At first glance, conservatives might view the rise of Europe’s far-right like a refreshing counterbalance to years of socialism run amok. In truth, these reactionary parties endorse eerily similar economic policies as the left-wing they so despise. Fiscal conservatives need to recognize that the European right doesn’t reject the fundamentals of big government — they embrace it, making them more “faux-right” than actual right.
This Sunday, France will vote in the first round of its presidential election, with National Front leader Marine Le Pen one of the leading candidates. With far-right parties like Le Pen’s rising across the continent with recent or upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Italy, Time magazine declared 2017 to be Europe’s “Year of the Populist.”
The Netherlands’ recent general election provides a prime example of this faux-right phenomenon. Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom took second place, gaining five seats in the country’s House of Representatives.
The Dutch provocateur has enjoyed extensive support in American conservative circles, with trips to the United States sponsored by organizations like the Gatestone Institute, International Freedom Alliance, and David Horwitz’s Freedom Center to sum of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, controversially voiced his support for Wilders’ tough stance on immigration in a tweet last month, claiming that “Wilders understands… We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
For all his popularity among American conservatives, Wilders’ platform is embarrassingly scant on details. During the campaign, he promised to “lower rent” without providing any sort of explanation as to how this will be achieved. When reading further proposals, such as returning the “age of retirement back to 65,” providing “pensions for everyone,” and reversing “past budget cuts involving care,” it’s easy to see that his Freedom Party is very keen on government interventionism and increasing welfare spending.
Worse, Wilders justified his promised spending increases with dodgy math. His own leaflets promised that budgetary figures for his proposals would be “counted at a later stage.” Outside of limiting immigration, his Freedom Party has not supported any policies that could curb spending.
In short, Wilders took many conservatives for a ride, taking advantage of their overzealous concern about Islamic immigration to bankroll his socialist policies.
Sadly, the same con game seems to be repeating in France, with National Front candidate Marine Le Pen a leading candidate in next week’s presidential election with notable support from the American alt-right.
American alternative media outlets have been taken by Le Pen for months. Breitbart News has written about her at least 224 times. The site’s editor-in-chief, Alex Marlow, even entertained the idea of establishing a Paris bureau for the website last November.
Yet, Le Pen’s National Front embraces big-government policies that would make Andrew Breitbart roll in his grave: imposing tariffs, taxing foreign workers, bringing down the retirement age, raising wages in the public sector, banning ostentatious signs of religion in public, and infringing of freedom of assembly.
In fact, one of the reasons Le Pen never formed any sort of anti-European Union coalition with Brexit champion Nigel Farage is because her party rejects his Anglo-Saxon view of markets. While British eurosceptics called for leaving the European Union because it hampered business freedom, the National Front astoundingly claims that Brussels instead favors free markets too much, describing the union as “ultra-liberal.” Once detached from the Maastricht Treaty, Le Pen’s party would have it even easier to further increase spending, leading France into an inevitable disaster.
Wilders and Le Pen might be just as opposed to social democracy as American conservatives are, but they aren’t planning the same limited government. Although President Trump may find common ground with the European far-right on trade and immigration, his administration has nevertheless pursued an agenda of deregulation and discretionary spending cuts much more in line with a conservative fiscal agenda than anything the European faux-right would ever dare to propose.
Let this be a lesson to fiscal conservatives: The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. We should save our money and support for more principled movements.
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