“To the socialists of all parties”: A libertarian reading of the recent European elections

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By: Daniel Andrés Salamanca-Pérez/ Active Member 

In a time when to a large extent, almost every lawyer of the western world has been raised upon the paradigm of the welfare state and the complex idea of the state-regulated economic liberty, the not-so-recent European elections have been read by many as a triumph of the far right and an earthquake that menaces the prosperity and social justice of the Union because of the advancement of Euroscepticism. But such statement can be proven misleading.

The dichotomy between right and left is often wrongly conceived only in terms of individual liberties and Human Rights issues. If a party holds racist views is considered to belong to the far right and exactly the opposite if it seeks State ownership of the means of production.

But if analyzed closely both will probably argue in favor of the protection of national industries and the protection of the jobs that it creates: The claim that immigration is prejudicial for the country is often argued by both the Unions and xenophobic organizations. At the end they tend to be the same.

That’s why in Britain The Spectator affirms that there was no victory of right over left, only of Eurosceptic parties over pro-European parties and just in some countries, and that if one was to rationalise the party groupings in Strasbourg one would bring ‘far left’ and ‘far right’ together under a new umbrella grouping of xenophobic statism.

According to this magazine this is because of 751 seats in the European parliament, only 46 — those held by parties belonging to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group — define themselves in terms of economic liberalism. They suffered a loss of 11 seats. In contrast, the United Left parties — often called the far left — gained ten seats to 45 and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy — often called the far right — put on 11 seats to 40.

Although I do not completely share The Spectator’s harsh statements – I do think there are well intentioned statists and not merely evil xenophobic anti-market politicians – it is true that the real disjunctive is between less European bureaucracy, reduction of public spending, avoidance of artificial privileges and intergenerational debt, freer markets and less regulation on the one hand versus advocacy of protectionism, restrictions to commerce through taxation or legislation, State dependency, opposition to globalization and micro-managerial States.

This critically important because as F. A. Hayek pointed out, history has taught us that the gradual transformation of rigidly organized hierarchic and to a large extent oppressive societies into those where men could at least attempt to shape their own life, is closely attached to the development of free commerce as was the case of the cities of northern Italy, southwest Germany, Holland and Britain (The Road to Serfdom, 14). In other words: economic and individual freedom arte two sides of the same coin.

Duncan McDonnell says that of the six parties that were considered guaranteed members Alliance for Freedom (EAF) – doubtfully a pro-market one – only two (the FN and FPÖ) saw their vote rise compared to 2009, while the other lost votes. For him this outcome means that the EAF has to find similar European parties to enable it to have the 25 members of the parliament from at least 7 member States needed to form an official group. There was a small victory of Euroscepticism yes, but it can be divided in two different kinds: protectionist and pro-market. That’s why some of the latter like UKIP, Perussuomalaiset and the Danish People’s Party (pro-market but not fully libertarian parties) all have ruled out any formal alliance with the EAF.

The future of the European Union may be at stake for some but the real debate is still pending: that of economic freedom versus protected economies. It is self-evident that the Union – though disguised as such – is the very opposite to free trade and this elections prove that despite of what happens to the Union, protectionists will be yet the strongest foes in the fight against poverty in which freer economies have proven to be more efficient.

Sountrack: Free as a bird – The Beatles

Image: PE(6) by Anca Pandrea (Licensed with Creative Commons BY 2.0)

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