The French Libertarian forums are already trashing the new government of Jean-Pierre Raffarin. “They’re only cutting income tax by five percent!” Scandalous. They haven’t announced the immediate abolition of the protected status of civil servants. Imagine! Michel de Poncins – a speaker at the Libertarian International meeting in Paris, April this year – sums up the mood writing in French that “Rien n’a changé, tout est pareil” (Nothing’s changed, everything is the same).
It all reminds me of the arrival of Mrs Thatcher in the UK in 1979. Not only was the basic rate of income tax only cut by 3 percent, but VAT (sales tax) went up by almost double to 15 percent. There was no privatisation for years. Trade union reforms took five years to introduce. There were corporatists in the Cabinet!
There are three possible explanations for the new government programme:
1) Raffarin has an agenda which is more tactically cunning than the last botched effort at reform (Alain Madelin announced pension and state employee pay reforms and was removed after a week of street demonstrations in 1995).
2) Raffarin is a willing or unwilling stooge for the old corporatist clique who will block any meaningful reform.
3) Both of the above.
The joke is that whatever the conspiracy, events have a habit of running out of hand. M de Poncins latest book is appropriately enough called “Thatcher à l’Elysée”.