Dani Rodrik is a consistently stimulating thinker. But I was disappointed by his most recent column on the European debt crisis:
It is the extreme right that has benefited most from the centrists’ failure. In Finland, the heretofore unknown True Finn party capitalized on the resentment around eurozone bailouts to finish a close third in April’s general election. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom wields enough power to play kingmaker; without its support, the minority liberal government would collapse. In France, the National Front, which finished second in the 2002 presidential election, has been revitalized under Marine Le Pen.
Nor is the backlash confined to eurozone members. Elsewhere in Scandinavia, the Sweden Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi roots, entered parliament last year with nearly 6% of the popular vote. In Britain, one recent poll indicated that as many as two-thirds of Conservatives want Britain to leave the European Union.
Political movements of the extreme right have traditionally fed on anti-immigration sentiment. But the Greek, Irish, Portuguese, and other bailouts, together with the euro’s troubles, have given them fresh ammunition. Their Euro-skepticism certainly appears to be vindicated by events. When Marine Le Pen was recently asked if she would unilaterally withdraw from the euro, she replied confidently: “When I am president, in a few months’ time, the eurozone probably won’t exist.” [Emphasis added]
Did you catch that? Remarkably, Rodrik refers to support for EU withdrawal among British Conservatives right after referencing the success of a neo-fascist political party in Sweden and right before referencing anti-immigration sentiment on the extreme right. What he does not mention is that according to a survey conduced by The Guardian, a left-of-center newspaper, withdrawal from the EU is broadly popular with the British public:
Some 70% of voters want a vote on Britain’s EU membership, and by a substantial nine-point margin respondents say they would vote for UK withdrawal.
Forty-nine per cent would vote to get Britain out of Europe, against just 40% who prefer to stay in.
It hardly seems sensible, or even coherent, to suggest that favoring EU withdrawal is an “extreme right” position, particularly in light of the following, also from The Guardian:
An outright majority of Tory voters – some 56% – would vote to leave, as against 34% who would prefer to stay in. By contrast among Labour and Liberal Democrats, there are majorities for staying in Europe, although there are also sizeable minorities among both parties’ supporters – 38% and 44% respectively – who would vote to get out.
Note that support for a more integrated Europe had long been an essential part of the Liberal Democratic platform.