Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Austerity and populism part 2

I mentioned earlier today that the potential for populist backlash to austerity doesn't get much attention, then very soon thereafter read this article in The Economist addressing that very issue. What's odd, though, is that it only focuses on the fringe right:

These movements are sometimes described as neo-fascist. Some of them indeed are, and all of them embrace odious and intolerant views of one sort or another. But to dismiss them as fascist, and thereby safely rule them out of European political life, offers the liberal mainstream false comfort. Over the past few years populists have found ways to set themselves apart from a neo-Nazi ideology. Many support gay and women’s rights (all the better, they think, to bash the Muslims), and many are fervently pro-Israel. They are here to stay. 

Europe’s populists are not likely to form governments; they lack the votes and are completely unequipped for office. However, mainstream politicians do not know how to see them off. So their obsessions and their resentments have seeped into the debate, even among those who would never vote for them.

Latin American populism is predominantly leftist. Are the majority of European populists on the right, or are they just the attention-grabbers? Say all you want about left-wing populism, but the European right is more ugly, more dangerous, and more violent. So that's even more scary.

Anyway, European populism is increasingly popular, as the article notes. Be as dismissive as you want, but when people suddenly lose their jobs, see prices of previously subsidized goods increase, watch their safety net evaporate, experience wage stagnation even when they're employed, and hear that this is shared sacrifice, then naturally the status quo loses its luster.


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