Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More on the trouble with Jacques Chirac

For the purposes of educational discussion here are some soundbites from a “comment” article, now behind subscription, that appeared in the Financial Times today. I fully concur with their views on Chirac - see my early April post - The trouble with Jacques

Never before has the French electorate rejected both its leadership and Europe to this extent: 56 per cent voted No on a 70 per cent turnout. The striking feature, however, is not the No vote itself but the fact that France is still so collectivist. This offers an opportunity to paraphrase Mr Chirac's famous remonstration to new members of the European Union; this time, it was he who missed "an opportunity to shut up".

French voters resented being told that they had a say, provided they consented. This is sadly revealing of both the nature of technocratic power and the government's subsequent refusal to engage in genuine debate once it outlined its grand designs. Mr Chirac has lost the authority of his leadership. He has squandered his presidency and gained a mandate for "losership".

The strong rejection of the treaty highlights the final throes of a regime reaching the end of its socialist tether, largely thanks to Mr Chirac. Elected in 1995 and again in 2002, the French president is emblematic of all things wrong in France. He has done everything to bolster interventionism and support for public sector lobbies, scorning anything smacking of free markets. He even recently managed to denounce liberalism as being "worse than communism" without raising eyebrows inordinately. French EU policy is predominantly concerned with its own influence and the common agricultural policy; the rest is silence. Internationally, Mr Chirac has abundantly proven the one constant in his career: a sustained critique of western democracy and capitalism, coupled with excuses and support for dictatorships in the name of cultural relativism.

Whenever the Franco-German tandem reached an obstacle, deal-making in Brussels provided a solution (as in the services directive). This model is now obsolete, as is the French dirigiste agenda. Recent and future enlargements of the Union are likely to tip the balance towards countries that reject constructivist designs and social engineering. The countries of central and eastern Europe endorse free-market policies (such as low and flat taxes). They also recognise, unlike Mr Chirac, that it was Ronald Reagan (not Mikhail Gorbachev) who deserves credit for the demise of the Soviet Union which enabled their liberation.

The vainglorious ambition to impose French rationalism on Europe is doomed. The former masterminds of EU integration are currently busy with damage control in their own countries. France and Germany, with slight differences, are slowly approaching moral, political and economic bankruptcy.

An enlarged Europe means that France and Germany will progressively lose their influence, because they have failed to provide a model, and thus effective leadership.

Quotes taken from A new mandate for losership