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Thursday, May 16, 2013

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I think a big factor that has driven the more extreme parties in Europe is that the mainstream parties have succeeded in making it completely unacceptable politically to have an opinion other than officially accepted one on matters like the EU and immigration. Therefore there is no way for the very legitimate concerns people do have to be addressed inside of the existing political framework. There's no debate allowed in polite society.

For example, all of today's problems with the European Monetary System were predicted long ago by critics of the ERM and the euro. How where those critics treated? The fact that the euroskeptic forecasts have started coming true makes it look like other, less credible things they say easier for the man on the street to accept.

Similarly, immigration imposes real, legitimate costs on people and governments. I'm a big fan of immigration and think we need more of it. But just because on balance it is good thing doesn't mean it's a free lunch. We do have a lot of illegal immigrants in jail. Hospitals are paying for emergency room visits by the uninsured. When an illegal immigrant without a drivers license and insurance wraps his car around a pole in Anniston, AL and dies, it really does cost a struggling town over $100,000 to wrap the case up.

When anyone who doesn't more or less endorse open borders or who dares to suggest that there might be some downside to lots of immigration is treated as a xenophobe, don't be surprised if they start to act like one.

If mainstream parties and institutions want to stop the rise of extremist factions (a much bigger problem in Europe than in the US), they need to be much more responsive to the legitimate issues people raise and work to create a society with a much more broadly shared prosperity.

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