Tuesday, June 25, 2024

In Age of Conflict only 7.8% of World Population in Full Democracies

In 2024 there are only 24 Full Democracies in the World15 of them are in Western Europe. There is one in North America (Canada) and Africa (Mauritius); Two in Latin America and the Caribbean (Uruguay and Costa Rico); and 5 in Australia/Asia (Japan; Taiwan; Australia; New Zealand; and South Korea).

The far-right will have about 170 seats in the 720 European Parliament (about 24%). According to Parliament's rules, a political group shall consist of at least 23 Members elected in at least seven Member States. Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD) has 15 seats but needs a group.

European malaise

In 1997 in the UK when the Labour Party won power after 18 years of Tory rule, the GDP (gross domestic product) of the United Kingdom was valued in dollars at $1.56 trillion while the GDP of China was $962 billion and India's valued at $416 billion,

In 2024 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April, the UK value in current prices was $3.5 trillion; China $18.50 trillion and India $$3.94 trillion.

The United States was at $28.9 trillion and Western Europe was at $21.6 trillion (including the UK at $3.5 trillion; Switzerland $938 billion and Norway $561 billion.)

"Our Europe is mortal. It can die,” President Macron of France warned, a line recycled on the cover of the May 4 issue of The Economist. “We are already beginning to see this.”

The US population is above 334mn and the EU is at about 450mn.

McKinsey Consultants noted "Unless Europe can reenergize growth, its leading position on sustainability and inclusion could be compromised, eroding Europeans’ standard of living. Accelerating growth requires becoming more globally competitive, even in the face of mounting pressures."

In April in the Financial Times, it noted "The International Energy Agency chief criticised Europe for falling behind China and the US after making “two historic monumental mistakes” in energy policy, by relying on Russian gas and turning away from nuclear power.

Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director, told the FT that European industry was now paying the price for these errors and that the bloc would need “a new industrial master plan” to recover."

1) Eurozone GDP was 3.4% higher than 2019, with GDP in Germany up by 0.3% while UK GDP in Q1 2024 was 1.7% above its pre-pandemic level of Q4 2019. The US had the highest GDP growth among G7 (the seven biggest Western economies) over this period at 8.7%. 2) The OECD said the global economy is growing “at a modest pace,” with the effects of higher interest rates being felt. However, unemployment is low by historical standards. The OECD forecasts UK GDP to grow by 0.4% in 2024 and by 1.0% in 2025.
Real economic growth rate, or real GDP growth rate, measures economic growth, from one period to another, adjusted for inflation or deflation.

This month the former Italian prime minister and president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, suggested that Europe mustn't be "passive" when other countries use “unfair advantages" such as tariffs and subsidies.

Also this month, the European Union raised tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports.

“We do not want to become protectionist in Europe, but we cannot be passive if the actions of others are threatening our prosperity,” Draghi said in a speech in Spain.

“A common agenda could include reinforced support for fundamental research, centred on academic excellence, an increased focus on disruptive innovation, and a greater capacity to support start-ups and help them grow,” Draghi said in his acceptance speech upon receiving the Charles V European Award in Spain.

Overall France has a strong record in house building.

The city of Paris is divided into twenty arrondissements municipaux — administrative districts. The area is 105 km² (kilometres) and with a population of 2.2mn, it has a density of about 20,755 [2022] people per km² — one of the highest in Europe.

The 11th arrondissement has the highest density of people at 39,317 in Paris with an area of 3.67 km²

France's capital city is the core of the Paris Region called Île-de-France with an area where about 12,395,148 population [2022] live – an estimated 12,012 km² Area. 1,032/km² population density [2022], and 12mn people living there.

The area of Dublin City Council is 115 km² and the 2022 population was 588,233 [2022]. The density was 5,032 inhabitants per km².

The governments of the two biggest European Union countries — Germany and France — had disastrous performances in the June 2024 European Parliament elections.

France's far-right National Rally (RN) may have jettisoned some of their scary policies, but seizing power would trigger a political earthquake.

European cities, housing crises, and too much tourism

According to the FT, in 2004, Paris and Berlin both owed bondholders about 65% of their countries’ respective GDPs. Today Germany’s public debt burden has returned to that level; France’s is almost 120%.

France’s employment levels show a steep drop in the number of older people holding jobs.

According to Eurostat, just over half of French people between 55 and 64 are employed, one of the lowest levels in Europe. By age 60, fewer than a third are working — a little less than half the rate in Germany and the Nordic countries.

In 2023, female life expectancy at birth in France reached 85.7 years compared to 80 years for males. In 2021 life expectancy in France, regardless of gender, was of 82.32 years. Thus, France is one of the countries in the world with the highest life expectancy. A graduate could get a job at 24 years old and work to 59. Then live to 82.

Last year French President Emmanuel Macron signed into law his government's highly unpopular pension reforms, which raised the state pension age from 62 to 64.

An RN government would reverse the move. Other spending measures would clash with the EU because the French public debt would also be an issue of dispute.

The RN will also try to end climate change plans in France.

According to Bruno Le Maire, France's Economy and Finance Minister, tax revenues for 2023 fell short by approximately EUR 21bn compared to the projected amount. Increased spending on unemployment benefits and local government expenditures further added to the deficit.

The Italian public debt ratio was 138% of GDP in 2022.

The far-right in Europe and far-left in France

The French left has managed to find an agreement for the next legislative elections by uniting in the New Popular Front (NFP). However, France has an existing far-left party of  Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the former Trotskyist, who heads La France Insoumise (France Unbowed, or LFI) party, the largest member of the new left alliance including the Greens.

It's reported that Mélenchon carried out a late-night purge, striking off senior colleagues who had previously criticised his extreme positions and inflammatory tirades from LFI’s list of candidates.

The Libération newspaper which was founded by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, said "Il y a quelques mois, un insoumis, fervent soutien de Jean-Luc Mélenchon, disait en riant: «Mélenchon, c’est Mao. Il lance son mouvement avec des cadres qu’il finit par désavouer en racontant que ce sont des traîtres, puis il s’entoure de jeunes, la garde rouge.»  (Mélenchon is Mao. He launched his movement with cadres whom he ended up disavowing by saying that they were traitors, then he surrounded himself with young people, the Red Guard.) 

In 2017 he proposed a monthly minimum wage of €1,300 and 100% taxation for those earning more than €33,000 a month, and the renegotiation of EU treaties to escape the yoke of “economic liberalism.”

Le candidat de La France insoumise l'affirme : la Chine est un modèle dont la France et le monde doivent s’inspirer. Une interview reprise par les médias officiels à Pékin continue de circuler sur des milliers de sites chinois. (The candidate of La France insoumise affirms it: China is a model from which France and the world must be inspired. An interview picked up by official media in Beijing continues to circulate on thousands of Chinese sites.)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Mao Zedong « On peut être l’étincelle qui met le feu à la plaine », a conclu M. Mélenchon, reprenant un slogan… de Mao Zedong ». (“We can be the spark that sets the plain on fire,” concluded Mélenchon, taking up a slogan… from Mao Zedong.)

« Servir le peuple ». Le leitmotiv de Mao Zedong résume l’état d’esprit dans lequel Jean-Luc Mélenchon veut placer La France insoumise (LFI) dans le mouvement social autour de la réforme de la SNCF. « Il n’y a pas d’action souterraine de La France insoumise, tout est public.

Le candidat de La France insoumise l'affirme: la Chine est un modèle dont la France et le monde doivent s’inspirer. (Une interview reprise par les médias officiels à Pékin continue de circuler sur des milliers de sites chinois. (The candidate of La France insoumise affirms it: China is a model from which France and the world must be inspired. An interview picked up by official media in Beijing continues to circulate on thousands of Chinese sites.)

It is estimated that between 30 and 45mn Chinese citizens died due to famine, execution, and forced labour, along with massive economic and environmental destruction.

The Cultural Revolution was characterized by violence and chaos across Chinese society, including a massacre in Guangxi that included acts of cannibalism, as well as massacres in Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Guangdong, Yunnan, and Hunan. Estimates of the death toll vary widely, typically ranging from 1–2mn.

Olivier Jean Blanchard, a French economist and professor, in the FT comments on the New Popular Front: "The NPF’s programme is more internally coherent. It calls for a major redistribution from the rich to the poor and from companies to workers, resting on the assumption that this will not affect growth.

It includes a 90% marginal tax rate on income, a 100% rate on inheritances worth more than €12mn, and the reintroduction of a substantial wealth tax. If enacted, both programmes would be likely to lead to a major financial and economic crisis." 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon declared his wealth in 2022 at €1.4mn. He had two properties.

Communist parties in France and Italy were strong after the Second World War. They were part of the resistance to Hitler. Then they aligned with the Soviet Union.

In the French national elections in 1968 and 1978, the party won 20% of the votes. In 2022 the tally was 2.9%.

In Italy, in 1968 the Communists got 27% of the vote. In 1976 the vote rose to 34.4%. In 2018 the rate was 0.33%.

The 1976 vote shocked the Americans. However, the vote came after a recession following the post-war economic boom.

Italy had reported annual budget surpluses in the first decade of the 20th but since 1909/1910, the record has been poor. In the first years of Mussolini's rule, when he still led a coalition government, fiscal policy was aimed at balancing the budget, a goal attained in 1926, mainly by cutting public expenditure. The debt-GDP ratio fell from 68% in 1945 to 32% in 1949. The Republic of Italy (the monarchy was ousted in 1946) had an exceptionally low debt burden. In fact, it is the lowest in post-unification Italy.

Cas Mudde is a Dutch political scientist who focuses on political extremism and populism in Europe and the United States. He calls far-right parties Populist Radical Right (PRR). These parties are generally the third biggest in terms of votes in many Western countries.

Mudd says:

"they have a very monist interpretation of the people, they believe that the nation has one type of interest and values, just one. And therefore they don’t accept minority rights. They don’t accept rule of law, separation of powers, which are like building blocks of liberal democracy. […] The traditional far right leader we think about is this kind of macho man, brutal, someone like Jean-Marie Le Pen, a war veteran who is sexist and openly racist, or even Donald Trump or Bolsonaro (former president of Brazil). But actually a lot of our leaders of the far right are not even men, like Giorgia Meloni or Marine Le Pen. Or they are men like Jimmie Åkesson, of the Sweden Democrats, who look like eternal students types.”

In Europe, rich countries in the West and the poor in the East have spawned far-right parties.

In Norway and Denmark in the early 1970s new parties criticised high taxation and bureaucracy.

In the 1980s immigration became the key issue of contention.

Currently, in Denmark, there are 3 PRR parties. In Norway, the Progress Party served in a coalition led by the Conservative Party from 2013 to 2020.

In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats (SD) had been a neo-Nazi group and since 2022 it has supported the Moderate Party in Parliament.

In Finland, the Fins Party which has roots back to 1959 won 20.1% of the general election vote in 2023.

The foreign-born population is about 8.3%%.

GroenLinks-PvdA is the largest Dutch party with 8 seats in the new European Parliament. It was followed by the PVV (the Party of Freedom of Geert Wilders, the far-right leader) winning 6 and VVD with 4. PVV leader Geert Wilders got a seat through preferential votes.

Ireland is at 22% and Sweden is just above 20%

The far-right Austrian Freedom Party had 25.4% of the European Parliament vote, taking first place in a nationwide election for the first time. It was followed by the People's Party with 24.5%.

The Lega Nord (LN: English: Northern League) was established in 1989 as a federation of six regional parties from northern and north-central Italy. This was the wealthiest area in Italy.

Brothers of Italy, a far-right party with neo-fascist roots, has won over 28% of Italy's vote in the European Parliamentary elections. The party is expected to get 24 parliamentary seats, quadrupling what it took in 2019. These results in Italy reflect broader gains for far-right parties in several EU member states. The party has been led by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni since 2014.

Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini fights to escape Meloni's shadow

The Italian deputy prime minister’s League party, which received 34% of the vote in 2019 and currently presides over the far-right Identity and Democracy group, received less than 9% this time around, putting it on par with Forza Italia (which ran with the late Silvio Berlusconi’s name on the ballot).

In the European Parliament elections on June 9, the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party came second in Germany — and in the five states in the east of the country, the party, which has extremist factions, even came first. The results alarmed both federal and state governments across all parties.

In September, three of those eastern states — Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg — are holding elections.

DER SPIEGEL: How the AfD Became the Long Arm of Russia and China

Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD) takes Russian money

Hungary retained its previous ranking as the European Union’s most corrupt country, according to the 2023 edition of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), published last January.

Viktor Orbán is a hero for Trump and others of the American far-right. However, in the recent election, a former colleague won a seat in the European Parliament. He called Hungary a "Mafia State." Orbán also is a friend of Putin.

According to the 2023 edition of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), published last January, the rate was Hungary (42 from 100), Romania (46) Bulgaria (45) and Poland (54). Poland’s far-right Law and Justice (PiS) party which lost power in 2023, saw Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s centrist party clinch its first electoral victory.

According to DW, the German external broadcasting service, in 2022 and 2023, a total of around 596,000 asylum-seekers and well over 1.1 million war refugees from Ukraine came to Germany. According to current estimates, between 280,000 and 300,000 asylum applications are expected again in 2024.

In 2012, Lega (called Lega Nord at the time) then leader, embezzled €49mn of Italian taxpayers' money.

V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Democracy Perception Index 2024

"Over the past two years, many European countries have seen a sharp rise in the share of people who say that “reducing immigration” should be a top government priority. At the same time, the desire to prioritize “fighting climate change” has decreased in these same countries. Nowhere is this reversal more striking than in Germany, which now leads the world with the highest share of people who want their government to focus on reducing immigration (44%) – topping all other priorities – and now nearly twice as high as fighting climate change (24%).

Despite 33% of the world saying that climate change is one of the world’s top three biggest challenges, only 14% of people say fighting climate change should be among the top-three priorities for their government."

Democracy Index

Early in 2024, The Economist said the Democracy Index Published by EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit), a sister company, showed that only 43 of the more than 70 elections in 2024 were expected to be free and fair (also Wikipedia.)

In 2023 there were 15 Western European Full Democracies among 24 worldwide.

Ireland had a ranking of 7, ahead of Switzerland.

The Top 10 are Norway (1); New Zealand (2); Iceland (3); Sweden (4); Finland (5) Denmark (6); Ireland (7); Switzerland (8); Netherlands (9); Taiwan (10).

According to the EIU almost "half of the world’s population live in a democracy of some sort (45.4%)."

However, only 7.8% reside in a Full Democracy, which fell from 8.9% in 2015.

The rate fell after the US was demoted from a Full Democracy to a Flawed Democracy in 2016.

The EIU noted that one-third of "the World’s population live under authoritarian rule (39.4%), a share that has been creeping up in recent years."

Total is 24
Pew, a US pollster, has reported that more than a quarter of Americans think that an autocracy — in which a leader can bypass Congress and the courts — "would be a somewhat or very good form of government."

In 2000 George W Bush was elected on a minority vote. In 2016 Trump became president on a minority vote and the outcome may be the same in 2024.

The Democracy Index produces a weighted average based on the answers to 60 questions, each one with either two, or three permitted answers.

Most answers are experts' assessments. "Some answers are provided by public-opinion surveys from the respective countries. In the case of countries for which survey results are missing, survey results for similar countries and expert assessments are used in order to fill in gaps."

The index values are used to place countries within one of four types of regime:

1. Full democracies: scores greater than 8.2;

2. Flawed democracies: scores greater than 6, and less than or equal to 8.0;

3. Hybrid regimes: scores greater than 4, and less than or equal to 4.0;

4. Authoritarian regimes: scores less than or equal to 4.0..

The decline in the overall index score was driven by reversals in every region of the world with the exception of Western Europe,

The EIU says that "In 2023 wars in Africa, Europe and the Middle East caused immense suffering and undermined prospects for positive political change. As US hegemony is increasingly contested, China vies for global influence, and emerging powers such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey assert their interests, the international order is becoming more unstable."

Sudan: As of June 11, 2024, over 7.2mn were internally displaced. More than 2.1mn, others had fled the country as refugees, and many civilians in Darfur have been reported dead as part of the Masalit massacres.

More than three-fourths of European countries spent more on their militaries in 2023, a report has found, as the world’s most peaceful region fears a possible expansion of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The 18th edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), produced by the Australia-based Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), warned this month that the world was at a crossroads, with the global number of conflicts reaching 56, the most since World War II.

More than three-fourths of European countries spent more on their militaries in 2023, a report has found, as the world’s most peaceful region fears a possible expansion of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Last year it recorded 162,000 conflict-related deaths. This was the second-highest toll in the past 30 years, with the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza accounting for nearly three-quarters of deaths.

Ukraine represented more than half, recording 83,000 conflict deaths, with estimates of at least 33,000 for Palestine up to April 2024. In the first four months of 2024, conflict-related deaths globally amounted to 47,000. If the same rate continues for the rest of this year, it would be the highest number of conflict deaths since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Some of the young embrace the “Ausländer Raus!” (“foreigners out!”) in Germany

Politico Europe reported in a piece "Europe’s ‘foreigners out!’ generation: Why young people vote far right" by NICHOLAS VINOCUR and VICTOR GOURY-LAFFONT.

"Europe’s ‘foreigners out!’ generation: Why young people vote far right": Their grandparents ushered in the sexual revolution. Today's youth want to turn back the clock to 1950."

"Consider this as evidence: A 14-second clip filmed on the German holiday island of Sylt and uploaded to the social media platform X about two weeks before the vote. In it, a group of expensively dressed German youths can be seen belting out the words “Ausländer Raus!” (“foreigners out!”) over a euro-dance beat as they swirl glasses of rosé.

The all-white group, whose preppy attire wouldn’t be out of place in other European holiday hotspots like France’s Biarritz or Sweden’s Gotland, all know exactly when to chime in with the xenophobic lyrics laid over l’Amour Toujours, a turn-of-the-century track by DJ Gigi D’Agostino.

At one point in the video, one of the partygoers is so taken with the song that he gives himself a Hitler mustache with two fingers while throwing up a floppy 'Sieg Heil' salute with his other hand.'

When European voters headed to the polls on June 9, the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) pulled off its best performance ever, beating Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party and sending political shockwaves through Europe’s most populous country.

The share of young people who voted for the AfD jumped between the last European Parliament election in 2019 and this one (rising by 11% among voters aged between 24 and 30). In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party raked in some 30% of the youth vote nationally — a 10-point rise compared to 2019.

"Sieg Heil is a German phrase that translates to 'Hail Victory.' The Nazi Party in Germany adopted the phrase, which became one of its most widely used."

“Ausländer raus” und Hitlergrüße

“Ausländer raus” und Hitlergrüße auf Sylt: Wie verbreitet ist dieser "Trend" wirklich? (“Foreigners out” and Hitler salutes on Sylt (German island): How widespread is this “trend” really?)

In 2024 the Trump campaigna video referencing Nazi Germany using "unified Reich” in America. Meanwhile, an officer of the Far-Right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Maximilian Krah, told journalists that Nazi SS members weren’t automatically "criminals."

"It depends. You have to assess blame individually. At the end of the war, there were almost a million SS. Günter Grass was also in the Waffen SS," he told La Repubblica and the Financial Times, referring to the German novelist who wrote The Tin Drum (about a dwarf who lives through the birth and death of Nazi Germany, published in 1959 and film version 1979). "Before I declare someone a criminal, I want to know what he did."

The Waffen-SS was made up of three subgroups: the Leibstandarte, Hitler’s personal bodyguard; the Totenkopfverbände (Death’s-Head Battalions), which administered the concentration camps and a vast empire of slave labour drawn from the Jews and the populations of the occupied territories.


Who will continue to do the dirty jobs in the 3D category of dirty, dangerous and difficult, in Europe and Asia?

The migrants of course!

The far-right politicians have foreign maids cleaning up after them, minding their children and elderly parents. In some places, it can be what is called slave labour.

The European Commission has said that during 2022, six EU countries (Ireland, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Sweden, France and Malta) showed a positive natural population increase.

A total of 21 EU Member States had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births the most in Bulgaria (-9.6 per 1,000 persons), followed by Latvia (-7.9) and Lithuania (-7.4).

In relative terms, a total of 26 EU Member States had positive rates of net migration (and statistical adjustment): Malta (41.0 per 1 000 persons), Czechia (30.9) and Estonia (29.5) had the highest crude rates of net migration in 2022, while Greece (-0.2 per 1 000 persons) was the only Member States recording a negative crude net migration rate.

9.5mn domestic workers in Europe: Of the approximately 9.5mn domestic workers in the 27 EU member states, 90% are women. Among them, 6.3mn are declared and at least 3.1mn are working undeclared.

"Migrants carry out a significant proportion of domestic work. In 2013, the ILO (International Labour Organization) estimated that 54.6% of domestic workers in Northern, Southern and Western Europe were migrant workers, a majority of whom are migrant women."

European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said in 2021: “Now is the time to live up to the hopes raised with adopting the ILO Domestic Workers Convention ten years ago and move forward with its ratification and implementation.

"I call on renewed efforts to lift domestic work out of invisibility and unacceptable conditions into recognised, fair and decent work.”

In France, in 2018 there were about 1.4mn domestic work.

France's political oddities in the recent and distant past:

François Mitterrand — socialist president from 1981-1995, who had been a right-wing extremist as a student — had worked for the puppet Vichy government during the Second World War and he was so devoted to its chief, Marshal Pétain, that he was awarded a high decoration attesting to his loyalty. He could get elected twice as president because people who knew, had reason to remain silent.

In 2021 Sciences Po, the French research university, reported that when French people were asked to compare their social situation with that of their parents at the same age, only 36% of respondents described it as better, compared with 41% in Italy, 45% in Germany and 47% in the UK!

An Ipsos-Le Monde poll published between the two rounds of the presidential election in 2022 showed that an identical overwhelming majority of respondents (79%) believed that major social unrest would occur during the next five-year term, regardless of who entered the Élysée Palace. "Most of them are also convinced that the situation in France will worsen (57% if Le Pen was to win; 48% if President Macron was re-elected.)"

Simon Kuper in 2022 noted in The Financial Times: "Why the French think they’ve never had it so bad" "Physical security has improved. The homicide rate halved between 1988 and 2019. To quote the writer Sylvain Tesson: “France is a paradise inhabited by people who think they’re in hell.”'

A poll in November 2021 suggested that 78% feel happy about their own lives, but 60% are convinced that their country is going downhill

According to The Economist "Being idealists, the French find that the real world always disappoints.

Taught from a young age to adopt un esprit critique, they delight in disapproval. As Covid first spread, a poll suggested that only 39% of the French thought that their government was managing the crisis well, compared with 74% in Germany and 69% in Britain. Bleak is chic."