European Union

Guido Rising

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A few weeks back, I wondered why, in the midst of a global financial crisis, so few European social democratic parties have capitalized on the dramatic uptick in anti-market sentiment across the continent (As previously noted there are certainly exceptions, as demonstrated by the recent election results in Iceland). Instead, in countries like the Netherlands, Poland, and Germany, many parties of the big goverment, populist right and, to a much lesser degree, free market parties have seen steady increases in support. As I mentioned in this post, Germany's free market FDP (Free Democratic Party) managed ten percent of the vote in 2005 federal election but is currently polling at around 18 percent. The Wall Street Journal has more on the strange rise of the Guido Westerwelle and the FDP:

Around the world, the economic crisis is raising concerns about unfettered markets and leading to more government intervention in the economy. But in Germany–a country long skeptical of freewheeling capitalism–a political party that believes in freer markets and smaller government is benefiting from the crisis.

The Free Democratic Party, whose credo is getting the state off the back of the individual, is riding high in opinion polls. It has notched up successes in recent regional elections and has good chances of entering government in Germany's national vote this September…

The FDP is benefiting from the fact that Germany's two large ruling parties, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union and its partner, the Social Democrats, have backed away from business-friendly policies and shifted to the left.

"In this context many citizens find it refreshing that the FDP has remained in the center," says the party's leader, Guido Westerwelle, in an interview. His party currently enjoys the support of 14% to 16% of voters, according to recent opinion polls. This is up from the FDP's 9.8% support in Germany's last election in 2005.

What Mr. Westerwelle calls his party's "center" stance has long appeared to many Germans as a right-leaning economic policy of tax cuts and deregulation that would mainly benefit high earners. The FDP's image as a rich people's lobby helped keep the party's share of the vote low in the 1990s.

Today, however, many middle-class voters are concerned about the government's expanding role in the economy in response to the crisis, on top of longstanding grievances over Germany's high and complicated taxes and its jungle of bureaucratic red tape.

Full piece here.

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  1. Isn’t it enough that former East Germans are saying the government has interfered enough in the market. I mean, shouldn’t they know what they’re talking about?

  2. My question: Would you buy a used car from a man named Guido Westerwelle?

  3. The German Free Democrats have been an important voice for less government in a country that has always had too much government. It is good news that they are finally getting a higher level of support.

    At the same time, the Left Party, composed of former Communists in the east, and left socialists and Trotskyites in the west, seems to have established a permanent position in German politics, and that is not good news.

  4. Does it ever seem that the U.S. and Europe have opposite cycles?

    Lefties up in Europe and the right reigns in the U.S.

    Left has a hold in the U.S. and the right rises in Europe.

    Left and right being completely relative terms, of course.

  5. Iceland may be culturally European but could you actually say it is on “the Continent of Europe”???

  6. In our household, “Guido” is the name given to the stress knot I get in my back that my wife massages away. Guido being in the house is not a happy time.

  7. It must be nice to be able to vote for a party that isn’t one of the big two and still have a voice in your country’s government. :::sighs dreamily:::

  8. I’m a pretty hard-line libertarian, but I also lived/studied in southwest germany (freiburg im breisgau=seriously the best, most magical place on earth) and I have to admit that they’re style of governing works fairly well. it’s hard for me to reconcile. taxes are high, but the services they get in return are pretty fabulous.

    unemployment is much higher, immigrant problems run fairly deep (especially concerning turks, three/four of whom beat my unconcious and left me in the street last july 4th)…but i dont know.

    i’m looking for suggestions from reasonites about how to persuade europe-lovers to our side. what has worked and what hasn’t? any good research/anecdotal evidence undertaken by y’all/euch?

  9. Don’t be fooled, the FDP is pro free markets in the same way Bush was.

  10. “and I have to admit that they’re style of governing works fairly well. it’s hard for me to reconcile. taxes are high, but the services they get in return are pretty fabulous.”

    It’s likely not efficiently spent considering the amount that it costs the taxpayers. It’s also important to remember that a country like Germany has less military expenses than France or the UK and less than 1/10th that of the US (granted their population is also less but even adjusted it’s almost nothing).

    There is no way the United States can expect the enjoy the services Europe receives without gutting military spending first. Since this would fracture the balance of power enormously it’s never going to happen short of complete economic collapse (think last year x10). It’s the dirty little secret that the Europeans refuse to think about and the Democrats don’t want to admit.

  11. “Germany’s free market FDP”

    understanding that’s a very very very very very very very relative term…

    very relative.

  12. From the title I thought Mr Moynihan was going to write about the “Guido Fawkes” blog http://www.order-order.com/

    As per Herr Westerwelle, well in these days of lesbian Premiers, the sexuality of the German Leader of the Opposition might seem passe.

    However, it might be worth noting Westerwelle’s homosexuality if only to note how it isn’t worth commenting on.

    wikipedia:
    “On July 20, 2004, Westerwelle attended Angela Merkel’s 50th birthday party accompanied by his partner, Cologne businessman Michael Mronz, thereby tacitly acknowledging that he is gay. It was the first time he attended an official gathering with his partner. This made clear that he no longer expected his relationship with Mronz to be treated with discretion. The move generated little controversy among the German public.”

    So congrats Michael and Guido.

    And specific congrats to Westerwelle as Mronz is ‘teh hotness’ as least as far as German businessman go.

    http://www.basketball-bundesliga.de/pics/medien/thumb_image_1071672979.jpeg

  13. My question: Would you buy a used car from a man named Guido Westerwelle?

    If he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, you bet I would.

    taxes are high, but the services they get in return are pretty fabulous.

    unemployment is much higher, immigrant problems run fairly deep (especially concerning turks, three/four of whom beat my unconcious and left me in the street last july 4th)…but i dont know.

    So, taxes are high, the streets aren’t safe, unemployment is much higher, and you are tempted somehow by this example?

  14. “unemployment is much higher, immigrant problems run fairly deep (especially concerning turks, three/four of whom beat my unconcious and left me in the street last july 4th)…but i dont know.”

    RACIST!

  15. LOL, just trollin’.

  16. “i’m looking for suggestions from reasonites about how to persuade europe-lovers to our side.”

    Offer them permanent relocation to Europe?

    Nah, most Europeans probably wouldn’t go for that.

    How about Canada? It’s kind of like Europe, but there’s a lot more room there.

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