Europe: From the Welfare State to the Totalitarian State?
Thanks to the voters who put Obama in the White House in 2008 and Democrats in charge of Congress in 2006 elections, the hard-line left has been able to determine the course of America over the past 3.5 years. In the 2010 election a majority of voters issued a restraining order on the runaway leftists who thought they were invincible after 2008. But so long as we have a radical in the White House and a Democrat Senate majority that gives the president a pass on every decisive power grab he wants, we are going to continue down the path that the hard-line left staked out in ’08.
That path goes straight into the murky backwoods of big-government Europe. We have already seen numerous examples of how the Obama administration is Europeanizing America: from anti-business environmental regulations to health “reform” to socialization of student loans to the continuous assault on state sovereignty. Everywhere they can they create another government incursion into the lives of private citizens.
Since the Obama administration and its allies in the Senate want to continue down the path of Europeanization, we need to look at what is going on in Europe and learn from their mistakes. We already know about the disastrous fiscal situation in welfare states like Greece, Spain and Portugal and what that will mean for America, should we continue to build a European welfare state here. What is less known is that the harsh austerity policies used in Europe to save the welfare states from inevitable collapse, are also having serious repercussions beyond the realm of economics.
As a result of a continuous downward spiral of unemployment, higher taxes and economic deprivation, Europeans are becoming increasingly desperate. Even politically. Support for extremist political parties is rising all across the European Union. in the harsh economic realities created by a crumbling welfare state and destructive austerity policies, authoritarian political movements are experiencing a new dawn.
Not surprisingly, Greece is the scene of one of the strongest surges in extremism. Nazis and Soviet-style Communists are rapidly gaining ground among voters and could make big gains in the upcoming parliamentary elections. In France, the leader of the National Front, Marine LePen, got 20 percent of the votes in the first round of the presidential election, placing her a close third among all voters. Her support among first-time voters surpassed that of any other candidate, which puts her party in a very favorable position for local and regional elections in the next few years.
In Hungary, one of the youngest members of the EU, the new government has brought back an old-style, dingy European form of nationalism that is openly threatening the country’s parliamentary democracy. The success of the Fidesz and Jobbik parties was built on deep dissatisfaction among Hungarians with the austerity policies forced upon them by the European Union.
Even Britain, often considered the pillar of classic European liberalism, freedom and democracy, is tilting toward the shadows. The British National Party, which gained significantly in opinion polls back in 2009, seems to have survived internal faction-fighting and is a frighteningly resilient player on the British political scene. Its fellow traveller on the authoritarian side of the political spectrum, the English Defense League, is a fast-growing, street-wise anti-immigration movement with an authoritarian touch and a disdain for the British parliamentary system.
In Sweden, the openly un-democratic National Democrats have seats in several city councils and are preparing for participation in the 2014 national parliamentary elections.
All these parties have one thing in common: they want to preserve the welfare state and they blame its decline on a combination of economic freedom, free trade and immigration. They are generally prepared to save the welfare state by sacrificing or severely restricting political freedoms and parliamentary democracy. They propose far-reaching government control over the economy – the differences between them are limited to how much of private property rights they want to take away. Other than that, they all stand for higher taxes, preserved or expanded welfare programs and harsh control of businesses. They also want to restrict free trade and more or less close national borders.
What is emerging in Europe is nothing short of a totalitarian attempt at defending the inherently failing, and doomed, welfare state. If this movement becomes stronger, history from the 1920s Germany will eventually repeat itself. The German leaders during the Weimar republic did everything they could to preserve their welfare state in the face of enormous economic problems. Since the economy could not afford the welfare state, and since they were ideologically married to keeping it, the Weimar government tried its very best to shrink entitlements to make them fit the ever shrinking tax base. In a desperate measure to try and avoid the inevitable they started printing money en masse. The currency collapsed, economic and social chaos took over – and the road was paved for the NSDAP to march into Berlin.
With exception of the money-printing part, all the ingredients are there: a “higher” cause that motivates repealing political freedoms; a crisis to rally people around one leader; and a convenient group to blame. This group is not the Jews this time, but non-European muslims. It is a fact that Europe has received more muslim immigrants than the continent can handle, but this does not mean that they are the origin of the economic crisis. And it certainly does not mean it is legitimate for power-hungry, authoritarian-minded politicians to play the “blame game” on them.
The only ingredient missing is hyper-inflation. So long as countries like Greece stay within the European currency union they won’t be able to print money and destroy a currency in the name of saving the welfare state. However, there is a scenario where the EU can give up on Greece, and Greece give up on the EU. If the Greek government feels that their democracy cannot surviv another round of austerity, they may very well decide to leave the currency union, reintroduce their national currency and monetize their deficit. This would add the final ingredient and resurrect Weimar.
When one country has left the euro zone, pressure is going to mount for others to do the same. Spain and Portugal would be next, and the probability is high that they would take to the monetary printing presses to try and save their welfare states. It is not going to work, of course, but before they realize that they will also have stirred up the same ugly stew that brought Hitler to power in Germany.
A breakdown of Europe’s currency union was unthinkable two years ago. Today, more and more analysts are pointing to it as a credible alternative in the next couple of years. Likewise, the resurrection of authoritarianism in Europe has been unthinkable for a great long time, yet that is precisely what is happening.
With this in mind, and given the fact that America’s left is pushing hard to transform us into Europe 2 – how unthinkable is it that we might also experience a turn toward authoritarianism in the future? Just how far are American lefitsts willing to go to defend their welfare state project?