Austerity: Economic, Political, and Social Perspectives

Austerity is not simply an economic phenomenon—societies experience it in different ways, socially, politically, and geographically. The aim of this event is to bring leading thinkers to probe the complex effects of austerity on the European economies forced to experience it by the global economic crisis.

The event will be live-streamed through the INET and YSI network, shown at the Festival of Economics at the University of Trento, as well as various blogs and community sites like Irisheconomy.ie, and we encourage submissions to the panel, which can come in the form of email questions, tweets, and via facebook.

Austerity: Economic, Political, and Social Perspectives

Friday, May 30 Kemmy Business School, UL KBG-16 (map)

Livestream from YSI event in the Univeristy of Limerick, All times are CET

10.00 -10.30 Opening by Dean of the Kemmy Business School, Dr. Philip O’Regan

10.30-12.00 Panel 1: Beyond the theory: Austerity as an economic, and political, reality

Mary Regan, Political Editor of the Irish Examiner, Chair

Mark Blyth, Brown University

Johnathan Hopkin, London School of Economics

Niamh Hardiman, University College, Dublin

John McHale, NUI, Galway & Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

12.00-12.30 Break

12.30-2.00 Panel 2: The wider consequences of austerity on society

Stephen Kinsella, University of Limerick, Chair

Niamh Hourigan, University Collge, Cork

Carmel Hannon, University of Limerick

Seamus Coffey, University College, Cork

Julien Mercille, University College, Dublin

Comments

comments

Author: Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

46 thoughts on “Austerity: Economic, Political, and Social Perspectives”

  1. Mark Blyth says the time for austerity is the boom, not the slump.

    That is true but even after a recent huge bust in Ireland, politicians have quickly switched to what they can give back to buy votes while significant reforms only happen if at all, when a situation is dire.

    http://www.finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1027692.shtml

    The Economist said in a report in March 2007:

    The poor performers in Europe have been the core countries of the euro, in particular France, Germany and Italy. Since these three account for two-thirds of euro-area GDP, their failings have led to slow growth for both the euro area and the EU as a whole. It is evident that Europe’s economies have sickened at national not European level, so it is at national level that the cures are needed.

    Nor is there much disagreement among economists about what those cures should be. In all three countries labour and product markets are too highly regulated, holding back employment growth and making their economies less flexible. Both the IMF and the OECD have been urging further liberalisation as the only sure route to better economic performance. Even Europe’s political leaders understand this, though they are also swift to spot political obstacles to reform. As Luxembourg’s Mr Juncker once said, “we all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.

    Absolute economic convergence has been a mantra of policymakers in Europe for decades but it’s generally a myth. The evidence shows that it is also an illusion in most emerging economies.

    The Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy) is not converging to Northern Italy and while convergence can happen at regional level, transfers from Sweden or Germany cannot make the Baltic countries as rich.

    As regards austerity and its impact, I guess none of the panel have been victims. It would help to have input from people who lost a job, a business and a person who is in a debt crisis – – possibly not easy to get such people but their absence leaves a void.

  2. @Michael Hennigan quoting the Economist

    Nor is there much disagreement among economists about what those cures should be. In all three countries labour and product markets are too highly regulated….

    Lets not assume that.

    I understood that outside of the EU/neoliberal circles there is sharp disagreement about this – it is a philosophical position on how capitalist economies should work rather than a well supported economic theory about how growth comes about.

    Aidan Regan’s “The Fairytale of Europe’s Magic Improving Dust Formula” covered this ground. There is no reason to believe that supply side measures, welfare cuts and deregulation (aka “structural reforms”) are going to work in aggregate in the EU and plenty of evidence that they do not (see Steven Kinsella’s last article in the Indo on Portugal)

    As for Junkers comment some one (Kevin O’Rourke, Simon Wren Lewis?) said that it was half true. They did not how to get re-elected.

  3. Ooops.

    As for Junkers comment some one (Kevin O’Rourke, Simon Wren Lewis?) said that it was half true. They did not know how to get re-elected.

    @Michael Hennigan

    Obviously the voice of the Economist is not yours, I just think they have been incredibly lazy for years.

  4. ‘… one of the few signs that there is some dignity left in Ireland has been the wonderful way in which the people of Ballyhea and Charleville in Co Cork have marched every Sunday since March 2011 simply to affirm their unwillingness to accept the debts so immorally imposed. The protest has been deeply informed, entirely peaceful and impressively persistent – a model of good citizenship. It has a genuine nobility in its refusal to be bullied, blackmailed or mocked. It embodies what Ireland most desperately needs: collective self-respect.

    Diarmuid O’Flynn, who is one of the animating spirits of Ballyhea, is standing for election as an Independent in Ireland South.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/ballyhea-protests-on-bank-debt-show-collective-self-respect-1.1801718

    … how about a spokesperson from the local Lifeworld?

  5. “As regards austerity and its impact, I guess none of the panel have been victims.”

    The Irish-based academics on the panel have all endured nominal pay cuts of 25-30%. I guess that counts for nothing among the bloviators of Kuala Lumpur …

    If you want to find people who haven’t experienced austerity, I suggest you look at the upper echelons of the private sector. But, of course, nobody wants to talk about them. They’re subject to “market discipline” don’t you know: the same discipline by which Ireland spent decades of wealth building ghost estates in the Dublin periphery.

  6. @ DoD

    Diarmuid O’Flynn and Jillian Godsil are both standing in that constituency on the reality based ticket of what happened to Ireland and how things are not much better now but they are only polling 5% between them.
    The Shinners seem to be mopping up protest votes.
    Ming might get in in Culchie North.

  7. @ MH

    Ciarán O’Hagan of SocGen coined a description some years ago for austerity imagined by those largely spared from it; “hysterity”.

    It is still appropriate if this conference is any guide.

  8. @seafóid

    Must be something soma inducing amnesia in the water in Oirland South with one in 3 voting FF/pd

    Water in Roscommon is so bad that it is only of use for Fracking [confidential Fill H. O’Gan doc.] – might explain Ming’s strange decision to run away …

    Liadh Ni Riada is a serious candidate …

    O’Flynn is, of course, correct; austerity is a policy decision …

    That said, “The Moyross Rappers” should bring some illustrative ontological reality to the conference as will the guided tour of Southill. Donald Trump is indisposed!

  9. None of the Irish based panellists are likely to be crybabies about their rising personal tax burdens or the pension levy that still leaves them with a generous scheme compared with the minority of the private workforce that have an occupational pension scheme – keep in mind that the poor coverage there reflects public policy.

    Austerity at a macro level is easily understood but at a micro level, many can claim victimhood as do the rich in respect of the related issue of inequality.

    A few months ago a retired billionaire venture capitalist in the US compared attacks on the 1% to the Nazi’s Kristallnacht (night of the broken glass) in 1938 when Jews in Germany and parts of Austria were killed or rounded-up to be sent to concentration camps.

    @ David O’Donnell

    On Ireland South, Brian Crowley has a big personal following. He has an affable personality similar to his late father Flor, who had represented Cork South-West in the Dáil.

    Of course his struggle with paralysis following a fall from a roof in Bandon when he was 16, is also a factor.

    Liadh Ní Riada also has the advantage of name recognition while having an accomplished career.

    I was a contemporary of her brother Peadar at UCC – Seán Ó Riada dying at 40, having accomplished so much for Irish music was a real loss.

    In common with many Irish artists of the past, he liked the drink too much. Peadar said in a TG4 documentary a few years ago that his father had an inherited genetic condition which weakened his liver. This is common in Asia.

  10. @MH

    Yes, but you said: “As regards austerity and its impact, I guess none of the panel have been victims.”

    Why not just admit that it was not only a stupid thing to say but also demonstrably false. However, it does speak volumes about the blind assumptions you bring to the table.

    Meanwhile, can I take it that if taxes were raised on the private sector, er, wealth creators that dropped their net income by 30%, you’d blithely assert that they had yet to feel the bite of austerity? Or is it only austerity when it affects the dynamic forces of capitalist virtue?

  11. @ Ernie

    You never seem to get the point! No one is denying that the public service – including universities – has taken major cuts in salary. The question is threefold (i) were the salaries too high in the first place in terms of what the economy i.e. the general taxpayer could afford (ii) are they still too high and (iii) at what level of income can austerity have a real bite in terms of basic necessities?

    When the fact that most public servants have secure permanent jobs, and generous guaranteed pension arrangements – that can be variously computed but must have a value, in current circumstances, of between 15% and 20% – is taken into account, austerity as defined in terms of losing one’s job or being below the poverty threshold can only be having a limited impact.

    The fact that anything up to a quarter of staff are now being hired on short-term contracts, or are entering permanent salary scales at lower pay, is a demonstration of a lack of solidarity among the staff themselves and not much else. Coupled with the ongoing recruitment embargo, the overall approach to public service reform adds up to a royal mess with certain damaging long-term consequences.

    This would make a suitable topic for a conference.

    http://www.ucd.ie/hr/add/salary_scales/scales.htm

    P.S. The academic consultants (exclusively medical) come out on top again. Quelle surprise!

  12. @ Michael

    ” with the minority of the private workforce that have an occupational pension scheme – keep in mind that the poor coverage there reflects public policy.”

    nothing to do with the state of the financial system ? Too drunk to f#$% , too weak for higher interest rates .
    Are you another believer in “financial repression” ?

  13. @ Ernie Ball

    Just to add to what DOCM has said, I have no interest in being a cheerleader of high pay in the private sector and I didn’t make a public submission to the OECD supporting corporate tax reform to win fans in Ibec.

    I wouldn’t argue that a private sector worker earning from €70k in a company that is not on red alert, with a pension, isn’t a victim of austerity.

    In a family situation where a partner wasn’t working it would be a struggle with a mortgage, cars etc

    However, there is a long-term trend of squeezed incomes for people in the middle in many countries.

    The FT reported earlier this year that by December 2013, Britain’s professional middle class had splintered into two distinct groups. The FT has named them the “uber-middles” – a small but wealthy group including bankers – and a much bigger group of “cling-ons”, such as academics, mechanical engineers and natural scientists, who may be struggling to sustain their standard of living.

    “For decades, a professional qualification promised a life of comfort, if not prosperity.

    Accountants, engineers, doctors and dons lived side by side in the same neighbourhoods and often educated their children at the same schools.
    But the near-parity that once existed in Britain’s middle class has evaporated over the past 40 years.”

    There are apparent anomalies and the pay of the head of the Pensions Board is €154,000 — which is basically an administration function. Its similar with other quangos.

    The ombudsman gets the same pay as a high court judge. The previous holder of the position was an opinion journalist.

  14. @ MH: “In a family situation where a partner wasn’t working it would be a struggle with a mortgage, cars etc …”

    It would not, if the mortgage lenders had refused to sanction any mortgage loan which did not comply with the following:

    – 20% cash, from savings, as a deposit + evidence that there are additional cash-on-deposit funds to pay the transaction charges

    – the borrower gets a maximum loan of x 2.5 times a single salary. No ‘two salary’ chicanery.

    – all existing debts are taken into account in assessing risk of default

    If that had been done, be a lot less folk in financial trouble.

    And for what its worth, do we really need another Austerity-fest? I do not believe so. There are far more worrying economic problems coming our way.

  15. @ DOCM

    “Ciarán O’Hagan of SocGen coined a description some years ago for austerity imagined by those largely spared from it; “hysterity”.”

    I recall ‘hysterity’ as meaning something different: lots of talk about ‘savage austerity’ and an hysterical reaction to same, but little in the way (then) of real cuts to expenditure.

  16. @ Ninap

    There have been cuts to expenditure but to describe it as “savage austerity” was wrong then and it is still wrong now. Indeed, the whole point of the Troika’s approach was to steady the ship by lending us money while weaning us slowly from a pattern of excessive expenditure which the economy could not support while giving it – the economy – time to recover. The Troika may have succeeded in this but the Coalition, as many commentators have remarked, have made a hames of the process of consolidation since its departure.

    There is no shortage of data.

    http://budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2014/Documents/Part%20I%20-%20Expenditure%20Strategy.pdf

    It will be noted that the major cuts have been in capital expenditure and the reduction in the cost of the public sector has been swallowed up to a large degree by the cost of the associated pension provision.

    The two main hindrances to effective action IMHO are (i) the divided ministerial responsibility for revenue and expenditure and (ii) the inability of the public sector to escape from the totally inadequate current system of cash accounting which has remained largely unchanged since the foundation of the state. (Expenditure headings should be debated and fixed by the Dáil, the body that has the actual responsibility, and not be the subject of horse-trading – and panic pre-election measures – between ministers).

    The conference that is the subject of this thread is rather incongruous, to say the least, against the above background.

  17. @ DOCM: “Indeed, the whole point of the Troika’s approach was to steady the ship by lending us money while weaning us slowly from a pattern of excessive expenditure which the economy could not support while giving it – the economy – time to recover. The Troika may have succeeded in this but the Coalition, as many commentators have remarked, have made a hames of the process of consolidation since its departure.”

    Is this you being somewhat optimistic? Sure, there was, and is, a significant excess in government expenditures over the tax revenues. And we know how that came about.

    But, ‘the economy will recover’? Not going to happen. The economic fundamentals have either deteriorated or have stagnated. I do not believe that we have actually even stopped sinking. Mind you the rate of descent is a lot slower now.

    The political hubris will continue. The freeboard of the ship is close to being overtopped and the desperate crew are dashing from port to starboard, then back again, in vain efforts to save the vessel. But all they are achieving is to tip one toprail down enough to allow the water to slop over the side. They then recoil, and head toward the opposite rail, hoping for a different outcome. Unhinged behaviour.

    Will it be, “Abandon ship!” some day soon?

  18. @DOCM

    Indeed, the whole point of the Troika’s approach was to steady the ship by lending us money while weaning us slowly from a pattern of excessive expenditure which the economy could not support while giving it – the economy – time to recover.

    Your schilling for our utterly incompetent and selfish foreign overlords becomes ever more nauseating as the failure of the European economic consensus becomes ever more clear. Its an interesting rhetorical tactic though – there is so much that is wrong in that sentence that it is difficult to know where to start.

    Fortunately Stephen Kinsella’s recent article in the Irish Independent is a useful corrective The final, bitter cost of austerity is yet to play out here to the idea that the Troika had a positive effect here or elsewhere. These were debt collectors and right wing political ideologues.

    Anyway, back to the economics bit.

    You do realize that the amount of fiscal contraction and a countries financial position do not have to track each other? Budget cuts have to exceed the loss in taxation in a shrinking economy and the increased social welfare provisions. In addition even if austerity does improve the budget position it has to be compared against a less growth and people hostile policy set.

    The odd thing is that all these arguments have been had and tested. There is no doubt that collective austerity in the EU was the wrong policy – the results are in. Political inertia and fear of reputational damage has prevented any establishment acknowledgement yet but a slow retreat is starting.

    Of course the people who pushed austerity most care not a whit about this. The purpose of shrinking the state was shrinking the state, the purpose of cutting welfare was to cut welfare. European experienced not a failed economic experiment but a period of successful neoliberal autocracy.

  19. If the decision making process in the EU had been much speedier and effective in terms of making decisions; the ECB had been perceived as ready to do “whatever it takes” from early in the crisis and the EC had been prepared for longer adjustment periods to cut annual budget deficits, there would have been less adjustment in individual countries but hardly none.

    There were stimulus programmes in several European countries in 2009/2010 but some argue that core countries should have engaged in massive stimulus spending or transfers but that was unrealistic.

    The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that Europe accounted for 56% of the growth in global capital flows from 1980 through 2007 of the growth in global capital markets, reflecting the increasing integration of European financial markets. But today the continent’s financial integration has gone into reverse. Eurozone banks have reduced cross-border lending and other claims by $3.7 trillion since 2007 Q4, with $2.8 trillion of that reduction coming from intra-European claims.

    Financing from the ECB and other public institutions now accounts for more than 50% of capital flows within Europe. The retrenchment of European banks abroad has been matched by an increase in domestic activity as banks that have received public rescues have faced an expectation to increase home-market lending.

    …austerity or not, a country such as Italy remains with the challenge that it cannot expect outsiders to tackle problems that have developed over several decades.

  20. Off topic:

    My final post for tonight…I was pleased to see that two students from my old school, Hamilton High School in Bandon Co. Cork, won first prize in the CSO’s John Hooper Medal for Statistics 2014 competition.

    http://www.cso.ie/en/newsandevents/johnhoopermedalforstatistics2014competition/johnhoopermedalforstatisticsresults2014/

    The school which was founded by Sean Hamilton in 1940 was unique in West Cork as a lay Catholic secondary school (no religious orders involved) and following the introduction of ‘free secondary education’ has been non-fee paying since 1968.

  21. fyi – perennial irish political issue

    de price of a pint .. of … er .. water!

    ‘Last week Irish Water announced its proposed capital investment programme. Out of a total of €1.77 billion to be spent in 2015 and 2016, only €150 million is to be spent on fixing leaking pipes. This is just €10 million more than it has spent on consultants, mainly to devise a billing system.’

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/water-charges-are-yet-another-austerity-tax-1.1802847

  22. @ BWS

    Whether the economy will recover or not, I have no idea. What is certain is that the present demonstration – pre-election – of the ineptitude of the Irish establishment, in both its political and other manifestations, is, at last, having some political impact in the electorate.

    What has constantly struck me is the fact that, after the biggest banking and budgetary bust in the history of international economics, the same establishment has still not figured out what has caused it; we simply spent more than we earned!

    There are some honourable exceptions to this general assertion but they are voices crying in the wilderness.

    Sweden, which had a much smaller bust in the 1990’s, actually managed to draw the appropriate lessons cf. this blog post culled from the Web.

    http://matthewandrews.typepad.com/mattandrews/2012/11/-budget-reforms-and-austerity-lessons-from-sweden.html

    Maybe we will come up with an Irish solution to an Irish problem (with some assistance from our American cousins)!

  23. @ DOCM: “… the same establishment has still not figured out what has caused it; we simply spent more than we earned!”

    Nice one! Willfull blindness comes to mind. I wonder how cosy the CS mandarins are with the lobbyists? It has occurred to me that the recent ‘postponement’ of the midland wind farms and the Irish-UK electrical inter-connector might be somehow related to behind-the-scenes lobbying by incumbent ‘gas’ interests in the UK who are anxious to maintain a higher price for their gas used in electricity generation.

    Look, the global amount of crude oil (not all liquid oil products) reached a max in 2007 (or perhaps 2005 if you believe some commentators). The rate of natural depletion of these reserves will see the annual global production decrease by one half in 16 years. The amount of new and additional production just matches the decline rate. But this cannot continue as critical investment to boost production is not being made. The nett amount of all liquid oil products, available for export from the major producers, is also declining, but at a rate slightly slower that that for crude (producers are consuming more and more). The nett outcome? There be a nasty liquid fossil fuel supply shock in the not too distant future. Date uncertain, but guaranteed.

    Folk wonder why our western developed economies seem to be in an economic ‘swoon’. Simple – well sort of. The liquid fossil fuels we need are not increasing in supply. So far, global demand is also depressed, which is disguising the approaching crisis. But if any major economy attempts to ramp up their GDP. Trouble.

    An Irish solution? I can visualize us ‘sleep-walking’ into the next global economic crisis, as ‘The Team’ exclaims, “No one saw this coming!” And you know what? That will be correct.

  24. @ Brian Woods

    I hope you’re wrong, considering a child throwing toy houses on a map of Ireland could produce a better organized, less energy intensive housing stock that our ‘planners’ have, we’d be absolutely crucified by an energy crisis.

  25. So do I John, but the prognosis is for a supply shock. When? A decade? Less?

    The dominoes are being lined up. Russia will start exporting gaz to China in 2018/2019. That shaves some margin off what it can (will) supply to Europe.

    Fracking will not likely get going. It requires too much water. Might be OK in central/western Canada. But in middle Europe? Anyway, the European geology contains only low-grade stuff and there are not enough rigs to go around. The good stuff is buried under several kilometers of ocean and rock. Tad expensive to extract. $200 per bbl might not be unrealistic. We’ll have to wait. Watch to see if governments attempt to relax or repeal drilling regulations. That’s your cue.

  26. @Michael Hennigan

    Here is an interesting article that is right up your alley:

    Thank you. That article is indeed right up my barricaded boulevard . Why is competition so feted when cooperation and organization seems to be at the roots of our greatest achievements? Why is efficiency not as vaunted as competition?

    How ‘competitiveness’ became one of the great unquestioned virtues of contemporary culture

    We all know the intellectual heroes of the market as a model for society of but Hayek, Eucken and Becker advocated policies and philosophies with little popular appeal – this was not mass movement stuff. Yet the elite appeal was such that it does not appear to matter even in modern democracies. You can have ever you want as long as it’s reductive neoliberalism.

    Is there a doctor of sociology and politics in the house?

  27. @ John Foody

    That is classic Sarkozy; all sound and fury around controversial proposals but signifying very little.

    Europe’s problem is not the division between the Euro Area countries and the rest (read UK!) but the fact that France seems incapable of making the necessary changes to her economy to allow her to deal on a somewhat equal basis with Germany. It is this lopsided relationship – which Sarkozy did nothing much to correct when he was president – that lies at the heart of the current malaise in Europe which parties of both the extreme left and the right are benefiting from.

    At least Sarkozy is right on the fundamental importance of the EU for peace and security in Europe. Splitting it in two is unlikely to help (not to mention where it would leave “John Bull’s other island”).

  28. @ DOCM: Re your 8:13 pm of yesterday. That’s scary. I was transported back to Nuremberg: the gestures, the tone, the gravelly delivery. You can re-play the real-thing for comparison. No hecklers then!

  29. @ DOCM.

    German policy is as much, or more, responsible for the Euro crisis as France.
    The post unification policies of favouring business, driving down labour, cutting social benefits, pushing exports and constraining domestic demand.

    As Pettis below describes in detail, households were forced to subsidise GDP growth while unemployment was exported to the rest of Europe. Meanwhile bankers were given a complete free hand to create bubbles in the periphery.

    After all that we get lessons in ‘responsible conduct’ from those who pulled, or were paid to pull the strings . No wonder the extremes are attracting support. Voters might not be able to figure it out, but they don’t the smell coming from the ‘guardians of economic virtue’.

    I agree that Sarkozy has nothing much to offer, and as AEP demonstrates, neither does The ‘structural adjustment’ snake oil has been swallowed. As the Dork once said, what is needed is a touch of de Gaulle. That will take a while.

    http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9936.html

  30. @ All

    Jim Power on Cyprus.

    http://www.businesspost.ie/#!story/Comment/Opinion/COMMENT%3A+Cyprus+struggling+to+pick+up+the+pieces/id/87198161-2385-37d9-13ab-f52f21684205

    @ BWS

    You may have gained the wrong impression from the video-clip. It was a case of totally righteous anger by Steinmeier. If you use Google Translate for the text, you will get the gist of what he said. Had I been there, I would have cheered myself because he was standing up for Europe and democracy against extremist leftist opinion which shares a curious approving common view with the extreme right with regard to Putin’s behaviour. Steinmeier is, after Merkel, the most popular politician in Germany and to be accused by a group of whistle-blowing block-headed lefties of being a “warmonger” evidently made him flip. How things will turn out in the Ukraine remains to be seen but to treat a major player doing his best to keep a lid on the situation in such a manner is just another worrying sign of the rise of extremists on both the far left and the far right.

    @ Paul Quigley

    The statement was as Gaullist as one could wish for. But Sarkozy has already demonstrated that he is no de Gaulle. The interest of the French public lies in the fact that he seems to be the only politician capable of restoring some order to the French centre-right.

  31. @ BWS

    This report on the aftermath to the “Wutrede” (probably best translated as “angry outburst”), if you use Google Translate, will clarify the situation. Your surprise at the tone is shared by all, it would seem, including Steinmeier himself (who admits that he can hardly bear to watch it).

    It has, however, done him no harm and has hopefully helped bring home to a wider public the stupidity of the analysis and views on the Ukraine of both the extreme left and the extreme right in Germany.

  32. @ DOCM: Thank you for those updates. I suspected there was a lot more to it than my initial ‘shock’.

    Ukraine is one bad mess and has the potential to de-stabilize an area of middle Europe that needs a long period rest from its horrific and violent experiences from 1941 onwards. The madness did not stop with Liberation. The victors extracted a terrible revenge. Whatever about forgiveness, folk do not forget. Neither would I if I lived there. Thanks again.

  33. @DOCM

    How things will turn out in the Ukraine remains to be seen but to treat a major player doing his best to keep a lid on the situation in such a manner is just another worrying sign of the rise of extremists on both the far left and the far right.

    Just to help us out here what policies would a party have to advocate to make it onto the “far left”? Leaving the Euro? Breaking the fiscal compact? Disrespecting the European Commission? Not being neoliberals?

    It seems that all you have to do to be a left wing extremist is be against the right wing economic consensus in Germany and the EU institutions where to make it to the far right you need to be a self professed racist thug with fascist leanings.

    Perhaps it would be more honest of you to warn us about the equal threat posed by the centre left and neofascists to the EU?

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