What Helps Against Right-Wing Populists?

Populism is on the rise in Germany




16. OCTOBER 2023



What the French, Americans, British and others have been experiencing for some time is now also taking hold in Germany: that populists are not just protesting on the fringes, but are becoming major political forces, like Donald Trump or the Brexiteers. This raises the question of what exactly causes this phenomenon, which is affecting so many countries in different ways.

There have been a lot of studies on this in recent years. The tenor: it’s about cultural alienation, as well as socio-economic fractures that encourage people to vote for parties with easy answers. But the socio-economic fractures are the real core – and the cultural alienation is mostly reinforced and exploited by populists.

This makes it all the more questionable whether it is a good idea to respond to the AfD’s electoral successes in Hesse and Bavaria by tightening asylum laws, as the German government plans to do – which rather aims at reducing feelings of alienation. Several international studies have shown that populists tend to gain votes in regions that have experienced major economic and social disruption. If this is true, even the toughest asylum laws will not change this. What matters then is to ensure that there are no regional rifts in the first place – or that they are overcome as quickly as possible.

new study by Robert Gold provides impressive support for this thesis, systematically comparing the impact of regional economic policies with the performance of far-right parties in Europe over two decades. Lo and behold, wherever there was a successful EU regional policy, the populists systematically got fewer votes than elsewhere.

How he arrived at these results – and what they mean for the study of populism and possible remedies – is what we discuss with Robert Gold in our next New Economy Short Cut – next Thursday, 19 October, 4.30 pm. Registration here.

The question of how much inequality democracy can tolerate will also be the subject of our dinner event on 9 November. Katharina Beck, financial policy spokesperson for the Greens in the German Bundestag, Achim Truger from the German Council of Economic Experts, Yannik Haan from Tax me now, political consultant Timo Lochocki and inequality researcher Vera Gohla have already confirmed their attendance. The following day we will present the Forum’s new wealth simulator – agenda and registration for dinner and workshop: here.

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