John Derbyshire regularly makes the point that in Europe, what defines Right and Left is not economics, but immigration. The only reason they continue to use the old terms of “right” and “left” to describe the mainstream parties is habit. While there are some differences of opinion on economics, foreign policy and regulation between the German CDU and the SDP, for instance, those differences are trivial.
The real difference between modern mainstream parties in Europe is the aesthetics. This is expressed in the leaders they choose. It varies from country to country, but usually one side prefers a Cavalier and the other a Roundhead in terms of presentation. Otherwise, the parties agree on all the big stuff, particularly immigration.
What’s happened in Europe and starting to happen in America is the rise of a new Right. These new voices are all over the map in terms of economics, social liberty and foreign policy. What unifies them is patriotism and immigration. The Danish People’s Party is a bunch of old style socialist and pro-EU, but they want a halt to immigration. The Swiss People’s party is libertarian, Eurosceptic, but anti-immigration. These parties simply want to maintain and preserve their countries.
The whole left-right political spectrum is itself a relic of a bygone era. It arose in the French Revolution when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. This divide was more than aesthetic. On one side was the future and on the other the past, as far as how the French would be organized as a people.
What’s important to keep in mind is this binary view of politics arose when one form of social organization was collapsing. The divine right of kings made a lot of sense when people accepted the divine. By the end of the 17th century, the ruling elite of Europe was not all that sure God existed, much less cared all that much about who was in charge of each country.
Now, nothing springs from nothing. Just as the right-left politcal spectrum grew out of the French Revolution, the EU and other extra-national organizations did not magically appear for no reason. Individual countries competing for advantage nearly snuffed out western civilization in two great industrial wars. The whole point of the EU is to keep the peace in Europe.
The trouble is it is rests on the new organizing ethos that I call the New Religion of egalitarianism, multiculturalism and anti-racism. In the EU, there’s no difference between a Frenchman, a German and a Greek. In fact. all people are the same, regardless of national origin. Further, all cultures are the same and arguing otherwise is racist.
The problem with that is two-fold. One, people outside the West are not the same as Europeans. The millions of them trying to head north into Europe pose the greatest threat to Western Civilization since Abd-al-Raḥmân was defeated at Tours. Current estimates say there are at least 500,000 migrants in Libya planning to cross the Mediterranean this summer. Given our inability to count, that number is probably double or triple and it is just the start. Tens of millions more are behind them.
As if having millions of Africans pour into your lands is not enough, it turns out that all Europeans are not equal after all. The Greeks are about to usher in another financial crisis, which could very well invite the Russians into the south of Europe. The Italians, Spanish and Portuguese are not far behind. It turns out that the people of the Mediterranean do not share Germany’s sense of frugality.
When explaining the revolts that led to the French Revolution, historians will point to the intellectual rumblings of the Enlightenment or the changing class structure of Europe. While important,the precipitating events were more mundane. Europe experienced extremely cold weather where springs came late and summers ended early. Crop failures followed and then starvation.
In the book The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter explains how human societies develop complex systems for solving the problems they face. That includes complex economic systems, social systems, war fighting systems, etc. These systems buckle and collapse in the face of new threats when the cost of reforming and modifying them exceeds the benefit of preserving them. When their value exceeds their cost, people invest in reforms.
In the case of the French Revolution, the highly complex economic and social systems that evolved out of the feudal period were all wrong for the emerging post-Enlightenment world. The financial crisis, bad harvests and mistakes by the ruling elite were just the final grains of sand to bring the old system down. There was no value in preserving Ancien Régime so it collapsed.
The point of this walk down memory lane is to point out how societies can evolve down a cul-de-sac. The Greeks, the current ones, invested a good chunk of their national wealth in an attempt to join Europe. They even borrowed to pay for it. That has turned out to be a disastrous decision. All of those arrangements they made are now useless to them in the current crisis and arguably part of what plagues them now. The cost of reform exceeds the benefit of reform so there will be no reform.
Circling back to where we started, the reordering of the politics of the West is in response to the stresses faced by the people of the West. The people working to form the new Right in response to the present crisis could very well be in the same tradition as the men who met at Rue Saint-Jacques. When the current arrangements are no longer able to secure the rights and prosperity of the citizens, people begin to think about what comes next.
The Left, of course, is convinced they are the vanguard of the revolution, pushing social evolution toward the promised land. They view the rise of these parties as a reactionary rearguard action by yesterday men afraid of the bold new future. In the abstract, they may be correct, but people don’t live in the abstract.
The Greeks stashing money under their beds only know that the people in charge have failed. The Dane seeing his taxes propping up a growing community of Africans in his ancestral home wonders why the people in charge permit it. Western elites are facing a crisis of legitimacy because they cannot contend with the basics people expect from their rulers.
Periods of crisis are defined by their precipitating events and their resolution. The current crisis has been brought on by mass immigration and economic stagnation. Its resolution will be one of two possibilities. One way is the existing arrangements reform and adapt in order to mitigate the migrant invasion and economic stagnation. The other way is they are wiped away and replaced by something new. There is no third option.