Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Populists Surge in EU Elections

Elections for the European Parliament are something of a fraud. The Parliament actually doesn't do very much, since the big decisions are still mainly made by the heads of state, or by the European Commission in Brussels. Thus these elections have lower turnout than others and often serve as a way for the angry to vent their frustration. Still, the big gains made by right-wing populist parties in this latest election ought to convince Europe's leaders to do something for their struggling populace. Unemployment across the continent is 10.5%, nearly 20% among young people, and the EU leadership has done nothing to help. Lots of politicians have been quoted saying that these results are "a shock" or something to that effect, especially the outright victories of anti-EU parties in France, Denmark, and Britain. I doubt they are really shocked, since only a fool would be. The two related issues of immigration and unemployment are driving more and more Europeans out of the political mainstream, as is the sense that nothing the voters do seems to have any actual impact on EU policy.

The European Union is a project of the elite, and it has been put into place without a lot of input from the voters. This is not especially noteworthy in itself; US foreign policy during the Cold War comes to mind as another example of a policy fixed by elites about which voter input was pretty much irrelevant. But I worry about the cumbersome EU set-up, which seems to focus more on giving politicians opportunities for grand conferences and back room deals than on either democracy or making good policy. The result has been policy that sacrifices the interests of ordinary people, especially in southern Europe, in pursuit of grand-sounding but nebulous projects for "ever greater unity." Putting together this elite-run political system with the world's increasingly elite-dominated economy strikes me as the perfect setup for a Fascist resurgence.

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