System renewal. Challenging established notions. Reimagining our societies.

Is France shooting itself in the foot?

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In the space of three weeks, France has given the world two quite different views of its famous Arc de Triomphe.

On November 11, in front of an audience of seventy foreign leaders, the President of the Republic praised multilateralism for solving global problems and disputes between nations.

On December 1, this symbolic monument of the glories and misfortunes of France reappeared in the world. It was suffused with the smoke of tear gas and fires; echoing the incoherent cries of yellow vests and vandals.

Such a waste! How many worried text messages have we received last weekend from the outside, sent by foreign friends who still love France – its civilization, language, history – but who are sorry for its constant plummet.

Our country has no equal when it comes to shooting itself in the foot. She is no longer prominent in the world except through the damaging images of strikes, attacks, riots. Formerly, it still shone, through its culture, but also its industrial successes, its Concorde, its TGV, its nuclear power.

Thirty years ago, we gave up Colbertism to adopt Anglo-Saxon liberalism and the financialisation of our economy. Unfortunately, both SMEs in our industrial fabric and our population were utterly unprepared for the change.

Plunging our forces of production into the globalised economy, without first making sure they could be competitive, has proven to be a disaster. Deindustrialisation and mass unemployment have invaded small provincial towns. Yellow vests are the offspring.

France’s problem – and its current disarray – is that it has taken the opposite path of its competitors. It became more and more socialist, while its trading partners were less and less so. It is not a very easy position to be practically the last socialist country on the planet!

French socialism has history. It started with Giscard (unemployment compensation at 90 per cent, prior authorisation of dismissal, APL, etc.), then worsened considerably with Mitterrand, Jospin and Holland. Right-wing governments are just interludes where, for fear of street protests, they dare not touch the system – a system we finance through ever greater debt.

Macron is right when he says that this cannot last forever. Yet these statements are immediately treated as being insolent.

The outside world remains puzzled by the contradictions of the French – always demanding more services from the state, but screaming as soon as it comes to financing them.

In America, Asia, and most other European countries, citizens have realized that purchasing power is not something that can be increased with a magic wand. That it is first of all necessary to produce more wealth. This is a fundamental point that seems to escape many of our compatriots.

The yellow vests reproach Macron for having removed (in part) the wealth tax. Foreign countries have trouble understanding this issue, because they all have all gotten rid of this imbecile tax which scares off productive investments.

In France, the wealth tax could yield some 7 billion a year. But, by making rich families flee, it generated a tax loss of more than 30 billion in conventional taxes that these families would have continued to pay in France.

In Anglo-Saxon and Asian culture, tax is a means of financing public expenditure, not a way of punishing the rich. In France, the rich are the enemy. In Paris, we are vandalising beautiful cars because we are envious. In London or New York, they are admired and not touched because it is hoped that one (or one’s children) will one day be able to own one.

The sad reality is that there is no longer a single country in the world that admires egalitarianism in the French way. Because hexagonal socialism does not even work well on its own terms. The French have the highest taxes in the world, but they constantly complain about the mediocrity of the services they receive in return.

In other countries, one does not do not confuse the people with the mob, the demos with the okhlos. The yellow vests wish to express themselves? Why do they not use the path of democracy? Why do they not present candidates for the European elections so that we can finally see their political programme…and their results.

Foreign correspondents in Paris are speechless in front of these 24-hour TVs and French radios providing “information” which has treated Macron to the rule of the three Ls: first I lick, then I let go, finally I lynch.

They rightly think that, if Macron perhaps did not deserve the excessive adulation in May 2017, he certainly does not deserve the indignity with which he is now overwhelmed.

From Le Figaro.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

Comments

  1. Paul Gregory says

    “Why do they not use the path of democracy? Why do they not present candidates for the European elections so that we can finally see their political programme…and their results.”
    Here are some answers and remedies:
    Everywhere, not only in France, people have lost or are losing faith in political parties. Political parties are now the enemies of democracy, as indeed they are opposed to deciding matters by force of reason. Secondly, citizens have no precision of choice in the voting booth either at EU level or that of the nation state. Everything is mixed together – infrastructure, foreign affairs, migration, finance, taxation, and, at the level of the nation state, much more, including ethics (beginning and end of life issues plus much else). Therefore, citizens vote for different things, and the assembly has almost no representative legitimacy.
    Your plea for candidature for the European Parliament is wide of the mark since this parliament has very limited powers. It could, however, gain legitimacy in the same way national parliaments could regain respect. For example, let there be a European parliament for the environment and a separate one for foreign, defence and immigration policy. The European Parliament should end its mandate of membership of parties and its rules on party coalitions.
    In the case of France and the present dispute: You could create an assembly which is dedicated to taxation. Now that we are well into the 21st century there is no strict need for parties since votes that would otherwise go uncounted can be aggregated to create precise representation. I have described this in detail at my website fuzzydemocracy.eu and a more exhaustive analysis is waiting publication at Radix, delayed because of the current turmoil in the UK. Briefly, a candidate must achieve a fixed number of votes for election. Those candidates falling far short transfer their votes to a like-minded candidate closer to the threshold. Similarly candidates obtaining more than they need transfer their surplus. Anyone can stand and does not need to belong to a party; they simply pay an affordable deposit and obtain several hundred supporter signatures. This was and is inconceivable with paper ballots. Fuzzy D. uses electronic voting as in small backward countries (!?) like India.
    Everyone knows that the Fifth Republic has outworn its usefulness. Constitutions, even good ones, need a thorough overhaul every fifty years or so. But incremental change would be possible, too. Macron is an autocrat like May and Merkel, clinging to power rather than understanding that political reason is distributed. We have to end this practice of concentrating power in a single individual.
    Feel free to translate and submit to Le Figaro. Writing from Haute-Loire.

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