All posts by Bill Wirtz

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In Europe, Bill O’Reilly would still have a job

“F**k it, we’ll do it live!”

Bill O’Reilly’s iconic moment as a peeved host of “Inside Edition,” mixed with his more recent habit of dominating the ratings at Fox News, seem unusual in Europe. Here, TV, especially shows about politics and culture, attempts to maintain a facade of earnestness. Apart from the UK’s “Prime Minister’s Questions,” the weekly shouty session of witty jokes and sassy remarks between the government and the opposition, European politics is usually something you skip on the channels. Even diehard fans of the spotlight are unable to avoid yawning at the banality of political “entertainment.”

The reason for this is simple: many stations are publicly owned, and those that aren’t still tend to remain apolitical. In Germany, privately owned TV stations have only existed since 1984, with state-owned channels ARD and ZDF covering almost the entirety of political news broadcasting. Public stations make up 45 percent of the market there. In France, among the top five stations, two (23.1 percent of the market share) are owned publicly, while three (34.5 percent of the market share) are in private hands

Continue reading at RARE Politics 

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Don’t Nanny Me: A London Store Protests Lifestyle Regulations

Risen eyebrows, perplexed faces: some visitors at The Society Club on Cheshire Street in Shoreditch, London looked slightly confused at the sight of the city’s very first Nanny Store on April 20. For one day only, the student group Students for Liberty and the Consumer Choice Center took on themselves to ridicule the creeping interventionist nature of what is often referred to as the Nanny State: the overregulation of people’s habits.

Chocolate bars, cans of soda, crisps: all plain packaged and covered in warning labels such as “Chocolate seriously increases your risk of obesity,” the products sold at the student’s Nanny Store surely come off as patronizing. “I wouldn’t want to live in country where this would be real,” says one customer.

“It was our goal to start the Nanny State Store in London to mock the increasing level of lifestyle regulations being passed by all levels of government. Students For Liberty has done this successfully around the world, and we wanted to bring the fight to the UK,” says Alex Christakou, local coordinator with Students For Liberty

Read more at the Daily Caller

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European populists aren’t conservative, they’re faux-right

At first glance, conservatives might view the rise of Europe’s far-right like a refreshing counterbalance to years of socialism run amok. In truth, these reactionary parties endorse eerily similar economic policies as the left-wing they so despise. Fiscal conservatives need to recognize that the European right doesn’t reject the fundamentals of big government — they embrace it, making them more “faux-right” than actual right.

This Sunday, France will vote in the first round of its presidential election, with National Front leader Marine Le Pen one of the leading candidates. With far-right parties like Le Pen’s rising across the continent with recent or upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Italy, Time magazine declared 2017 to be Europe’s “Year of the Populist.”

The Netherlands’ recent general election provides a prime example of this faux-right phenomenon. Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom took second place, gaining five seats in the country’s House of Representatives.

The Dutch provocateur has enjoyed extensive support in American conservative circles, with trips to the United States sponsored by organizations like the Gatestone Institute, International Freedom Alliance, and David Horwitz’s Freedom Center to sum of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, controversially voiced his support for Wilders’ tough stance on immigration in a tweet last month, claiming that “Wilders understands… We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

For all his popularity among American conservatives, Wilders’ platform is embarrassingly scant on details. During the campaign, he promised to “lower rent” without providing any sort of explanation as to how this will be achieved. When reading further proposals, such as returning the “age of retirement back to 65,” providing “pensions for everyone,” and reversing “past budget cuts involving care,” it’s easy to see that his Freedom Party is very keen on government interventionism and increasing welfare spending.

Continue reading at The Washington Examiner

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Meet Germany’s Alt-Right

In September, Germans will head to the polls to elect a new parliament. One of the parties expected to enter the Bundestag for the very first time is the Alternative für Deutschland (or Alternative for Germany). Over the course of two years, as AfD has transitioned from an agenda of economic reform to one of nationalist populism, they have morphed into something resembling the American alt-right.

In 2012, a group of German conservatives and classical-liberal economists who had defected from Angela Merkel’s center-right and the traditional liberal-democrat party found themselves associating with independent-voter groups in order to run for office on the local level. Soon, these conservatives, who were heavily critical of the European Union’s economic interventionism and especially the European common currency, found themselves alienated by these existing platforms, and in 2013 they founded the AfD.

Soon after its creation, the party began to struggle with internal disagreements about the priorities of its political message: the classical liberals were keen on developing a German brand of Euroscepticism—which, relative to the Anglo-Saxon brand, would appear less aggressive and more academic—while nativists and those who were religiously inspired pushed for more nationalism and social conservatism on issues like gay marriage (which remains illegal in Germany). These were internal fights over these differences during the 2013 election, which contributed to the AfD narrowly failing to enter parliament.

In 2014, the party continued its rise in the polls. It won electoral success in the European Parliament, local parliaments, and municipal councils. Former AfD chairman Bernd Lucke, a classical-liberal economist known for his numerous appearances on German TV shows dedicated to debates on the Euro and its effect on the European debt crisis, became the target of the nationalist wing of the party. But AfD’s moment in the spotlight was short-lived. As the issue of Greece leaving the Euro was swept off the table and the Euro-crisis became uninteresting for the German media, so did the focus on the AfD.

Continue reading at The American Conservative

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Make Germany Miraculous Again

Nothing is really changing politically in Berlin. To begin with, Germany’s socialists are currently in a coalition with the conservatives, forming an immense majority in parliament. The coalition has slowed down public spending cuts and reforms enacted by the previous government. The German Left is at risk of fading into irrelevance as its choices regarding coalitions are limited: it’s either Merkel once again or going down the road of a three-party coalition.

In this post-crisis economy, Berlin shouldn’t be interested in who organizes a government reshuffle in September, but should instead be concerned with how a freer economy can unleash the potential of hard-working Germans.

Germany’s historic free-market champion, former conservative politician Ludwig Erhard, should serve as a role model for the ideological emptiness of contemporary German politics. Erhard is known to be responsible for the most extensive period of economic deregulation in modern times. Instead of following the temptation of slowly moving towards more economically interventionist policies, Berlin should follow Erhard’s example who believed that, instead of central planners, individuals should decide a country’s future.

Continue reading at FEE.