This startling story from France even made yours truly, who has become a jaundiced observer of French political life, sit up and take notice. Apparently, a bunch of people styling themselves as protectors of the Gallic wine industry have issued an ultimatum to new French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, that unless those evil cheap imports from countries such as Australia (the horreur!), New Zealand (Rainbow Warrior, anyone?), South Africa (enough said), America (the Great Satan) and other places are stopped, then supermarkets, offices and other places will be dynamited.
Suppose that people in such venues get killed. I think that such a terrible outcome might begin to get across to the politically and economically uncommitted the true nature of the thuggery that sometimes accompanies protectionism and any form of coercive interference with voluntary economic exchange. Ultimately, such folk believe that you, the consumer, or worker, or entrepreneur, are beholden to buy, produce or sell not on the basis of freely consenting exchanges with your fellows, but on account of some state of affairs that the protectionists deem right and proper. In this case, the wine industry of France, or at least the mass-produced bit of it, is under threat from the cheaper stuff from other parts of the world. (I think it is safe to assume that the producers of Latour or Lafite are unlikely to be worried). I am actually off to Southwestern France in early June for two weeks’ much-needed holiday and the Languedoc region is one of the places where these thugs hail from, apparently. I tend to notice that whenever I visit France, which is quite often, it is hard to see non-French wine in the shops. So if these thugs are getting upset at the arrival of a relatively small amount of foreign imports, they would go totally batshit if they saw the mixed wine-racks in Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s in a standard English town.
Sarkozy’s time in office is unlikely to be a quiet one.