The far right is in ascendance. Although their programmes differ widely, most far right movements are united in their rejection of Europe, immigration, and in their approval of a more traditional type of society. One should not wonder at their rise - the political left have tried everything to avoid this but only ended up encouraging them further with their attempts.
The main difference between European far right parties lies in their economic policies. Those who favour a more free market economy (rare as they are) are generally also much more liberal with regards to civil rights issues. One may even argue whether they fall under the far right category at all, because after all ‘rebels’ like Nigel Farage from UKIP and the Dutch Geert Wilders and his party know about the importance of a free economy.
This is unlike many other far right movements, for example the French Front National, which favours essentially socialist policies without a leftist tolerance on civil rights issues. The big problem with the political left is failing to understand that economic and civic liberty are necessarily dependent on each other. That economic freedom is a condition of - though not always a direct requisite to - a free society. With all their resentment against the market economy, they foment conditions in which people are much more likely to view political issues from a far right perspective. The good intentions of the political left lead to the ascendance of the political right. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
There are different reasons for this. Some people even argue that fascism is essentially a leftist idea stripped of its leftist ideals. But the main responsibility for this knock-on effect must be laid at the door of the much-loved adjective, "social". The philosopher F.A. Hayek describes it as a "weasel word", sucking out the meaning of other words like a weasel sucks out an egg, only leaving the shell. Hayek, who also recognized the interdependence of economic and civic liberties, is certainly right in this regard. Social policies may intend to be social, but they seldom are. Indeed, they rather create conditions where far right notions of politics and society can thrive.
First of all, leftist social policies make people dependent. Although it is often argued that they are necessary to enable independence, this only holds true in rare circumstances. Certainly, there should be some support for those in need, but this is not the question. It is not about who shall be supported, but about who supports.
If public policy proceeds as it does in most countries today, then it will make people dependent. Not only those they support (and they support almost everyone with different things) but also those they tax to make this questionable miracle possible. True independence means to decide for oneself what to do with the fruits of one's labour, rather than having others making the decision.
In this regard, dependence nourishes far right views. For example, immigration: the dependant is (wrongly) concerned about the immigrant taking away his employment or receiving social security payments without having contributed anything. Not knowing about economics because he does not need to, this is a very basic fear, unfortunately often encouraged by populist politicians. One can argue even further: dependent people are more likely to develop traditional views of society with a rejection of gay marriage or in favour of a strong "law-and-order" state. They are used to someone providing them with security, and are thus increasingly incapable of coping with an increasingly stressful daily life. All ‘foreign’ things become hostile to them. It is a vicious circle: the security provider is asked to provide more and more.
The individual consequences of economic liberty are strong, but there are also societal consequences other than spiraling dependency. An economically free society is for example not only more wealthy in general, wealth certainly raising levels of tolerance towards others (who are no threat, since they are similarly wealthy). There is also a free flow of knowledge in a free economy - knowledge now shared by all people regardless of their race, gender, religion and sexual preferences. One should not underestimate this effect on society. A greater diversity and success of the ‘alien’ creates more tolerance and allows people to grow more independent.
So, now we can return to the far right and its current success. The reason is that economic freedom is continuously undermined by national as well as EU policies. Not only do social policies increase people’s dependency - all the regulations, though enacted with good intentions, do the same. They may give people the feeling of being protected, even though it remains rather questionable. It causes more negative side effects like rising prices, lesser quality of life, etc.
One should not forget that the highest achievement of the European Union is the core of a free economy: the free movement of goods, services and people. People studying, trading, visiting each other unites and creates mutual respect and tolerance, not a top-down order from Brussels. The more dependent people are, the less likely to take up these opportunities - neither studying, nor trading, nor visiting other countries. They will stay safe in their government-financed homes, eat government-financed meals, watch government-financed TV and vote every four years for parties to provide them with even more security.
The political left thrives on creating security. For some time it provided it, but at the same time it has undermined it. No wonder it will collapse soon. Being already very dependent, people won't leave their comfort and security to abolish the socialist policies which brought in their imagined threats (like immigration). Nevertheless, government interference is like dependence: a vicious circle - it gets worse and worse.
If we want to live in a united Europe of tolerance and liberty, we ought to understand this. The far right can only grow in conditions provided by the left. As long as leftist parties are still in the majority, and continue down their political path, it is the road to serfdom. Only more, not less, economic liberty can save us from yet more years of the far right horrors Europe unfortunately already knows well.
Education is important in this regard, but education has to be "bottom-up", not "top-down". The EU may try a thousand things to prevent the far right from gaining more and more votes, but the effects will be marginal. Only "bottom-up" experiences, people experiencing the merits of free interaction with each other and free use of the fruits of their labour will be truly independent, avoiding the trap far right parties have set up.
Today, due to government interference, while increasingly difficult, it is still possible to live an enjoyable life. But being robbed of your personality, being controlled in your thoughts, not being able to express your religions and sexual preferences - these are all things we can expect in far right-controlled societies – that would certainly be unbearable. Let it not come to that!
Get our weekly email