Dangerous to ignore high unemployment rates
Letter to the Editor

Article Highlights

  • Is Niall Ferguson right to be optimistic about Eruope's political future?

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  • Lachman: EU optimists ignore high unemployment at their own peril

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  • Will high unemployment rates in the EU continue to cause political instability?

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Sir, One has to be surprised at Niall Ferguson’s sanguine view of the tectonic changes taking place in European politics (“A populism spurned by the downturn’s discontents”, April 18). Since, despite the recent dramatic change in the European political landscape, he only adds to the complacency in European policy circles by confidently asserting that despite the economic shocks it has experienced the European political centre will hold.

There are two basic reasons to question Professor Ferguson’s sanguine assessment. The first is that, since the onset of the sovereign debt crisis in 2010, there has already been a dramatic fragmentation of European politics. In Greece, the two main centrist parties – which in 2010 commanded about 70 per cent of the vote – today are only polling 30 per cent. Meanwhile, in major European counties such as France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK, populist parties have come from nowhere to now command between as much as 20 and 25 per cent of the vote.

The second reason is that there is every prospect that the high rates of unemployment that have been a principal factor underlying the recent crumbling of European politics are all too likely to persist. Indeed, the European Central Bank itself is forecasting that overall European unemployment will only decline from 12 per cent today to 11.5 per cent in 2016 despite the economic recovery it anticipates.

It would seem that Prof Ferguson might have served European policy makers better by raising the following basic question: if over the past four years high unemployment has caused so much political deterioration, what reason is there to expect that the maintenance of unusually high unemployment rates will not cause further damage to European political stability?

Desmond Lachman, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, US

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