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Conservatism European Style October 1, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Stories like this one in the Baltimore Sun about the recent German elections are fundamentally misleading:

In a year when capitalists and bankers are widely reviled, German voters did something strange; they dumped the pro-worker, pro-low-unemployment Social Democrats and chose the centrist, pro-business Free Democrats as Ms. Merkel’s coalition partner. The Social Democrats were trounced from the center and the left because of the economy, and the Free Democrats filled the gap. Even though Ms. Merkel remains at the helm, many policy differences will likely result from this coalition – changes that matter to the U.S.

Social Democrats are losing elections in Europe but social democracy is alive and well because, in Europe, there are responsible conservatives who accept the responsibility of government to improve the lives of citizens.

As Steve Erlanger writes:

Europe’s center-right parties have embraced many ideas of the left: generous welfare benefits, nationalized health care, sharp restrictions on carbon emissions, the ceding of some sovereignty to the European Union. But they have won votes by promising to deliver more efficiently than the left, while working to lower taxes, improve financial regulation, and grapple with aging populations.

Europe’s conservatives, says Michel Winock, a historian at the Paris Institut d’Études Politiques, “have adapted themselves to modernity.” When Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Germany’s Angela Merkel condemn the excesses of the “Anglo-Saxon model” of capitalism while praising the protective power of the state, they are using Socialist ideas that have become mainstream, he said.

In the U.S., by contrast, conservatives are preoccupied with ripping apart social safety nets, promoting violent coups, and making sure every barfly has a gun.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com



1. Nina Rosenstand - October 2, 2009

Yes, a European Conservative is in many ways a whole different animal—most importantly, there is no traditional/politically expedient connection to a Religious Right, mainly because the Religious Right have established their own parties within the parliamentary systems. When Conservatives can be in government without their support, they often choose that path (also because of expediency. Politics is politics…). And a hundred years of social democracy does matter. By and large, the European Conservative is what we would call a traditional “Liberal” in the John Stuart Mill sense: Greater personal freedom and less government intervention, emphasis on personal responsibility (including a certain amount of responsibility for each other—a traditional European Ethic of Care on the Right), and lower taxes. Fiscal rather than social conservatism. A good example is the former Danish Prime Minister, now Sec-Gen of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. You can find that general philosophy among American Conservatives, too. But come on…it isn’t as if American Conservative politicians make a habit of advocating violent coups, or gun ownership without background checks…

2. Paul J. Moloney - October 2, 2009

I can hardly believe that new gun law is true. The thinking behind it seems to be, if you cannot reason with someone than shoot that person. It seems that those in love with guns are the ones with whom one cannot reason, but they are the ones with the guns.

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