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Thoughts on the French elections

“Listening to the candidates last night, it was clear that there is no pro-capitalist, pro-globalisation, low-tax, eurosceptic, outward looking party in France – there is no equivalent to the British Conservative party’s Thatcherite tendency. What passes for the centre-right in France is social-democratic and fanatically pro-EU; it is very different to the centre-right parties seen in English-speaking countries and many emerging markets. The “right-wing” eurosceptic candidate (who was crushed) is a protectionist who wants to tax the rich – and hates French workers who have moved to London. The only successful eurosceptics are the hard left who believe Brussels to be a capitalist plot and fascists who hate foreigners, the free market and multinationals.”

Allister Heath.

In the latest series of problems to hit the euro-zone, there are problems for the Dutch. Spain and previously, Italy, have been in the news for their economic woes. But France is the Big One. If this country – about the same in terms of wealth as the UK – votes for a socialist, with his promise to impose a 75% tax on those he deems rich, then the cafes, restaurants and schools in and around parts of London will ring even louder with the sounds of French accents than is the case already. The exodus of French people in recent years to these and other shores has been striking (they are not coming here for the weather). It is, if you like, a sort of French version of “Going Galt”, although I doubt any of the French political establishment has ever read Atlas Shrugged, nor cares.

I like France a lot and relish any chance to go there. In fact, during the two weeks of this year’s London Olympics, I am in the southwest of France, in a small town to the west of Montpelier. But I would not want, as a professional, to live in the country if it heads down a damagingly socialist path.

21 comments to Thoughts on the French elections

  • Stephen Willmer

    For crying out loud, as a political science graduate student almost 20 years ago I worked out what Heath seems just to have realised. And in saying that, I’m making no big claims as to the potency of my insight. It’s not unobvious. Sheesh!

  • RAB

    “He would help London by triggering a fresh exodus of workers and capital from France. But he would seek to hurt the City even more via Brussels, making the UK’s relationship with the EU even less tenable. It is unlikely that he would back real austerity next time an EU country goes bust, triggering a massive row with Germany. Ultimately, that is the real story: an Hollande victory, coming as it would in the midst of the Eurozone’s endlessly drawn-out crisis, could destroy the Franco-German alliance that has powered European integration for so long. And if it does, all bets are off.”

    I do so hope he wins. Bring it on, Apocalypse Now! I say. It will be painful for everyone, not just France, but no pain no gain eh? The utter destruction of the EU is my daily fervent wish.

  • Alex

    “there is no pro-capitalist, pro-globalisation, low-tax, eurosceptic, outward looking party in France ”
    Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be one in the UK, either, even though I thought that I had helped vote one into power.

  • Sam Duncan

    Exactly what I was thinking, Alex. It doesn’t seem “very different” to this English-speaking country at all.

  • Sam Duncan

    Mind you…

    Francois Hollande makes no concessions to economic sanity. He promises to hire 60,000 new teachers and lower the retirement age back to 60 on his way to balancing the budget by 2017. He intends to square this circle by introducing a tax of 75 percent on the ‘super rich’.

    At least we’ll have a current practical demonstration of the failure of socialist policies by the time our next election comes round. As RAB says, bring it on…

  • veryretired

    If the men on white horses start jousting over there again, we won’t be coming, not this time.

    Good luck.

  • To be fair, my French colleagues are as unimpressed with the candidates on offer as you are. Although working as they do for a large, well-known, and roundly detested French company they might not be representative.

  • The Sage

    @SamDuncan
    a current practical demonstration of the failure of socialist policiesAs always, that failure will be explained as being because they didn’t impose enough of them. It always is.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    As always, that failure will be explained as being because they didn’t impose enough of them. It always is.

    Quite.

    People in principle want freedom, or at least to keep more of their own money. But when push comes to shove it is always “I don’t want to lose the NHS”, or “Cut benefits but not those ones because I might need them”, or “Sure people should be able to build what they want on their own land – but you’ve got to have planning laws or people would build whatever they want!”.

    The general public are full of schizophrenic self contradictions. Their natural hunger for freedom is more than offset by their predilection for not losing something they feel they already have.

    Governments seem to have a critical mass. Once they reach a certain size the bureaucracy becomes self sustaining then they just keep growing. A small minarchist government might well be a possibility, but we are well and truly beyond the realms of that right now.

    However, with even just a wee bit of free market principles the “running out of other people’s money” problem will just not go away for any large government. All that happens is an escalating cycle of debt and increasingly bad recessions until you reach a depression. Then either the government collapses (good) or it moves the financial goalposts (bad) and the whole cycle starts again. The fact is the only conceivable way a truly massive government could ever possibly “work” is if that government had complete control over the people and their money. With 100% tax and complete monetary control they would say how much a £ was worth so there could never be a recession – only human misery, forever.

    The public’s small minded self interest is always dragging us toward this scenario because of the line that we just need a little bit more government. In fact it is time to slay the beast before we no longer have the ability to do so.

    I have no idea how the general populace could be convinced of this before it is too late.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “there is no pro-capitalist, pro-globalisation, low-tax, eurosceptic, outward looking party in France”

    Well colour me suprised.

  • Unfortunately there does seem to be a connection between outstanding food and unfree societies. In a monarchy the King can monopolize all the best chefs and all the egg whites in a nation and order them to invent the souffle.

    French cuisine was never better IMHO than under Mitterrand, when “La Gauche Caviar” really was determined to live up to its name.

    If Sarko is beaten it’ll be a good sign for the future of French food, but not of course for anyone in France who wants to get a private sector job or who has to pay taxes.

  • RAB

    I love French food. I love their cheeses, their wine, their bread, their hams, stews and crepes. I had two French aunts (both dead now alas) so I know of what I speak.

    But if Hollande gets elected, how good are they on cake? ;-)

  • Antoine Clarke

    Atlas Shrugged has been translated twice into French that I’m aware of. Publication details of the official version:
    La Greve (Atlas Shrugged)
    Editions Belles Lettres
    ISBN 9 782251 444178

    It is probably easier to publish a pro-free market book in France than in the UK, a situation that is masked to some extent by the existence of US imports.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    RAB, and like-minded RABble, it is no good saying ‘Down with the EU!’, unless you can propose something to take its’ place. Europeans will still need some way to deal with each other. If not the EU, then what? Should there be a European congress, or a Free-market League? Any positive suggestions?

  • Laird

    Utter nonsense. Why does something have “to take its’ [sic*] place”? Europe got along quite well for a very long time before there was an EU, and it certainly could again. Anyway, if you insist on a governmental replacement for it a simple “free trade zone” compact would serve perfectly well, without all the offensive bureacratic crap.

    * Couldn’t figure out how to make a possessive out of “its” so you used the one placement of an apostrophe which was guaranteed to be wrong, did you? Clever.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    europe wanted to unite so that they wouldn’t go to war again. This was after WW2, and they were looking for new ways of dealing with each other. Why do you feel that europe doesn’t need them now? Are Europeans more peaceful? Are they nicer to each other?
    As an outsider, living in Australia, I am curious about these matters. As for rules of grammar, still being taught these days, are they?

  • Alisa

    It’s (!) a total straw man, Nuke: everyone and their dog knows that it was not the EU that kept peace in Europe. Worse, it may soon turn out that it will be the EU itself (or more precisely, its pride and joy, the Euro) that will have ruined that hard-earned peace. FWIW, Greece looks anything but peaceful right now.

  • Unfortunately there does seem to be a connection between outstanding food and unfree societies.

    Erm, Russia?!!

  • RAB

    europe wanted to unite so that they wouldn’t go to war again

    Er no “Nuke” we didn’t want to unite, and were never asked to do so. If we had been we (all the Nations) would have answered with a resounding “Fuck off!”

    What we got sold by utopian leftists, was a free trade area. It looked like a good idea in those limited terms after the slow recovery of Europe from WW2, so on those terms at least, Great Britain signed up to it. We were lied to then and were are being continually lied to now, and it is not ony bankrupting all of Europe but likely to lead to the opposite of the myth that Euro Fanatics fervently believe, that their pathetic parasitic existence has saved us from another war, and may very well propagate one instead.

    The only threat of war in Europe since 1870 has always been Germany, and the fight went out of them in 1945. The real threat post 1945 was Soviet Russia, and the mighty EU did not combat that threat in any material form, Nato did. The Soviet threat has crumbled into gangsterism, but make no mistake, Russia is still a real threat, and nothing that the EU could do could stop them if they decided to cut up rough in the west rather than the east, without the might of the USA right beside them, and they and the UK doing most of the heavy lifting, as we always seem to do.

  • Dale Amon

    I wonder… I was rather surprised to run into large collections of French voices in a number of places in this very small town called Mojave California. One morning at breakfast in the hotel there was a TV news item about some politicians seeming to have just discovered that everything from Medicare to Social Security are going bust. I commented to the guy standing watching near by that “anyone who bothered to read has known this was coming for over 30 years” The answer, with a french accent was, “We have the same problem.”

  • Tim

    Caviar , Borsch, pirogi ?

    Not to mention the fact that the Politburo, like the czars before them always ate exceptionally well.