Sunday, April 22, 2007

Afraid for France

Today's first-round presidential elections in France are making me nervous. What if Sarkozy comes out way in front? What if the second-round consists of a choice between Sarkozy the wannabe Thatcherite and le Pen, the National Front right-wing racist? What if French voters turn out to be as dumb as we are?

Some reasons why they might be:

1. Sarkozy is widely portrayed in the press as a New Man, a bold, vigorous, decisive leader able to break France's attachment to its statist past. France could vote in effect to get rid of its best features - great public services like transportation and health care, and make its crappy features, like its university system and its rigid, top-down corporate world, even worse.

2. France's poor, though a much smaller piece of the pie than in the U.S., are often portrayed as violent, illiterate, Islamic fanatics who refuse to assimilate into France. Shades of Thatcher and Reagan, Sarkozy parades his contempt for the "scum" of the projects in place of meaningful accomplishments in reducing crime and increasing school achievement and employment. But these strong-man gestures please a lot of people in all countries.

3. France's business class is as irresponsible as that of the US and the UK, and incessantly demands lower taxes and easier firings rather than solutions to real social problems like racism, unqualified school grads, social polarization, and - the one we never talk about - clueless business elites who really have no idea how to make their companies excel internationally, and so fall back on milking their own public sectors.The slogan should be "Sarko le mediocre." This is a guy who never had a new idea in his life, who plays the race card and the deregulation card like the Anglo-Saxon right began doing thirty years ago. He would be the worst of both worlds, delivering cronyist neoliberalism in economics (France's biggest companies getting more favors, not getting more productive, and doing less and less for the country), and racialized dismantling of society, exploiting France's diminishing confidence in the value of its great public services and residual egalitarianism.

Is France on a death trip of its own?

Sunday symptoms:
  1. our own utterly decadent leaders, anatomized by Fr. Frank
  2. free market health care strikes again in America's death-trip zone, The South
  3. migrate to live under globalization
  4. finally a non-stupid piece on France in the New York Times
  5. American financial culture's made-up rules: are we smart enough to follow the story?
  6. shareholder votes on executive pay? One small step for reform.


SurferGirl said...

But he -I'm referring to Chirac as portrayed in the NY Times piece- achieved nothing! The guy is highly seductive, granted, he even got me to vote for him, and I'm not referring to the 2002 debacle... But look at the mess on the European Constitution issue!! And the fact that, 12 years ago, France had the exact same issues it has now!! Only now we are sitting on a massive time-bomb, too afraid to move in any direction...

Chris Newfield said...

you are right! death trip it is.