Monday, June 13, 2005

It is difficult for Americans to appreciate just how removed from the French people the nation's bureaucratic elite is

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.

Thomas Jefferson

As the AFP describes the recession of French industry, Anatole Kaletsky tells Europe's politicians, It’s the euro, stupid, and French political leaders jockey for position ahead of 2007 election (merci à Grégoire).

Plus C'est la Même Chose, sighs John Fund. In his maiden speech as prime minister, Nero

assured his audience that his government would not adopt free-market policies of the sort that have made America a robust economy, rescued Britain from two generations of decline, and brought unparalleled prosperity to countries as culturally different as South Korea and New Zealand. Mr. de Villepin comes from an antimarket tradition in France that has long worshipped the centrality of the state. His patron, Mr. Chirac, has even declared that "neoliberalism is the new communism" because it forces societies into a rigid straitjacket of economic policies that include lower taxes and less regulation.

Mr. de Villepin did acknowledge that France, which has suffered from double-digit unemployment for a decade, has to "look reality in the face." But then he declared he was "deeply attached to the French social model" and announced policies that are almost guaranteed to ensure that economic reality will slap France back—and hard. …

It is difficult for Americans to appreciate just how removed from the French people the nation's bureaucratic elite is. Its arrogance is mind-boggling. One of Mr. Chirac's ministers privately compared the public's repudiation of the EU Constitution to a self-indulgent temper tantrum. …

Jean Michel Fourgous, a parliamentary member of Mr. Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement, bemoans his party's refusal to adopt more transparent and consultative government. He told Time magazine that the country has "been hijacked by an intellectually brilliant elite that's dangerously ignorant about the economy." He notes that while the current government is made up largely of people who call themselves conservative, 80% of ministers have never worked at all in the private sector. The few who have "are tolerated, but shoved into subaltern posts."

Small wonder then that those who realize France must change are pinning their hopes on Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of Mr. Chirac's party and the new interior minister, who has announced he will leave office by the end of next year to explore a likely run for president. While he is no Ronald Reagan or even Tony Blair, Mr. Sarkozy cautions against an overly romantic attachment to France's current economic model. "The best social model is one that gives work to everyone," he told an audience recently. "That is no longer ours."

At least the glimmerings of a debate on the role of the state in France's economy and, yes, even some discussion of whether France should be in perpetual conflict with the United States, is beginning. Should Angela Merkel, the pro-U.S. leader of Germany's conservative opposition, win planned elections this fall, and should Mr. Sarkozy succeed Mr. Chirac in 2007, there is at least a chance that Europe will begin to address its problems straight on and even seek a better relationship with the U.S. All the evidence suggests the alternative is continued economic stagnation, which in and of itself breeds resentment and antipathy towards the U.S.

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