Saturday, June 5, 2010

The coming rise of European Fascism

Economically, there's not a lot of difference between classical fascism as defined by Mussolini and what's called Transnational Progressivism. Both treat the economy as only one facet of society, and both have very strong strains of central economic control as a manifestation of the "Social Will". Both strongly emphasize the group over the individual. The parallels go on and on, which actually helps explain how Europe shifted so seamlessly from strongly fascist in the 1920s and 1930s to strongly Transnational in the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, you cannot understand modern France (and through it, the EU) without studying dirigisme and Jean Monnet.

What's different between fascism and its kinder, gentler younger cousin is two things:
  • Fascism is explicitly nationalistic, and Transnational Progressivism is, well, explicitly trans-national. There's no place for concepts like Die Deutsche volk in modern Tansnationalism. A European volk, especially as a counterbalance to the vulgar cowboy Americans is welcome.
  • Fascism was organized around the Führer Prinzip, a leader embodying the collective aspirations of the volk. Transnationalism (so far) has avoided this entirely, although a political elite maintains rigid control via a (largely unaccountable) bureaucracy.
We can be grateful that European political theory morphed as it did in the post war years. Two thirds of a century of more or less peace in Europe is a whole lot better than what went before.

But that's ending now. Whether the schemes and appetites of the ruling European Elite grew out of all sense of proportion, or whether there's just a limit on how long a system can continue before it starts to run down, we can now predict with confidence that the post-war European system is running down. The question is, what will replace it?

The system worked well at the beginning: the French still look back wistfully at the Trente Glorieuses, the years of rapid economic expansion through the 1970s. It's not surprising that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Elites could foresee a time when a united Europe would eclipse the vulgar Americans. Populations were content to allow the elites to control their destiny, since incomes and living standards had been rising so fast, for so long.
That's been pretty much over for twenty years.
In 1992, the average American was about $5600 ahead of the average person in the Euro Area. This value has already been adjusted for inflation. In 2007, the difference had risen to more that $13,000 (and is likely to be almost $14,000 by 2008). That's how far behind the Euro Area is, and that's how much it has changed in a mere 16 years.
So European incomes are stagnating, when compared to incomes in the US. This is new since 1980, and has accelerated since about 1995. Europeans in general have become much more pessimistic about their future than Americans are:
I'd like to return to a comparison of life in the U.S. vs. life in Europe. I am intrigued by that issue not because I want to trumpet the greatness of the U.S. but because so many people appear to be under the impression that the balance is tilted in favor of the Europeans even though the evidence strongly suggests that it is tilted the other way.
Both of these are important background, and you should click through to RTWT. They're from 3 years ago, before the Euro started to fray. In other words, even when it looked like Europe was firing on all cylinders, the populations were not happy.

And now the wheels are starting to come off the EU bus. The PIIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) are in serious economic trouble, because the Euro is designed for the stronger economies of northern Europe. Interest rates and the resulting exchange rates are optimized for the industrial economies of Germany, Benelux, and to a lesser extent, France. This has depressed growth (and consequently increased government deficits) in the PIIGS region. They have, unsurprisingly, demanded subsidies from the wealthier northern states. As long as the northern economies were performing - and especially while a real estate bubble in Tuscany, Andalucia, the Algarve, and Greece drove huge amounts of cash south - the elites could keep this crack papered over.

That's done now, and it's hard to see it coming back. The subsidies required to defer a financial collapse and default are the better part of a Trillion dollars, just for Greece. Guess who pays?

You simply cannot look at this situation without a voice in the back of your head whispering die deutsche volk. Nationalism horrifies the elites, but nationalism feeds on an external enemy (or irritation), and the German people have every right to be steamed right now. One of the two key differences between Transnational Progressivism and Fascism is creaking.

And it's going to get worse. We have a bad demographic situation here in the USA, with the Baby Boom generation starting to strain the finances of Medicare and Social Security. Europe is much worse. Budgets will get tighter and benefits will have to be scaled back because there's no alternative. What the populations tolerated during boom times will no longer be tolerable. Gernams will rightly ask themselves why they have to work until age 65 or 70 to support a Greek who retires at 55 or 60.

It was an easy half a step sideways from Fascism to Transnational Progressivism, and it will be an easy half step back sideways. Steven den Beste predicted the collapse of the second major difference between the philosophies, the rise of Führer Prinzip:

So in the end what you'll get is economic collapse. There are various ways in which this can play out, but none of them are good. And as long as Europe is locked in this economic death-spiral, they are unlikely to be a military threat to us, and at least that's a blessing.

But what comes after the collapse or emerges politically during the collapse? The historical record suggests a new rise of Fascism is the most likely outcome. In the midst of economic chaos, with a huge population of unemployed and people who are dissatisfied, charismatic leaders will appear who will blame the problems on foreigners and claim they can solve the problems if only they're given unrestrained power. Once elected, they abolish elections, dismantle most of the programs which are causing trouble, and actually do improve the business climate. But they do other things, too, and few of them are likely to be good.

Europe is screwed. It's dropped below the Power Curve, and the only question is whether it will be five years or ten. As Ron White jokes:
The guy sitting next to me is losing his mind. Apparently, he had a lot to live for. He turns to me, he says "Hey man! [gasps for air] Hey, man! Hey, man! [gasps for air] If one of these engines fails, [gasps for air] how far will the other one take us?" So I was like, "All the way to the scene of the crash! Which is pretty handy, 'cause that's where we're headed. I bet we beat the paramedics there by a half-hour! We're haulin ass!"
I'm stil optimistic about America. I'm not at all about Europe. It's been said that Fascism is always descending on America, but always landing in Europe. Buckle up, here we go again.

16 comments:

Bob said...

Your posts are getting more and more erudite every day, to the point where an ignorant redneck like myself can no longer keep up. You're in Al Fin territory, now. And I say that as a compliment.

wolfwalker said...

Hmmm...

I think you've got things about half right, Borepatch, but some of it is right for the wrong reasons, and the conclusion you reach is one I don't agree with.

First of all, Transnationalism grew directly out of Europe's experiences in the period 1916-1945. The mass slaughter of the First World War decimated an entire generation of Europe's best young men; the mass destruction of the Second War left the entire continent in ruins. Both wars stemmed ultimately from nationalism. Transnationalism arose as a reaction to that nationalist power struggle, and its ultimate goal was to make sure that Europe was never threatened by war again. It became transnational progressivism because the old guard socialists had the only political power theory in Europe that wasn't completely discredited by the wars -- namely, a progressivist system administered by an intellectual elite. (Europe never seriously considered adopting the American model of citizen rulers; more fools they.)

Second, I don't agree with you or Den Beste that a return to Fascism is the most likely result of a collapse in Europe. Economically, Fascism is big-government socialism, and the coming collapse is going to discredit big-government, centrally-planned socialism. I think it's more likely that we'll see a system something like feudalism: a large number of small nation-states, with many local leaders vying for power, existing in an uneasy truce most of the time, with an occasional localized war when tensions get too high to be damped out.

Always assuming, of course, that the Muslims don't simply march in and take over during the chaos.

Borepatch said...

Bob, I'm over-educated. :-p

Al Fin seems pretty seriously cool.

Wolfwalker, that an interesting idea - the return of feudalism. There's a lot of desire for devolution of central authority. Scotland and Wales in the UK, and Flanders in Belgium are sick of the central governments.

Stan said...

speaking of feudalism, I gave you a little shout-out over on the home front you might enjoy. lol...

wolfwalker said...

There's a lot of desire for devolution of central authority.

Which is ironic, since it arises from the ethnic classification that is such a big part of progressivism. And not only in the UK. See also the Basque separatists, as well as what happened to Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Chechnya, and some of the old Soviet republics, among others. I don't think France or Germany will fragment, but the rest of the continent ...

Tam said...

When my friend Jenn asked me back in '06 where I thought the EU was going with its unfunded social obligations, birth dearth, and unassimilated immigrants, I replied "Don't forget that these people have proven that they can go from zero to jackboots in five years."


(WV: "shiet". We're in for a world of...)

Atom Smasher said...

I predict civil war in Europe within 10 years. Because NOBODY does pogroms like the Euros.

Borepatch said...

Tam and Atom Smasher, yup. The current programs are fixin' to take them all the way to the scene of the crash.

wolfwalker said...

I predict civil war in Europe within 10 years.

Atom Smasher, a question offered in all seriousness: is there enough ability-for-violence left in European culture to produce a civil war? One of the big problems Europe has right now is that the "pacification" programs instituted after WW2, intended to tone down nationalism and the impulse toward violence, have succeeded too well. The people have become too passive to fight for what they believe in.

Borepatch said...

Wolfwalker, there's a long history in Europe of Befehl ist Befehl.

There's also a long history of ruthlessness at the top: Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own.

Kansas Scout said...

Very interesting ideas. You could be right or close any way. In any case, it pays to remember that unexpected random events can overtake predictable sequences and ruin predictions. I think the best we can do is look for trends and act accordingly.
In other words there are wild card players out there that could matter in unexpected ways.
Peak oil, failing socialist economies and aging populations at least mean that Europe will find itself under someone's domination.

Tam said...

"The people have become too passive to fight for what they believe in."

Soccer crowds and the streets of Athens would suggest otherwise.

Atom Smasher said...

Wolfwalker-

Their hatred will overpower their passivity, for some. I'm confident that their brand of nationalism will create the fight, but I'm not confident that their lame-assed military budgets will allow anyone to emerge as a clear winner. I think it's going to be ugly when it comes.

Brent Crude said...

Borepatch,

Got to disagree with you on Scots and Welsh devolution.

They're doing it to get MORE big Govt, not less. Scottish and Welsh national socialists are big statists.

Can't speak for Belgians, but there are only a couple million or so of them and 3 indiginous language groups (French, Flemmish and German speakers) allong with all the Arabic speakers.

French speaking Wallonia is a former industrial rust belt (commi) Flanders is agricultural and conservative - good reason to want a divorce.

Firehand said...

Unrelated to economics but related to Ron White, one of the instructors at my son's CAP unit once said "Remember, with a twin-engine airplane, if one engine fails the other will have plenty of power to get you to the scene of the crash."

Firehand said...

And Bradley? Howzabout those illegal immigrants in Europe, in Britain? Taking over whole sections of cities? Or all those people expecting cradle-to-grave care from the government and rioting when they face a cut? The politicians trying to bail each other out?

We've got our problems; I damn sure don't see any solutions coming from the EU. Other than holding a collective hand out to us.