How moderate right-wingers have become ‘extremist’ europhiles

mathijs boumanEconomist Mathijs Bouman charts the journey from being a moderate right-winger to an extremist europhile.

You think that free trade is a good starting point for economic diplomacy, preferably via multilateral free trade agreements, or if that can’t be done via bilateral agreements.

You think close cooperation with the US is a no-brainer. Naturally, some hard nuts will have to be cracked at the negotiating table but then a mutually advantageous free trade accord should be in the bag.

You thought everybody would see the advantages of such an agreement but while your back was turned for five minutes public opinion had shifted dramatically. Free trade is in the interest of multinationals, people say, and they are only interested in poisoning us with chlorine chickens  and hormone beef

Freedom and prosperity

After a quarter of a century you are cancelling your Milieudefensie membership. Once an organisation for nature lovers you gladly supported, it now has an anti-globalist agenda which opposes free entrepreneurship and free trade.

You’re branded an extremist because you think European cooperation will promote freedom, security and prosperity. You are still not convinced that a Europe with national currencies and fluctuating exchange rates will function better than a monetary union. You fear the Russian bear more than the Brussels snail. Your sort is called a europhile these days (yes, this is now a term of abuse).

And market forces, well everybody knows what a complete and utter failure they are. Never mind that we put our superfluous stuff on auction site Marktplaats at the weekend and bid for the cheapest wellness-arrangement on vakantieveilingen.nl while vilifying the price mechanism as an instrument to fill the pockets of the big earners the rest of the week.

Trap

Semi civil servant Antoinette Hertsenberg is given airtime by semi state broadcaster AvroTros to condemn market forces in the health system. Even childhood hero and writer Jan Terlouw has fallen into the trap.

In a reaction to consumer programme Radar, he twitters : ‘Does anyone still have a good word to say about market forces in health care?’ In the early seventies Terlouw in his book How to become King convincingly explained how the monopoly of corrupt doctors brought ruin to the people in a city in the kingdom of Katoren. He has changed his tune since then. I prefer the Terlouw of 1971.

Those who positioned themselves slightly to the right of the centre on the political spectrum, and paired a considered distrust of state interference to a belief in international cooperation, are now seen as neoliberal slaves to capitalism, or Europhile extremists.

This article appeared earlier in the Financieele Dagblad