Fanatics drive politics

The most fanatical of activists have an impact on actual policies. That is why they cannot be ignored.

The 16-year-old Swedish student activist has now been nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her environmentalist activism. Thunberg protests the inability of governments to do more to reduce carbon emissions and has sparked large and regular student protests. “#YouthForClimate” has politicians making new demands: In the European Union, the Netherlands is now making the case for a new €7 ($8) tax on flight segments, a policy proposition currently backed by France, Belgium, and Finland. You’ll notice that the tax is supported by countries in which €7 is still affordable for large parts of the population; in Eastern European countries, however, this will present a significant increase, particularly for low-cost flights.

Greta Thunberg is directly attacking the way of life of consumers. “If solutions within this system are so difficult to find then maybe we should change the system itself,” she says.

The teenage activist is challenging the culture of availability of consumer goods, as well as capitalism itself. She also says we have to fundamentally change our habits in order to eliminate carbon emissions, adding: “I don’t want your hope, I want you to panic.”

She is a fanatic, and the question of whether fanatics inspired her or she came to her conclusions independently is irrelevant. The 16-year-olds in the streets, taking time off from school to make signs, are also fanatics who have been indoctrinated by their teachers or parents. And it works: the youth climate march has a positive public image and an effect on politics.

Check these headlines:

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Expect an even greater amount of expensive and inefficient environmental policies to be implemented very soon. Additionally, the idea this time is not to find innovative solutions for energy use; rather, it will be to curb the consumption of energy altogether. Greta Thunberg says this herself in her TED talk in December: The time for hope is over. It’s seemingly time to panic and catapult civilization back into the Stone Age.

With Alexandria Occasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, these looney environmental policies are already appearing on the legislative drawing board, mixed with further expanded welfare programs. But AOC is only a symptom: It was Bernie Sanders who managed to make socialist policies mainstream within the Democratic Party. Virtually all Democratic primary candidates in the 2020 presidential race are endorsing massive government interventions in the economy to achieve welfare goals.

During the 2016 Democratic primary, Sanders was seen as only marginally further to the left on the Democratic spectrum. Now, contenders are attempting to outdo one another in their support of socialism. Can you imagine the 2008 Democratic primary candidates listening to today’s front-runners, which include Sanders and Kamala Harris?

The fanaticism of years of demanding more socialist policies has created an environment in which it is not taboo anymore. The wacky fringe from a few decades ago is now in charge.

Social and political programs don’t die easily after they are implemented and people become accustomed to them. The first generation growing up with the EU is the least likely to oppose it, polls show. This should come as no surprise: The European Union funds extensive study programs that distribute funds to students, as well as student conferences (provided they support EU narratives), it subsidizes professors directly if they teach about the European Union, and it even gives out thousands of “free” travel ticketsthroughout the entire European continent to people turning 18 years old. Nothing says “support this political project” quite like “I’m paying for your studies and holidays.”

I know this because I, myself, am part of the first generation in Europe that has known nothing before the European Union, established in 1992, and whose powers were cemented with the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. Questioning the EU is a rarity among young people due to the narrative projected throughout the course of their lives: without the European Union, we’ll have war and economic decline.

This, again, is fueled by fanatics—fanatics who want to create a single European state with one army, one foreign policy, one monetary policy, and one central executive power. Anyone with a notion of European history should be very afraid of such an eventuality. However, the only way to oppose the European Union, I’m told, is to “be anti-Europe.”

The EU is held up as the ultimate moral political project and pumped with slogans and imagery that fit the creation of a new state. Who doesn’t remember “Taxlandia,” the EU’s pro-tax online game, or the obnoxious “Captain Europe,” an EU-mascot retweeted by the European Parliament? What appears in the guise of silly fanaticism is later used as the cornerstone for professional policy-making. Thousands of pages of EU regulation and EU law are witnessing this move toward more interventionist policies and more centralization.

Fanatics may seem fringe and unimportant, but their claims also need to be addressed. In the case of AOC, Corbyn, or even “Captain Europe,” you can hope the zealots will go away over time. But history has demonstrated that the price of taking such a risk can be extremely high.

This article was first published by the Foundation for Economic Education.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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