France elected a new president yesterday, the socialist Francois Hollande who has vowed to rein in “Anglo-Saxon” capitalism and dramatically raise taxes on the “rich.” Voters turned out Nicholas Sarkozy, the flamboyant conservative whose five-year term was undermined by Europe’s economic crisis, his paparazzi-worthy lifestyle and a combative personality. But Sarkozy’s defeat exposes “a crisis of identity and purpose that presently afflicts much of Europe’s center-right,” according to Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg in a new analysis on The American Spectator.

The reasons for this widespread disarray on Europe’s right are partly structural. Many European electoral systems are designed to prevent any one party from governing in its own right. Many center-right parties consequently find themselves in coalitions with left-leaning groups. This blunts their ability to challenge left-wing social and economic policies.

Tendencies to tepidness are accentuated by the fact that European politics is dominated by career politicians to an extent unimaginable to Americans who don’t reside in Chicago. European center-right politicians are consequently even more focused upon acquiring and staying in office than their American counterparts. That means they are extremely risk-averse when it comes to challenging the European status quo — such as becoming associated with proposals for substantive economic reform or confronting the intolerant leftist hegemony that dominates European educational institutions.

A far deeper problem facing Europe’s center-right, however, is its intellectual-ineffectiveness. By this, I don’t mean that there aren’t any intellectually-convinced European conservatives and free marketers. In fact, there are plenty of such individuals. Their impact upon the public square, however, is minimal.

Such ineffectiveness has several causes. First, most non-left European think-tanks are explicitly associated with existing political parties and usually government-funded. Hence, the willingness of people working in such outfits to criticize their own side for failure to promote conservative principles — something many American think-tanks often do — is limited, if not non-existent.

Gregg also offers suggestions for revitalizing Europe’s conservatives. Read “Europe’s Right in Disarray” by Samuel Gregg on The American Spectator.

  • Roger McKinney

    I think you have to blame the people for the most part. There are very few free market citizens in Europe, even fewer than in the US. So there will be few free market politicians and they will have little power. 

    • http://www.acton.org/ John Couretas

      Good point, Roger. Greece, for example. Everyone knew how the “system” worked and that the two parties who dominated politics were essentially promising the same thing. Where was the reform movement? There wasn’t one, actually, until the “system” imploded.

      This analysis of the Greek elections speaks to that:

      … ND and PASOK chased their tails as they sought to repeatedly defend their support for the new bailout. Their attempts to present themselves as the parties of responsibility failed miserably. They failed because while their lips were talking about the EU-IMF memorandum and how vital it was for Greece, their actions spoke of two parties still stricken by the arrogance and populism that had led them to power over the last 38 years.

      http://insidegreece.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/one-swing-of-the-wrecking-ball/#more-1237

      • Roger McKinney

         CNN pointed out Saturday that Greece had 20 years to reform, but chose instead to just borrow from the rest of the Big EZ at low rates to keep its socialism going. Of course, the politicians could do little else considering the attitudes of the Greek voters.

        Socialism is heaven while the money lasts, but when it runs out it’s hell.