I have not said much about the first round of the French presidential elections because there is either little to say or because no one I know is interested in going as far as I would have to go to say anything interesting. The Wall Street Journal for one has done a fine job of covering the election and of commenting on it. Here I go, nevertheless. I followed the campaign and I thought it was surrealistic or maybe, like a Club Med performance.
Three topics that never got any traction during the campaign: 1 What to do about national indebtedness (90% of GDP, no worse than ours today); 2 What to do about non-existent economic growth; 3 In the long run, is there a connection between the two issues
It’s not the case that there was no debate, just not that debate. On the tarmac: Keep the Euro, to what extent? Retirement at 62 or back to 60, again? Is Pres. Sarkozy rude? Are the rating agencies including the one that took away France’s AAA rating anti-French? Should the Europeans, the French, start their own rating agency? (Would I make this up? Maybe the European Rating Agency could be in the charge of Greece.)
The big surprise – which should not have been one – is the good showing of Marine Le Pen’s Front National. It’s reputed to be racist but I think that’s the after-image from the bad old days when her loudmouth father was running the show. She has cleaned up her party’s act. Now, I think she won big because she speaks to frustrated, ordinary French people a language they understand. That’s the language of economic fallacy focusing on trade protectionism and the state control of capital movements. It’s the same fallacies that many people in this country carry in their heads. The difference with France is that there, they have their own party! That’s more democratic, in a way.
There is a essay I am thinking of writing but don’t because I am afraid it would turn into a thick book: In today’s world, if you don’t know English, you are liable to be systematically misinformed.
Here is a reaction to the news of the Florida shooter being freed on bail I picked up in the readers’ mail of the major French paper Le Figaro: “Money allows you to buy yourself out of anything!” (My competent translation.) The person who wrote this thinks that by posting bail, the shooter has put an end to all his trouble. If you told her that there is going to be a trial and that the shooter just might do time, she would probably tell you she does not believe in the tooth fairy.
Back to the French elections: Sarkozy will lose. It won’t be because of what he did or didn’t do. It will be because every politician who was in power in the fall of 2008 bites the dust the first time there is an election. That’ regardless of party affiliation or left/right orientation.
François Hollande will become president of France. He is all skim-milk, not even 2% milk. He is a lifelong Socialist Party bureaucrat whose main connection to power is that he used to share a bedroom, with the woman, Ségolène Royal, who lost the election the last time around. Like our president, Hollande has never accomplished anything in his life. And he is not even black!
For a short time, the French Socialist party looked like it was going to put forth ideas different from those it has been pushing for the last thirty years. Then, a New York City hotel chambermaid complained loudly and it was back to the old days for the Socialists. But you know that story already.