by John Q on March 6, 2024

In a few days time, I’ll be lining up in the 65-69 category for the Mooloolaba Olympic triathlon (1500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run)[1]. People in this age category are commonly described as “aging”, “older”, “seniors”, “elders” and, worst of all, “elderly” (though this mostly kicks in at 70). The one thing we are never called is “old”. But this is the only term that makes any sense. Everyone is aging, one year at a time, and a toddler is older than a baby. Senior and elder are similarly relative terms. And “elderly” routinely implies “frail” (a lot of old people are frail, but many more are not.

What accounts for the near-universal squeamishness that surrounds the term “old”? Apart from the obvious fact that you are a bit closer to death, it’s not that bad being old. Even if not everyone can complete a triathlon, most people maintain (self-assessed) good health to age 85 and beyond, In most developed countries, old people can live a reasonably comfortable life without having to work. And on average, that’s reflected in measures of happiness.

Yet, at least in the Anglosphere, old people don’t seem to be happy in political terms. It’s voters over 65 who provide the core support for conservative parties and are most likely to welcome the drift to the far right represented by Trump and his imitators.

The pattern is particularly striking in the UK where the YouGov poll shows the right and far-right leading easily among voters over 65 (37% Tory + 28 % Reform), while gaining essentially no votes from those aged 20-24, where the Tories tie for 5th place with the SNP, behind Labor, Green, Reform and LibDems https://yougov.co.uk/politics/articles/48794-voting-intention-con-20-lab-46-28-29-feb-2024 [2].Presumably that reflects Brexit, a particularly irresponsible piece of nostalgia politics inflicted mostly by the old on the young.

But it’s the same in the US, Canada, Australia and (though mainly among women) New Zealand. While there has always been a tendency for old people to support the political right, it’s more marked now than it has ever been. And as is particularly evident with MAGA, there’s nothing conservative about this kind of politics. Its primary mode is authoritarian Christian nationalism.

In part, I think this reflects the increasing dominance of culture war issues, where views that were dominant 50 or 60 years ago are now considered unacceptable. Old people whose views haven’t changed in many years are likely to support the right on these issues.

I’d be interested in any thoughts on this.

fn1. Not expecting to do well, thanks to the hottest and stickiest summer I can remember, but I plan to finish.
fn2. A poll last year had the Tories on 1 per cent among young voters.



LT 03.06.24 at 8:33 am

“I think this reflects the increasing dominance of culture war issues, where views that were dominant 50 or 60 years ago are now considered unacceptable. Old people whose views haven’t changed in many years are likely to support the right on these issues.”

This seems to me as a kind interpretation, one I am unsure about. The strikingly increasing support for the far right, including for policies which would have been deemed reactionnary 50 or 60 years ago as well cannot be explained. Vaccine-scepticism, christian nationalism or neo-fascism/neo-nazism was not really popular back then.

La vieillesse est un naufrage, as Victor Hugo once said.


Chris Armstrong 03.06.24 at 9:43 am

Demographic-trends-wise, things were looking very bad for the Tories long before Brexit – and they knew it. Lots of the culture war idiocy was just a reaction to the fact that their business model was going out of fashion fast. Maybe Brexit itself could be thought about in the same way (let’s not forget that it was in key ways unplanned – Cameron wanted to play Brexit politics, but had no intention of actually Brexiting). Now that Brexit has happened, and the EU are acting like the adults in the room, other betes noire need to be found.

I’m sure you’re right that Brexit has generated a degree of backlash among the young – but I think it’s just made an existing trend a little bit worse.


Matt 03.06.24 at 10:36 am

The one thing we are never called is “old”

I like the term “geriatic”, because it manages to be both clinical sounding and also slightly offensive. (At least, that’s how my wife found it when we were thinking of having a baby a few years ago and she was called a “geriatric mother” by the doctors in her late 30s.)


Tm 03.06.24 at 11:30 am

@JQ: have you followed the recent vote in Switzerland? Small country but big sensation, at least according to the political press. You’d think it’s a no-brainer: if you can vote yourself a higher pension, who wouldn’t? But a few years ago, a similar initiative failed.

The „populist“ right keeps telling its own voters to ignore their own economic interests and this time they didn’t go along.


Regarding younger people’s politics, in some countries there is a marked rightward trend among young men, while young women are universally the most progressive demographic group. The hope that the right wing base will just die off sooner or later may be premature.


Kevin Lawrence 03.06.24 at 12:24 pm

I wonder if much of the drift to the right among old people came with the separation of news media between young and old, left and right. Daily Mail, Telegraph & GB News in the UK, NY Post & Fox News in USA — they are all aimed at older, reactionary types. The Telegraph has always been to the right of the Guardian but nothing like it is now. When I was younger, we all read the same papers and watched the same news.

I’m always shocked when I read the Daily Mail or watch Fox News. I think maybe they have dragged a lot of people over to the right and turned their resentment up to 11.


MisterMr 03.06.24 at 2:15 pm

There is a famous study about “right wing authoritarianism” by the recently deceased Bob Atlemeyer.

In this study, one of the various things that push people towards right wing authoritarianism is a certain fear of change and pessimism about the future.

It seems likely that as people get older they are likely to be personally less optimistic, so this could explain a push towards the right.


Cheryl Rofer 03.06.24 at 5:20 pm

I’ve never fit well into my age cohort, and I guess that will continue the rest of my life. It’s been a continuing journey into more and more liberal stands, and at this point I can fairly be called radical in some areas. And I’m old.

I’m partly baffled and partly not by the conservatism of the old. Yes, as John notes, attitudes were developed in earlier times, leading to a certain type of conservatism, I would add, not necessarily political.

I find that others are finally waking up to what we second-wave feminists knew: that men’s lives and priorities will have to change too for a more equal society. And then there are all the social programs that the Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized were necessary, being recognized again after a too-long hiatus. Not to mention racial issues.

That’s the youth I’m going back to, never left in some ways. Now I see that we were not insistent enough or persistent enough.

We elders don’t have to worry about how our actions will affect our careers, so we can be more outspoken. Time to make the world a better place. That’s conservative.


Tim Worstall 03.06.24 at 8:15 pm

“In part, I think this reflects the increasing dominance of culture war issues, where views that were dominant 50 or 60 years ago are now considered unacceptable. Old people whose views haven’t changed in many years are likely to support the right on these issues.”

It is possible – only possible – that experience over decades leads one away from the more tempestuous promises of those further to the left. We might even gain a general agreement around here about the Trotskyist Revolution that all of us supported for at least 15 minutes in our teens. Possibly that extends further as age generates wisdom?

As to the triathlon, good luck with it. I’m an age group lower and could finish the first two easily enough (just forms of exercise I find easy enough). The third part, the running, simply not possible – so as I say, good luck with it.


Stephen 03.06.24 at 8:50 pm

JQ: I think I can follow you, but from a European point of view some of your remarks seem rather odd.

You write about, in the Anglosphere, “the drift to the far right represented by Trump and his imitators.” But I can’t really classify any recent politician, at least in the Anglosphere, as being an imitator of Trump. Perhaps an earlier figure with some resemblance was the late Charlie Haughey, four times Irish Taoiseach, a politician with a devoted and vociferous following and a record of extraordinary corruption and unconvicted criminal anticonstitutional activity, very lucky to end his life neither bankrupt nor in jail.

Outside the Anglosphere, I sometimes think of Trump as being to some extent like Mussolini, only without the courage and intelligence, but again M was hardly an imitator. One might consider Viktor Orban in Hungary as a parallel, but by Hungarian standards his party is not far-right: that’s Jobbik, who are now part of the anti-Orban opposition coalition.

Then again, you write of the Tories and Reform (formerly UK Independence Party) as being UK’s “right and far-right”. It seems you regard opposition to the EU as being far-right. Please acquire a Ouija board and summon up the ghosts of Hugh Gaitskell and Tony Benn to discuss the matter; or contact Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of that notorious far-right rag, the Guardian.

Lastly, you cite “the increasing dominance of culture war issues, where views that were dominant 50 or 60 years ago are now considered unacceptable”. I think what you mean is, considered unacceptable by people like yourself, who are not necessarily a majority. That some people think differently from others is something one has to live with.

Best of luck in your admirable attempt on the triathlon.


Doug K 03.06.24 at 10:47 pm

agree with Kevin, this seems to me not so much a young-old divide as a side effect of the forces that have radicalized the right wing, turning them from conservatives into radical reactionaries. The old tend conservative for many reasons, but these days conservative is translated by the Murdoch (cognate of merde ? murder ? any of these work) apparatus into a radical fantasy. They get dragged along by the zeitgeist, that truly frightening spook.

I freely admit to being old, and I get more left-wing the older I get. We need some old white-haired guys as a countervailing power within the olds.

Good luck on the triathlon. I did the Boulder Peak Olympic tri last year in 60-64 and it was a lot harder than I remembered it being in my frisky fifties..

Back in the bad old days runners over 40 were termed Masters, over 60 got you to Veterans. I like those better than any of the current euphemisms. Swimming still uses Masters for the older competitors.


MPAVictoria 03.06.24 at 10:51 pm

“Possibly that extends further as age generates wisdom?”

The wisdom of supporting a person who tried to overthrow a democratic election 4 years ago?


engels 03.06.24 at 11:14 pm

Differently gemerated? Temporally challenged?


Liam 03.07.24 at 12:18 am

Consider the grimmer interpretation, that support for Left and Right parties, and Left and Right policies, still tracks overwhelmingly to one’s income—poverty and wealth also being, as is well known, related to mortality rates.

One of the reasons for the dominance of political Right ideas in the older cohorts isn’t that old people’s ideas have changed (as you note, on culture war issues, unacceptable ideas were once broadly consensus attitudes), it’s that people in that same cohort who held different ideas have simply already died, in greater numbers.


Alex SL 03.07.24 at 12:23 am

Two thoughts. First, and echoing Tm, I have recently seen stats that concern me much more than the old-young divide, as they show that young men increasingly veer hard right. That is going to cause issues for a lot longer than older people trending right, simply because young men have a lot more decades ahead of them to cast votes. On top of that, if they are right-wing while young women are left-wing, we will see increasingly dysfunctional gender relationships.

Second, while I understand intellectually why older people may tend towards being more conservative, what I struggle with is the intensity of the anger that characterises contemporary right-wingdom. It is one thing to grumble about pronouns and how it was better back in my day, but the intensity of emotion that characterises Trumpism, Brexitism, xenophobia in Germany or the Netherlands, or my Brazilian great-aunt’s fear of politically milquetoast Lula, that just doesn’t click for me.

The cheap response is to say Facebook, Fox News, British tabloids, or whatever your local analog is. But I, for example, am potentially exposed to the same media, and I turn away from them in disgust. Why don’t angry elderly right-wingers do the same? Ultimately, because they are receptive to this, because they decide to latch onto these messages instead of recognising them for the hateful disinformation that they are. And, unless you model them as being completely without agency, that leaves the puzzle intact. Why are they so angry?

They generally aren’t the “left behind”. They tend to be well-off retirees or even business owners, and the things they are so angry about are somewhere on the spectrum from correct in principle but no problem and certainly not affecting them personally in any way (e.g., elderly rural voters angry that large cities they never visit are full of immigrants, or that students they never see or meet have a preference for ‘they/them’) to being completely made up (EU outlawing British apple trees, Obama coming to take the guns away, or the Brazilian Greens causing global warming for the giggles by committing arson in the Amazon). So, whence this anger and complete abdication of common sense?

My best take on this is that we are dealing not with the economically “left behind”, but with the exact opposite: a generation that had it so good for so many decades that it doesn’t actually see politics as something to be taken seriously, as a system for high-stakes decisions that ultimately affect everybody’s prosperity and safety (and potentially very negatively if you get it wrong), but as a game where you can have fun by making the other side cry and, say, raise tariffs and under-invest in infrastructure and pay no taxes and leave a single market without facing any negative downsides for the services and economic activities you rely on, ever. All just a game! Maybe the raging anger and hatred are fanned precisely by never having had real problems and thus no legitimate outlet for emotions that we humans would have, under other circumstances, dealt with when facing failed harvests, war, or serious poverty; the Fox News-fuelled drama as over-compensation for not having had any real issues in their lives?


John Q 03.07.24 at 12:35 am

TM, I want to look into the gender gap a bit more, but I think it’s widening for reasons similar to the growing age gradient.

Tim W Your hypothesis doesn’t seem to explain why a strong age gradient has emerged at a time when the main focus of disillusionment is with the promises of market liberalism, which I think you believed for more than 15 minutes (and maybe still do).

Stephen @9: On the Reform party, my main knowledge is of Nigel Farage, who is a regular attender at far-right gatherings like CPAC. But AFAICT, they follow the far right line on just about everything: migration, anti-anti-racism, climate science denial etc. They don’t sound like Lexiters to me.


Alan White 03.07.24 at 12:59 am

First of all John I stand in awe of anyone who can do triathlons, and more so for people nearer my age (almost 71). And I’ve tried always to be in good shape all my life and still work out several times a week, and can do most everything I want. That’s a blessing enough for me. But good for you!

Getting older has if anything hardened my liberal leanings, especially post-Trump. He’s the embodiment of everything detestable–and yet he now leads Biden in most all polls. Clearly I’m way out of step with most of my cohorts and fellow Americans. But then again I had a long and rewarding academic career which led to a comfortable retirement, so there’s not much room for resentment about my own life to drive diffuse anger and fear that Trumpsters thrive on. I’m hoping that women’s reproductive issues and a solid economy will suffice to triumph over them next November. Yet I have deep anxiety that with 3rd party candidates and all, we will face the virtual destruction of this country starting next year.


bad Jim 03.07.24 at 3:56 am

To the extent that the aged are wealthier than their predecessors, it may incline them to be more conservative out of self-interest. They may also be less interested in the future than they once were, since they aren’t going to be living there.


Suzanne 03.07.24 at 10:37 am

@14: The well-off retirees and businessmen you speak of were probably always that way, only now it’s worse.

Random thoughts: Assuming this really is a trend (after all, the soixante-huitards are getting up there and presumably haven’t gone all Le Pen (?)), at least in the U.S. the divide can be explained because as a group the old simply aren’t highly valued, cf. the whole “hey, they’re going to die anyway soon, we can’t shut all of society down just to save some olds” meme during the pandemic, and the inability of the U.S. government to provide adequately for the old – 80% of the elderly can’t afford assisted living and the Medicare care homes, even the better ones, are not for the squeamish. Most would like to stay at home, but it’s hard to find affordable in-home care.


“We just don’t value elders the way that other countries and other cultures do,” said Dr. Rachel M. Werner, the executive director of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. “We don’t have a financing and insurance system for long-term care,” she said. “There isn’t the political will to spend that much money.”

To a degree the old can make their voices heard politically because unlike the youngs they have developed the habit of always voting even if the initiatives and candidates on offer don’t send a thrill up their legs. The younger people who don’t vote still have something of a social safety net in their future because their elders stand in the way of gutting it.

Also, the euphemism of choice for the old in the States (“senior citizen”) came about for the same reasons other such renamings occur – as an attempt to shed designations like “old” and “elderly” that had become to a degree shaming and marginalizing.


engels 03.07.24 at 10:41 am

if they are right-wing while young women are left-wing, we will see increasingly dysfunctional gender relationships

Judging by the gazillion Hollywood romcoms that revolve around this scenario, it won’t be a huge problem.

Re the finger-pointing “what’s the matter with granddad” discussion about age, gender and voting in general, it’s perhaps worth keeping in mind that older women are the most right-wing of the lot:


reason 03.07.24 at 2:52 pm

re the point about gender – older women and younger men – what do they have in common – they are less educated!
I’m inclined to think credentialism and the myth of meritocracy (i.e. the people most inclined to support the right and people who see their worth being devalued), might have something to do with this.


TM 03.07.24 at 3:41 pm

Interesting ref, thanks engels 19. According to figure 5, the crossover point is around birth year 1945-50. The left party vote intention peaks around birth year 1955-60, which seems a bit surprising and contradicts the left-right placement in the same figure.


mary s 03.07.24 at 6:42 pm

@Alex SL, I don’t think it’s a cheap response to say that Fox News, Facebook, et al. have been fanning the flames for a good while now. Before that, we had Rush Limbaugh — I think he was on the radio for hours each day and people (white men, usually) of various ages were driving around all day listening to him. For sure, many of us wouldn’t be drawn toward rightwing agitation. Some of us on the left would rather get angry about other things — US imperialism, for example, or white supremacy or the control that corporations have over public policymaking. (I personally am more prone to dwell on those kinds of things.)

Anyway, I think you can say that Trump is both a symptom and an agent of this most recent rightwingery. The structural skewing of US national politics — the Electoral College, the Senate as a whole, the Supreme Court — makes it easier for someone like Trump to emerge, I think. It certainly makes it harder for anything approaching leftwing policymaking.

I do agree that many of Trump’s supporters are relatively well-off (older?) people who would probably skew conservative in any case. I think there’s been a fair amount of research on this. To the extent that these people feel “left behind,” it has less to do with their personal financial situations and more to do with what I guess we’re calling “culture.” Into which I read a whole lot of white nationalism.


Zamfir 03.07.24 at 7:35 pm

Soekaing from non-anglosphere Europe, I don’t see the same pattern. There is absolutely a rise of an angry, vocal right, with similarities to Trump and fighting similar culture wars (the trend predates Trump though).

But I don’t see much relation to age, not in personal observation and not in statistics. Some of the trends seem driven by younger people, who are willing to say in public what used to be reserved for private circles.


craig fritch 03.07.24 at 7:48 pm

I am 80. I was THERE is the 60’s. Those ideals survive. Tho many boomers have fallen away, the standard remains. I once thot I was a Liberal, but that stance seems to have itself faded Right. While I can understand tradition as important, contemporary conservatives are unaware of the Burkean Tradition. I prefer to think of myself as an anarchist


Stephen 03.07.24 at 7:58 pm

John Q @ 15: I’m glad to see you accept that Lexiters exist. If you have any interest in them, I would mention Perry Anderson, formerly editor of the New Left Review, whose recent articles in the London Review of Books on political progress in the EU as a series of internal undemocratic coups are worth reading, though perhaps not easily accessible to you.

You might like to consider the following argument. Supporting Brexit was perfectly compatible with having left-wing views. There was a very substantial vote for Brexit in traditionally Labour-supporting regions of the UK. Therefore, denouncing Brexit supporters in those regions as being right- or far-right-wingers is illogical, and politically counterproductive.

I await your explanation of who, if anybody, in Anglosphere politics can reasonably be described as an imitator of Trump (as distinct from somebody you dislike as much as you dislike Trump).

As for the bias of the old towards views you dislike, and of the young towards views you like: there is a saying sometimes attributed to Churchill, “If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.” As far as I can make out, that particular source is apocryphal. Variations on this theme have been registered by the Aide Mémoire website as being supposedly due to Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, Disraeli, Shaw and Bertrand Russell. The earliest real example seems to come from François Guizot.

I would not expect you to agree with any of them, even as generalisations with numerous exceptions.


Alex SL 03.07.24 at 9:05 pm


Hard to tell on the web, but I assume that was irony? The likely outcome seems to be a downward spiral to the effect of, “women these days don’t want to stay in the kitchen and make me a sandwich anymore”, “make your own sandwich, I have a career now”, “see? radical feminism needs to die!” etc.

mary s,

But we are going in circles. A medium merely existing explains nothing, because the recipient needs to be receptive for it to work. If you were to try to influence me with the narrative that I should be really angry at Chinese immigrants because they are a fifth column that is sneaking in to make Australia communist, I would just roll my eyes and turn it off. Conversely, if you tried to marinate the proverbial angry uncle in media extolling the virtues of tolerance and global citizenship, he would get shouty and turn them off. That uncle has agency, and Fox News would just be a weirdo niche clown show without the likes of him.


J-D 03.07.24 at 11:00 pm

It clearly can’t explain all the patterns people are describing here (assuming those descriptions are accurate), but it’s worth mentioning one general tendency which can never be discounted: life expectancy and voting behaviour both correlate with wealth. The richer people are, the more likely they are to tend politically to the right, and the longer they are likely to live: therefore, for any given birth-year bracket, as the cohort ages its poorer members will die off faster than its richer members and the voting pattern of the cohort as a whole will tend to the right as a result. This has nothing to do with any tendency for individuals to become more conservative as they age. It’s possible that there is such a pattern, but just by itself the movement of a cohort to the right as it ages is not evidence of any individual-level shift.


PatinIowa 03.08.24 at 12:53 am

Weird. I have, for years understood that the notion that people become more politically conservative as they age was much overblown. See below, which has what looks to me to be a decent list of works cited and complicates my understanding.

The usual caveats about definitions arise. After all, “Keep your hands off my Medicare,” is hardly a rightwing position, unless you’re looking at the signs at a Tea Party demonstration.

I’m a boomer, and I’m inclined to think that what time has done is reveal how conservative young white people (especially men) were back in the late sixties/early seventies. I suspect this is particularly evident with respect to gender issues: it’s one thing to say you’re for women’s rights, another to do the dishes or consistently ask for consent. Similar things can be said about race, I suspect.

The cynical version of this is Vietnam. One way to think about it is that the vast majority of young middle class white men singing “Give Peace a Chance,” weren’t so much anti-war as we were anti-draft. Once we didn’t have worry about conscription, we got to work on our careers, untroubled by the immiseration of the working class from the late seventies on.

I also suspect that you’re a lot more likely to get quoted in the NY Times detailing your move to left to right than the other way around, although that may be pure spleen on my part.

Keep moving, man. It’s the best we can do.



John Q 03.08.24 at 2:02 am

Engels: As I read your source, the traditional (female more right) gender gap applied (in 2003) to women born before 1930. Not many of them are still with us.

Stephen: Johnson in UK, the Fords in Canada and Barnaby Joyce+Tony Abbott in Australia fit the bill. If you drop the cartoonish excesses, and stick to “rightwing authoritarian”, Truss and Poilevre could be added to the list.


John Q 03.08.24 at 2:19 am


I’m still trying to understand the development of the far right in the EU. It seems as if there is not much age gradient (if any) but a strong gender gap. And apart from the standard rightwing grievance of immigration, it’s not really clear to me what the EU far-right is on about.


ozajh 03.08.24 at 7:59 am

John Q,

Two thoughts from me, one instant and one more considered.

The instant thought is amazed congratulations that you should even be attempting a triathlon, let alone expecting to finish. Even more congratulations if you do in fact make it to the end of the run.

(For the rest of you, be aware that I am aware that Professor Quiggin was ASTOUNDINGLY unsporting and unathletic when in his late teens. Anyone who had known him then would consider it almost unimaginable that he continue to participate in vigorous physical activity until now.)

The more considered thought is to wonder about the implications of different electoral systems in different countries. The OP refers to the tendency of the over-65’s to drift to the right (now more than ever, thanks to Murdoch, I know of an example within my own family), but I have also seen a lot of talk amongst both US and UK political scientists and pollsters about the significance of voting rates by age cohort.

In the US, there also appear to be divides by Race (of course), Gender and educational level. I don’t know about the UK, but conversations with my English relatives imply Johnson/BREXIT might have changed some political allegiances.

In Australia we have compulsory voting, so there is no differentiation by age with respect to voting rate. While we have certainly had (and still have) politicians who would find a congenial home with the UK Reform party or the MAGA wing of the Republican party, I think in general we have stayed and/or returned relatively closer to the middle ground.

Have any political scientists done any research in this area?


Reason 03.08.24 at 8:07 am

John Q
With regard to the AFD in Germany, they don’t really seem to be about policy. They have released a set of policies, but don’t seem prepared to defend them or to be too serious about them. They are basically a troll party, looking for generally disaffected voters. As is the Republican party in the U S.


Tm 03.08.24 at 11:41 am

JQ: WhatsApp the EU Right Wing is about is a good question. Anti EU sentiment is a big part of it but it makes little sense. It made little sense for the UK but for countries like Netherlands, Italy or (heaven forbid) Germany, the proposition to leave the EU would be equivalent to the collapse of the economy. Everybody knows that. Countries like Poland or Hungary rely heavily on EU money. Anti EU agitation while taking tens of billions of their money is frivolous. None of this obviously prevents left or right from proposing reforms, but the idea to dissolve the whole enterprise is absurd. The Left, which used to be the more EU critical side, has accepted this. The Right however seems to be drawn to the very idea of creating as much havoc as possible as a means to delegitimize the liberal democratic political system and gaining power, following the model of the Trumpist Republican Party.


Timothy Sommers 03.08.24 at 1:07 pm

I am only speculating (and I only know anything about the US), but I think (as somebody said above) it’s primarily got to be the splintering of the media which built on the prior cultivation of a for-profit right-wing noise machine (going all the way back in the US to the rise of direct mail in the 80s), and climaxed with the proliferation of social media platforms. First, these factors created/fostered separate, self-reinforcing realities. Second, the professional right discovered that the attention model can be force multiplied by focusing almost entirely on fostering anger. On so many issues, like the border, there are all these superold, superangray white people who (if questioned quickly reveal) they know almost nothing about the statistics the issues or competing policies. They are just mad. Fox told them to be mad. Now they are mad. Maybe, it makes people alive. I don’t know. Not original, but originality is not always a virtue. There does, I guess, also seem to be a social dominance side to it. I don’t remember in the past ever being approached by (mostly very old looking) strangers who just wanted to challenge my behavior. (“Why are you still wearing that mask?”). Full disclosure: I am old and white and angry about politics, but not a reactionary.


Tm 03.08.24 at 1:57 pm

The recent French action to constitutionalize the right to abortion drew a stark contrast with the US. The right wing parties initially opposed the project but in the final vote, only a handful of deputies voted against. Marine Le Pen and most of her caucus voted Yes. Apparently she concluded that fighting a battle against reproductive rights wasn’t in her political interest.


Alex SL 03.09.24 at 1:10 am

Stephen @25,

To my reading from outside, the idea of many Lexiters was that the EU is neoliberal, and that when freed from EU rules, the UK could be socialist. The wee problem with that was that, first, compared to, say, the USA, Australia, or New Zealand, the EU is a world bastion of worker and consumer protections and, second, it was always clear that if and when Brexit happened, disaster capitalists would be firmly at the steering wheel. There was never any chance whatsoever that Lexiter’s goals could be realised.

So, yes, I am sure that Brexit in blessed theory, unmoored from reality as it is, is compatible with having left-wing views, but in reality as it is, Brexit was always going to result in neoliberal outcomes and stoke xenophobia, and thus Lexiters were at best strategically deluded.

Reason @32,

It seems to me as if the AFD are rather typical of the contemporary far-right ascendant. Is Trump about policy? Not really. He is about himself, and then, like all populists, he repeats what got him roars of assent when he tried shouting it the first time (which simple Pavlovian mechanism then gets called political genius by some pundits). He is about policy only in the sense that the tribe he chose to lead has some non-negotiable shibboleths, especially hatred of minorities and opposition to any environmentalist measures that could ensure survival of our civilisation over the next 200 years. Was Johnson about policy? Not really He famously wrote a piece supporting Brexit and another supporting Remain and then decided on a whim which one to publish.

The AFD seems to function the same way. They have default positions simply because they are right wing – revising tax brackets to benefit the rich and hatred of minorities. And beyond that they have vibes, yes, but that doesn’t mean they are any less about policy than Anglosphere right-wingers.

What Tm and Thimothy Sommers write in some of their last comments fits in with what I speculated about earlier. [Angry white people] “are mad. Maybe, it makes people alive.” Yes, the anger stands in no comprehensible relation to their actual grievances. “The Right however seems to be drawn to the very idea of creating as much havoc as possible as a means to delegitimize the liberal democratic political system and gaining power” – politics as a consequence-free game, perhaps because they never experienced painful consequences so far. There is much ruin in a nation, and thus it takes a long time before the angry white voter realises what they have done, and even then, I guess it is always somebody else’s fault.

That is why, again and again, trying to analyse the contemporary far right in terms of legitimate concerns about being left behind economically or even backlash against neoliberal deregulation seems futile to me. If that was their problem, they would be left-wing. If they were seriously anti-immigration in a way that could be respected at least intellectually, they would elect competent, honest politicians to competently reduce immigration while being transparent and accepting about the consequences that has for service provision and economic growth.

Instead, they are best characterised as self-centered and emotionally immature. They dismiss other people’s feelings and legitimate interests, other people’s expertise and experience, data and evidence, and the reality of trade-offs and consequences. They think that if a sufficiently big man strong leader just pounds the table, they can retain a cake even after having eaten it and never have to compromise with other people. Their political worldview would put the average two year old to shame, but somehow we have to pretend that there are legitimate concerns that we have to respect and address, because curiously, despite understanding that individual people can be evil or crazy, we are collectively hesitant to admit that ten million individual people can all be evil and crazy together. There is sanity in numbers, as the saying goes.


MisterMr 03.09.24 at 10:13 am

About the anti EU sentiment in the right, it is more or less the same concept of “states rights” in the USA. Basically people in the right fantasize they are victims of big government, and that this big government is removed from the real people, so the EU that is far and speaks a different language is a good target for this hate.

But these are fantasies, it makes no sense to take them at face value. The problem is that up to some years ago, the right could pretend to be the economy savy party, but now their specific economic proposals are not popular and believable, and to the degree they are they are indifferent from what the most neoliberal parts of the left are offering.
So they rely on nationalist identitarism and blame the foreigner/different.


engels 03.09.24 at 1:52 pm

they are best characterised as self-centered and emotionally immature. They dismiss other people’s feelings and legitimate interests, other people’s expertise and experience, data and evidence, and the reality of trade-offs and consequences. They think that if a sufficiently big man strong leader just pounds the table, they can retain a cake even after having eaten it and never have to compromise with other people. Their political worldview would put the average two year old to shame, but somehow we have to pretend that there are legitimate concerns that we have to respect and address, because curiously, despite understanding that individual people can be evil or crazy, we are collectively hesitant to admit that ten million individual people can all be evil and crazy together.

If I (as an educated citizen of a wealthy Western liberal democracy) felt this way about half the citizens of another state I would certainly think twice before moving there.


Stephen 03.09.24 at 2:59 pm

John Q@29: thank you for explaining which Anglosphere politicians you regard as “imitators of Trump”. I can’t quite see how Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia 2013-15, imitated Trump: still less Boris Johnson. It looks as if I was right in fearing that if politicians have won votes, or seems likely to win them, by advocating policies which you disagree with but which do appeal to non-metropolitan voters, that for you is enough to discredit them as far-right Trumpists.

I do not at all admire Trump. I find him revolting. I regard the events of January 6th as an attempted insurrection, though the most farcical one since Smith O’Brien’s abortive rebellion in 1848, and the battle of the Widow McCormack’s cabbage patch. On what I see as the most urgent current political issue, support for Ukraine, Trump seems to me dangerously wrong (and diametrically opposite from Boris Johnson).

Nevertheless, I would recommend a look at an article in the not-very-far-right Guardian


for what seem to me useful insights into why Trump gets the support he, lamentably, does.


Stephen 03.09.24 at 3:17 pm

Alex SL@36

You wrote:
“The Right however seems to be drawn to the very idea of creating as much havoc as possible as a means to delegitimize the liberal democratic political system and gaining power” – politics as a consequence-free game, perhaps because they never experienced painful consequences so far.

Certainly, that’s true of some of the Right. But would you not agree that it’s equally true of some of the Left?

And surely some supporters of Brexit were concerned that the EU had become something very different from a liberal democratic political system; rather, a system in which a democratic national popular vote, or the wishes of a democratically-elected national government, could be ignored (or were attempted to be ignored) by the Commission in Brussels, and in which the elected EU parliament is powerless to propose legislation.


basil 03.09.24 at 4:39 pm

It seems to me useful to point out that there are few if any exciting left-wing options with which to test the preferences of the aged, or any other cohort. Starmer’s Labour is going to win a landslide but how does their platform, and renunciation of their pledges align with our sense of what’s right or left-wing? How does the Guardian’s or the New York Times’ editorial line align with that, or even CT’s collective shrug at Corbyn and that brief moment of hope?

Anecdotal but there are elders in our family who are very well-read professors, living liberal lifestyles, kind and generous fund all the good-not-for-profits, read all the appropriate magazines, aren’t at all angry, nor alienated from their younger kin, and yet drive Teslas and imagine Elon Musk is a misunderstood genius. I’ve met racialised, minoritised people who deeply admire both Donald Trump and Jordan Peterson. The new communication technologies move us in mysterious ways.

In Europe, there was a successful referendum for ‘species protection’ in Bayern. It forged a coalition of care that extended to conservative and older voters. More contemporary test-cases may be the housing appropriation law in Berlin, and maybe protest against Tesla’s plant in Berlin?


John B 03.09.24 at 5:12 pm

Modern political science tends to place people on a 2 axis map.

Axis 1 is attitude towards the involvement of the State in the economy. Libertarians are well away from median towards Low on this axis, traditional leftists are on the right hand ie high. Think Mrs Thatcher’s acolytes v the Coal Miners and the big traditional industrial trade unions.

Axis 2 is the attitude towards the State’s involvement in personal life and “traditional” morality.

Think the Roman Catholic church as High on this score, alongside traditional right wing parties like the Christian Democrats in postwar Europe. Voters here will score high on Pride in Nation and Flag, overt sense and symbols of national identity, suspicion of immigration and “dilution” of national character, national security and defence, role of religion in personal and public life, law and order especially re capital punishment and long prison sentences for offenders.

Voters who score low on these categories will tend to believe in multicultural and diverse societies, have low respect for traditional symbols of nationalism, be suspicious of police & law enforcement (particularly since “Black Lives Matter”), favour liberalisation of abortion and drug laws, be opposed to capital punishment.

What happened since about 1980 is that Conservative parties went libertarian in their economics. Later on, parties like the Australian Liberals or the American Republicans also made much more overt alliances with right wing social conservatives: evangelical Protestants, devout Roman Catholics, anti gun control, and in the US in particular nearly overtly racist white southerners (but also in the sort of suburbs of the Northeast where white working class voters had moved out of the inner city to: think Trump’s huge support in Long Island, or the county of Essex Tories in Britain).

This was precisely Richard Nixon’s “Silent Majority”: blue collar construction workers beating up student anti Vietnam War protesters. Margaret Thatcher’s “One of us” – her and Sir Norman Tebbit’s easy identification with car and home owning voters who shopped in out of town malls, and were 1-2 generations out of the traditional working class. Or think Francoism in Spain for an extreme version, or any of the Latin American dictatorships of the 1960s & 70s.

Simultaneously with the decline of traditional industrial employment and white male dominated trade unions, left wing parties gravitated towards more socially liberal (and younger) voters– in line with increased numbers of citizens with post secondary education. Issues like racial equality, womens’ rights became identified with the left much more strongly.

So you had conservative political parties abandoning, as part of their “neoliberal” economic philosophies, ideas which were actually quite popular with the electorate: universal and adequate state pensions (as opposed to welfare payments: hence the David Cameron rhetoric “the shirkers and the strivers”), universal medical care, etc. Conservative parties became concentrated on policies favouring free markets and low State involvement in the economy.

You had parties on the left which were increasingly low scoring on State involvement in personal liberty, and high scoring on State Involvement in the economy.

This left an obvious open quadrant, which populists have filled. High State involvement in personal life – Orban, Erdogan, Modi (in a developing world context), Berlusconi; at the same time maintaining (or increasing) State involvement in the economy – domination by oligopolies, maintennance of social benefits that “our people” will receive such as healthcare and state pension, farm subsidies etc.

This is what Trump has done – he was well to the left in 2016 of any of his primary challengers. Stephen Harper (a member of an evangelical Pentacostal faith) in Canada tried to do it but he was too much of an austere intellectual (and Justin Trudeau was essentially Canadian political royalty albeit untested in politics). Poilivere will do it if the polls are to be believed. Marine Le Pen will do it in France. Melonia already there in Italy.

And there are key “wedge” issues that can be used as sticks to beat left wing parties. The Australian Liberals did this with coal mining & via climate change denial, and that’s now happening in Europe. Immigration is another. The left has fast lost its traditional working class white voting base, and instead piles up more votes among educated urban liberals– which in Canada, UK or Australia (or the US electoral system) doesn’t give them a path to power.

You can see that Kier Starmer is walking a very fine line.


John B 03.09.24 at 5:24 pm

As to voter age?

Older voters will not usually be opposed to state spending on healthcare or pensions. In the Anglosphere, the majority will own their own homes and be concerned about conditions in their community. ie visible things like crime, litter etc.

They will however be suspicious of any political party that seems to favour people who don’t look like them (ie newer immigrants & minorities), people who don’t hold their values (pride in nation, traditional approaches to education etc).

Younger voters will conversely be alienated by any political party that doesn’t understand their world the way they experience it: more gender and sexuality fluid, precariousness of work, high cost of housing, relaxed about soft drug use, racially diverse and with admixtures of ancestry that make “race” an ambiguous concept. Given how badly voters under 40 have done in the UK since 2008, it’s going to be a plague on any political party in power over that time. They will also be quite alienated from the political system in general: for example the polarisation of views on Gaza and the inability/ unwillingness of the older generation to do anything about it.

Older voters are voting to protect what they have. Younger voters are voting because they don’t have.

One way, and the Conservative Party of Canada has hit a political gold load on this one, is the whole question of housing affordability and “YIMBY”. It hits both generations (in different ways) that young people in their late 20s and 30s cannot afford to buy a home, and pay a scarcity value for rental property. Older voters worry about whether they will have grandkids, and why their children cannot live near them. Everybody can see there is a problem. Because the problems are so complex and not solvable quickly (even if we freed up the land system, the home construction industry cannot scale up rapidly to higher rates of production) this is a political sore point.


MisterMr 03.09.24 at 6:56 pm

@Stephen 40

” a system in which a democratic national popular vote, or the wishes of a democratically-elected national government, could be ignored”

Since the EU is composed by 20something national government, it is in the nature of things that when one of these natural governments is in the minority it will be ignored, the opposite would be quite antidemocratic.

Similarly if a country becomes part of the EU it will lose some sovereignty.

These are things that even a kid would understand, the fact that are treated as a big reveal shows that they are fantasies of victimism.

Something is to say that, e.g., the EU had very bad policies for Greece, and something is to say that it is turning in some sort of tiranny. Most north europeans were probably ok with the idea that Greece and others were big spenders who caused their own problems, and the choices made by the EU were probably a reflection of the mayority opinion, so it was a stupid and wrong choice, but not antidemocratic.


reason 03.09.24 at 9:18 pm

Alex SL,
I have noticed with the AFD when they are criticised for their positions, their tactic is always to change the subject and find something that the current government is doing to criticise (which is naturally always easy). And some of their politicians (particularly Alice Weidel) are obviously just opportunists looking for attention. They don’t even seem to try to hide it. I earned my living as an economic researcher and then as a computer expert – my father was a scientist, so I have always seen restrictions as being imposed by technical or physical factors. It seems to me that there are people who think all problems are created by people so that a “strong” leader is what you need to solve problems. I find it hard to see this difference in world views can be bridged. Trumps whole philosophy is about dominating other people – I don’t think he recognizes an independent reality at all.


Stephen 03.09.24 at 9:39 pm

John Q@29: one other thing. You refer to Liz Truss as “right-wing authoritarian”. A common definition of authoritarianism would be “a political system characterized by the rejection of democracy and political plurality. It involves the use of strong central power to preserve the political status quo, and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers and democratic voting.”

I don’t know how politics here seemed from Australia, but I lived through the Truss Tyranny in the UK and noticed none of these things.


Alex SL 03.09.24 at 10:08 pm


I have no idea how to read this, sorry. What state are you referring to? Do you mean to confirm that, yes, although one person can be deranged, it is somehow inexplicably a metaphysical impossibility for millions of persons to be deranged?


Yes, of course people people on the nominal centre-left also have been too sheltered to understand consequences. If they did, Labour/Social Democratic governments wouldn’t continue to approve gas and coal developments after coming to power.

This thread isn’t about Brexit specifically, so I won’t belabour the nature of the EU specifically, but given the British electoral system, the unelected House of Lords, and virtually unconstrained power of a government that has an absolute majority in parliament potentially on the basis of 40% of the vote, I find it particularly ironic when Brexiters use democratic legitimacy as an argument. Your argument only works by inserting “national” in various places to make it correct by definition in the same way that I could complain about the Australian federal government ‘ignoring’ the territorial popular vote of the Australian Capital Territory, and about the ACT government ‘ignoring’ the will of my suburb, or my personal will, for that matter.

Yes, there were EU members other than the UK, so the UK didn’t get to unilaterally force its will onto all other EU countries, but instead an EU-wide body made decisions. Put like this, with all due respect… um, duh? Do you now agitate for the East Riding of Yorkshire to become an independent nation so that the UK government cannot ‘ignore’ its political will? If not, why not? Is the nation is some magical, special level of political organisation? Suffice to say that I do not share that perspective. To me, concepts like rules and majority voting make sense also at levels ‘higher’ than the nation.

But Brexit is a case where the childishness of the populist right is very clearly in evidence. For example, I watched the video of Ivan Rogers being grilled by a committee led by the old ‘EU skeptic’ Bill Cash, and it was absolutely fascinating. Cash complained about decisions being made in consensus, implying that it is only democracy if some people get to impose their will on others who disagree. He was flabbergasted by the idea that leaving a market means losing easy access to that market. He and much of his committee were perplexed by the idea that they would continue to owe money for the pensions of British public servants working at the EU, apparently thinking that the other EU members would pick up the tab for the UK’s representatives. They were surprised that other EU members also had interests and implied that the only sensible solution was to give the UK all it wanted, that everything else was ideological madness. It was like watching Rogers explain very politely to an obstinate child why he can’t just take his playmates’ things and break them, and I admire his patience and diplomacy.

And that goes back to the beginning of this response. How do you deal with people like that? How can you take them seriously? How do they manage to put their pants onto the right body parts when they dress themselves?


hix 03.10.24 at 1:07 am

“On top of that, if they are right-wing while young women are left-wing, we will see increasingly dysfunctional gender relationships.”

The opposite should also be true. Dating tips from AFD politicians are no accident, just like the less toxic but still often rather disturbing universe of content targeting mostly high educated single young women on social media.

Really just the at this point old story of much higher female education attainment combined with social norms that prohibit women from having a relation downwards in income and education levels, while to some extent even encouraging the same for men.


engels 03.10.24 at 12:14 pm

Sorry, Alex, I see you were talking about the AfD, but I think you’ve expressed similar opinions about Republican voters in the past. I thought you were a European living in the US and I find the idea of moving to a country half of whose citizens I regard as irredeemably depraved imbeciles odd. Whatever floats your boat though.


Stephen 03.10.24 at 8:20 pm

Alex SL @47

I should perhaps have split my comment into two parts. That some people on the left have been too sheltered to understand consequences is, as you agree, true.

But the main point I meant to make is that some people on the left have been, and are, aiming at “creating as much havoc as possible as a means to delegitimize the liberal democratic political system and gaining power”. You did not respond to that. If you can disagree, your experience of the left must have been very different from mine.

I don’t follow your argument about the undemocratic nature of the EU. You seem to be saying that since there are aspects of the UK constitution you disapprove of, the EU constitution must be all right.

When I wrote of the EU ignoring “the democratic national popular vote, or the wishes of a democratically-elected national government” I did not in fact have Brexit in mind; there the EU did not exactly ignore an unwelcome popular vote. Rather, the examples I was thinking of were the French and Netherlands referenda in 2005 on the Treaty for Establishing a Constitution for Europe, where the popular both in both these not insignificant nations went firmly against the Commission’s proposals. The response was to embody the proposals in the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, on which no French or Dutch referenda were allowed.

It was at that time that I began to have doubts about the nature of the EU, which have not been resolved. The Greek referendum in 2015, where the vote went against the EU’s terms but was ignored, didn’t help. See the impeccably left-wing Yanis Varoufakis on that topic.

And then in 2021 Ursula von der Leyen, as EU President, attempted to override the Brexit agreement by unilaterally imposing a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – something previously denounced as a violation of the Good Friday peace agreement, and likely to renew the NI Troubles – in order to block import of Covid vaccines into the UK. The Irish Government had not been consulted, or even informed before they heard about it on the news. She didn’t get away with it; but can you imagine the never-ending outrage if the UK government had tried something similar to block exports of vaccines to the EU?


engels 03.10.24 at 10:28 pm

Maybe the older women and younger men who are too right-wing for their respective age groups can date each other… a kind of fascist version of The Graduate.


John Q 03.10.24 at 10:38 pm

Stephen ” I lived through the Truss Tyranny ”

I overslept that day and missed it. I was thinking more of her latest outing at CPAC.


KT2 03.11.24 at 7:19 am

Stephen, so some people with no arms under a bridge say “some people on the urge for power have been, and are, aiming at “creating as much havoc as possible as a means to delegitimize the liberal democratic political system and gaining power”.

Left, right or sideways.


TM 03.11.24 at 9:58 am

Stephen 50 “the examples I was thinking of were the French and Netherlands referenda in 2005 on the Treaty for Establishing a Constitution for Europe, where the popular both in both these not insignificant nations went firmly against the Commission’s proposals. The response was to embody the proposals in the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, on which no French or Dutch referenda were allowed.”

You need to complain to the French and Netherlands governments (elected national governments!), who negotiated and approved the Treaty of Lisbon according to their countries’ constitutional requirements, rather than to the EU Commisison. The Treaty of Lisbon was formally approved by each and every member state. Any EU Commisison proposal needs the formal agreement of both the EU Parliament and a supermajority of EU member states. If the EU does suffer from a democratic deficit, it is not that “the wishes of a democratically-elected national government (are) ignored”, rather it is that it is too easy for minorities to block policies that have been approved by democratic majorities. Watch the German FDP, a party currently representing about 1% of the EU population, weakening or blocking already majority approved policies like the EU supply chain directive.

Democratic politics routinely consists of unappetizing backroom sausage making. That is true for every democratic nation state and it’s unsurprisingly also true for the EU. Sorry but your complaints are silly and ignorant.


engels 03.11.24 at 6:01 pm

The problem isn’t that the freedom of national governments is circumscribed by the EU (that is indeed an inevitable cost of belonging to a supranational organisation) it’s that they are in ways that are not responsive to the preferences of majorities even within the EU and this is due to the purpose of the EU (bluntly, to protect markets from people).


engels 03.11.24 at 7:35 pm

If you like Hayek, you’ll lurve the EU:


Stephen 03.11.24 at 8:16 pm

KT2@53: sorry, but I honestly can’t make out whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with me.

TM@54: calling me silly and ignorant is mere vulgar abuse which I will treat with the contempt it deserves.

About the Treaty of Lisbon: I don’t think you can honestly deny that the French and Dutch electorates, when given a chance, rejected the proposed European Constitution. That the French and Dutch Governments, ignoring their electorates, later went the other way is not an advertisement for European democracy.

I wonder if you could provide rational grounds for disputing this interpretation of the EU’s slithering into the Treaty of Lisbon, despite the French and Dutch votes:

Your EU and Governmental masters speaking.
It doesn’t matter how you vote.
It doesn’t matter what you think.
It doesn’t matter what you want.
You aren’t going to get what you want, you’re going to get what we want, and that is because we have institutional political power, and the only power you thought you had was that of a democratic vote which we can always ignore.
So shut up, peasants, and obey your masters.

As a basis for democracy that does not seem to me to be, in the long term, stable or acceptable. If you disagree, please make a logical reply.


Alex SL 03.11.24 at 11:20 pm


But the main point I meant to make is that some people on the left have been, and are, aiming at “creating as much havoc as possible as a means to delegitimize the liberal democratic political system and gaining power”. You did not respond to that. If you can disagree, your experience of the left must have been very different from mine.

Depends on what you mean with the left. If you mean some marginalised, zero influence splinter sects, sure. If you mean somebody with the votes and potential path to power (meaning that it would actually have an impact) of an AFD or even the Republicans, no, I really don’t see it. The pitch of the nominal centre-left is “same as the conservatives on economic policy, but we will be less embarrassing and less mean to minorities”, and a bit further left are the greens, who I also wouldn’t characterise as creating havoc. What else is there? I remember Antifa from my university days, but despite their profound political strategy of throwing bottles at police, it seems unlikely that their few hundred members will rock the foundations of democracy.

You seem to be saying that since there are aspects of the UK constitution you disapprove of, the EU constitution must be all right.

No, I am saying that it is absurd to use democratic legitimacy as an argument for leaving the EU in perhaps the only western European country that has a less democratic system than the EU itself.


I am a European living in Australia, but at any rate, there are large numbers of proudly ignorant and nasty people in every electorate. (Have you opened a newspaper or social media recently?) My parents have told me that they personally know AFD supporters what want to deport all people from the country who aren’t ethnic Germans. There is a term for that, and it has ‘cleansing’ in it. Does any decent person doubt that this isn’t evil?


MisterMr 03.12.24 at 9:17 am

@engels 56

From your link: “Finally, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the ascent to power of Mussolini’s fascists in Italy, and the election of Hitler in 1933 all introduced socialistic forms of government into large parts of Europe.”

I’m sure this reflects what Hayek tought, however they (and Hayek) are confusing “any form of government intervention” with “socialism”.

For example, suppose that Italy wants to pay high retirements to old workers, or increase the minimum wage etc., these are forms of government intervention that arguably are “socialism” or at least go in the direction of socialism.

On the other hand, if Italy chooses to, say create a tariff to prevent spanish olives to be sold in Italy, or german cars to protect italian car manifacturers, or even more anti immigration laws to prevent poles or romanians (or moroccoans) to find jobs in Italy, these are also forms of government interventions, but are not socialism and in many cases go against socialism.

(Good old Karl tought that protectionism helps mostly the capitalists and tought that it could be needed to kickstart capitalism in what we now would call a developing country, but developed countries should avoid it; it’s a version of the “infant capitalism” theory).

Modern day right wing movements often are very much pro government intervention, but mostly of the second kind, in part against immigrant but to a large degree as a form of protectionism, because they represent the small business owners who feel menaced by international competition.
This kind of “interventionism” certainly isn’t pro-worker or socialism.

It is true that the EU often blocks both kinds of interventionism (though on other matters like ecology it is quite pro intervention), but most of the anti-EU sentiment comes from people who would like the second, pro-incumbent-capitalist kind of policy.


engels 03.12.24 at 9:26 am

My parents have told me that they personally know AFD supporters what want to deport all people from the country who aren’t ethnic Germans.

I agree people like that are beyond reasoned engagement with but I think Republican voters in US include people who are less extreme (as I said I misread your original comment: sorry).


TM posting not working? 03.12.24 at 10:14 am

engels: “the purpose of the EU (bluntly, to protect markets from people).”

„New laws designed to improve the rights of gig economy workers in the EU contracted to companies such as Uber have been saved from oblivion after they won the majority backing of member states. The legislation had been blocked by a group of countries last month, when France said it could not support the text on the table and Germany abstained [because the 4% right wing party FDP has a veto on the German government]…

He said the law “was one of the Belgian presidency’s top priorities” and would improve the working conditions of the 28 million people employed as gig workers in the EU by allowing the “reclassification of those bogus self employed persons”.

Two years in the making, the directive is designed to give taxi and delivery drivers, such as those working for Uber and Deliveroo, rights similar to those full employees enjoy, including holidays, sick pay and the minimum wage. Under the new laws the default status of gig workers will be as employees and the onus will be on employers to prove they are not, if they so wish.“ (Guardian)

You have it exactly backwards. Most nation states are too weak to have any realistic chance at protecting people from the “markets”. Apart from the US and China, only the EU can – and does – successfully take on transnational corporate giants.

But sure Engels, keep posting those ignorant anti-EU talking points.

Stephen: you claimed at 40 that the EU is a system “in which the wishes of a democratically-elected national government, could be ignored”, and your specific example for that was the Treaty of Lisbon, which as you must know was negotiated and ratified precisely by the democratically-elected national governments of every single EU member state. Your claims are factually wrong as well as silly and ignorant and should indeed be treated with the contempt they deserve, and I will from now on.


engels 03.12.24 at 12:30 pm

I agree the EU does some good things but it is basically free trade club and is undemocratic by design. I’m not opposed to free trade but I’m favour of democracy. I wasn’t endorsing the IEA/Cato (who are right-wing headbangers) but the parallels with Hayek are accurate imo.


Stephen 03.12.24 at 5:56 pm

TM@61: Please try to be accurate. I didn’t give the Treaty of Lisbon as an example of the way ““in which the wishes of a democratically-elected national government, could be ignored”. I am very well aware that national governments approved that Treaty. What I actually wrote @40 was that there were instances of the EU ignoring “the democratic national popular vote, or the wishes of a democratically-elected national government”; of which the Treaty was one example. Can you deny that the French and Dutch democratic popular vote in referenda did reject the European Constitution? Or that the Treaty of Lisbon did resurrect that Constitution in all but name, in a referendum-proof form?

I would quite understand if you do not feel able to respond with anything but insults, and continue to ignore the other examples I gave.


Stephen 03.12.24 at 7:49 pm

Alex SL @58

You describe yourself as a European living in Australia, and as such seeing the left-wing factions aimed at “creating as much havoc as possible as a means to delegitimize the liberal democratic political system and gaining power” as marginalised, zero influence splinter sects. For thrice-blessed Australia, sure. You don’t say which European country you had previous experience of. For several European countries, including unfortunately the UK in my lifetime, that was not so.

At present, the worst are in abeyance, apart from the Islamists. I don’t know to count them as left or right wing, assuming that such a distinction has any meaning. Right wing in terms of social values, yes; left wing in terms of detesting the US and UK, which is of course neither a necessary nor a sufficient reason for being left wing, but does apply in my experience to a fair few left wingers.


Stephen 03.12.24 at 9:38 pm


There are many points on which we may reasonably differ, but I think we would each agree that for TM to denounce us both as ignorant because we disagree with her, or him, about the EU is going some way beyond the normal limits of CT commentary.


John Q 03.12.24 at 10:26 pm

I’m calling a halt to this thread now. Everyone still active has had their say several times over.

Comments on this entry are closed.