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Europe’s Politics of Dystopia

The recent victory of the conservative Law and Justice party in Poland confirms a recent trend in Europe: the rise of illiberal state capitalism, led by populist right-wing authoritarians. Failure to act decisively now will lead to the eventual failure of the EU and the rise of dystopian nationalist regimes.

TOKYO – The recent victory of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland confirms a recent trend in Europe: the rise of illiberal state capitalism, led by populist right-wing authoritarians. Call it Putinomics in Russia, Órbanomics in Hungary, Erdoğanomics in Turkey, or a decade of Berlusconomics from which Italy is still recovering. Soon we will no doubt be seeing Kaczyńskinomics in Poland.

All are variations on the same discordant theme: a nationalist leader comes to power when economic malaise gives way to chronic and secular stagnation. This elected authoritarian then starts to reduce political freedoms through tight-fisted control of the media, especially television. Then, he (so far, it has always been a man, though France’s Marine Le Pen would fit the pattern should she ever come to power) pursues an agenda opposing the European Union (when the country is a member) or other institutions of supra-national governance.

He will also oppose free trade, globalization, immigration, and foreign direct investment, while favoring domestic workers and firms, particularly state-owned enterprises and private business and financial groups with ties to those in power. In some cases, outright nativist, racist parties support such government or provide an even deeper authoritarian and anti-democratic streak.

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