, Kernard D Jones began to define modern Populism in Washington during the start of the Second Depression. Between his use of Keynesian economic policies while governor and the passage of Washington's Economic Bill of Rights in 2026, Edwards came to define Populism as a left wing economic philosophy, and not simply the exploitation of middle class rights. He also lead a major movement with young people that redefined the way America thought of education.
During a presidential debate, Edwards summarized the core of populism as the following:
"Many have come to call Populism as 'the creation of a welfare state on steroids', when in actuality it is the desire to build a truly free market, where competition thrives. If I had to sum it up in two words I would call it 'Democratic Economics,' the idea that people should have a say in their economy not just a privileged few."
Jones went on to state that at its core, Populism is more of a combination of Keynesian economics, Huey Long populism, and Rooseveltian economic stimulus; with three basic tenets:
1: High Taxation on the richest percentage of the population, very low taxes on the middle and lower classes. Rate of taxation is subject to change based on economic status (i.e. lower taxes during recessions, higher taxes during economic booms)
2: All privately owned non-freelance businesses must be employee owned with a democratically elected management. (This doesn't require labor unions)
3: Use of public funds to provide for basic human needs, while permitting private sector competition. i.e. Health-insurance, housing, retirement benefits, etc. (These are to be the most essential requirements that encourage people to opt for better private sector options)"
Role of the Government
In a populist system, the government does not prohibit private property or prevent individuals from working where they please. The government imposes a living wage that every firm must abide by as well as health and safety standards, however it does not directly control what prices they will charge for their products.
The government carries out a number of economic functions, such as issuing money, supervising public utilities and enforcing private contracts. There are competition laws that prohibit monopolies and cartels from forming, and laws encouraging start-ups and new competition. Public utilities (e.g. electricity, water, waste management, communications) are in some cases administered by the government, however in most cases the government simply funds home-based or nano-utilities that allow the individual to be self sufficient, while managing the collective meta-grid that forms from these various nano-grids.
Government agencies regulate the standards of service in the industries, such as food quality, consumer safety, as well as financing a wide range of programs. In addition, the government regulates the flow of capital and uses financial tools such as the interest rate to control factors such as inflation and unemployment. Ultimately the goal of the government's action in the economy is maintain the principle of perfect competition, which was ultimately hindered under 20th Century Capitalism.