Brexit and Europe’s angry old men

Jochen Bittner writes: I was born in 1973, the year Britain entered the European Economic Community. And like Britain, I have always been skeptical about the quasi-religious, ever-closer-union ideology that gripped so many proponents of the European Union, especially the anxious old men of my parents’ generation, who swore that the only alternative to unification was a relapse into nationalism.

And now this. Just as Europeans of my generation were being relieved of those anxious old men, another type stepped onstage: the angry old men.

These politicians — men and women, to be sure — are young enough not to have experienced world war, but they are old enough to idealize the pre-1989 era and a simpler, pre-globalization world. At the same time, they are obviously too sclerotic to imagine how democratic institutions can adjust to the new realities. With their aggressive posturing, these Nigel Farages, Marine Le Pens, Geert Wilderses and Donald J. Trumps are driving the debate — and possibly driving the West off a cliff.

“It’s a victory for ordinary, decent people who have taken on the establishment,” declared Nigel Farage, the head of the U.K. Independence Party. Rubbish. It was a victory for people who have neither the guts nor the imagination to take on the downsides of globalization. Yes, globalization and Europeanization have taken their tolls, both on traditional forms of democracy and on traditional job security. But instead of tackling these problems, the Farages of the world have started the next ideological war. [Continue reading…]

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