A recent answer to another question on politics.se referred to the Nolan Chart as a method for describing political affiliation. The version of the chart shown at that link describes two axes:
- Left-wing ↔ Right-wing (defined in economic/distributional terms)
- Libertarian ↔ (Totalitarian) Populist
I'm interested here in the phrase "(Totalitarian) Populist", in whose place I would have expected instead to see the word "Authoritarian" in the chart.
In my experience, "populist" is generally used as a pejorative term to describe a politician with the annoying (for their opponents) knack of securing popular support by giving the people what they want - or at least, of promising or appearing to do so.
I wouldn't, before seeing the chart, have thought to make a link per se between populism and totalitarianism, but instead, to the extent that "populism" has a non-pejorative use, that it describes the political actions associated with a "bread & circuses" approach. For example, Nero might be an example of the "circuses" aspect of this idea, and Evita of the "bread" aspect.
Some more modern examples of populist policies I can think of:
- "Your boss should be taxed more highly so your kids can go to a better school" or "Your taxes are too high".
- "We should stop letting immigrants steal your job" or "You (as an immigrant) should have the same rights as a natural-born citizen".
- "You should be allowed to smoke pot if you want" or "Those dirty hippies shouldn't be allowed to smoke pot".
These don't, on their face, seem to be concentrated particularly at one end of a freedom↔control axis.
Is there, then, a theoretical basis (or real world evidence) for a strong link between populism and totalitarianism?
Are there examples of politicians using the term "populist" to describe themselves, rather than being described thus by their opponents?
EDIT: I've updated the examples, as on reflection they didn't previously illustrate my point very well.