In today's Daily Telegraph, Alistair Heath explores some of the reasons for the dissatisfaction being expressed by Europe's voters. Building on a recently published book - The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State (which I haven't read so can't really comment) - Heath argues that government is overmighty, that it does too much and much of this badly, and that this stands as a barrier to economic progress. I broadly agree with Heath's analysis but am struck by the fact that the logical place for these ideas to be translated into action - centre-right political parties - are as much of a barrier as the 'progressive' parties of the centre-left.
Across Europe an odd collection of political parties will take advantage of this failure by the centre-right parties. They'll range from the studiously considered anti-Euro, Alternative für Deutschland through the slightly manic MoVimento Cinque Stelle of Italian comedian, Beppe Grillo to varying degrees of nationalist parties ending with the openly Nazi, Golden Dawn in Greece. Plus of course, our dear friends in Ukip. These are the parties of dystopia.
All of these parties adopt - as do one or two left-wing parties in Spain and Greece - a 'plague on all your houses' positioning. The endless repetition of 'LibLabCon' by Ukip supporters is intended to capture the essential sameness of centrist parties. And nowhere is this sameness most starkly displayed than in the European Parliament where the policies, outlook and programmes of the two big blocs - the EPP and Socialists - are almost impossible to untangle.
The problem is that these insurgent political parties simply do not offer any coherent vision of a better government. By way of parallel, here's a quote from Neal Stephenson, the SF writer on how dystopian fiction is cheaper:
...it is much easier and cheaper to take the existing visual environment and degrade it than it is to create a new vision of the future from whole cloth. That’s why New York keeps getting destroyed in movies: it’s relatively easy to take an iconic structure like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty and knock it over than it is to design a future environment from scratch.