Monday, April 8, 2019

The Populist Temptation: New at Reason

By Reason Staff - April 08, 2019 at 06:00AM

For the two decades that he's edited the scabrous and insightful U.K.-based web magazine Spiked, Brendan O'Neill, an occasional Reason contributor, has described himself—perhaps with a wee bit of provocation—as a "libertarian Marxist." That is, until the populist uprisings in Europe last year.

"The thing that's different now than it would have been six months ago," O'Neill told me during a February episode of the Fifth Column podcast, "is that I've increasingly gone off the word libertarian." The Brexit vote in England, the Yellow Vest protests in France, various anti-elitist spasms across the globe—these have packed more of a punch in two short years than four decades' worth of classical liberal think-tank thumbsucking, he said: "I think other things more interesting than libertarianism are happening in the world right now."

Individualists fond of Enlightenment rationalism do not generally hasten toward the excitement of street mobs or even electoral majorities. But the global rise in nationalist politics, from Viktor Orbán's Hungary to Donald Trump's America, has tempted many commentators with the thrills of revolution and machinations of power. Unsurprisingly, they are shedding their libertarianism along the way, writes Matt Welch.

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