Thursday, April 19, 2007
The French go to the poles in the first of two rounds of voting for a new President this Sunday. The stakes could not be higher for this fading member of "old Europe." The twelve candidates running in the first leg of the voting, who represent everything from communists to Joan of Arc, will be pared down to a short list who will then face off again in two weeks. There are three candidates who are leading in the poles, Socialist Segolene Royal, Francois Bayrou, the centrist, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative. There are more twists in this election than we would have in the US in five elections, but I want to comment on the eventual winner, who I believe will be Sarkozy(nickname Sarko). He is speaking Reaganesque, and the average Frenchman, no matter what they think of the US or Sarkozy, for that matter, knows that he is telling them the truth -- they live in a failed economy. French economic growth is among the weakest in Europe and less than a third of that of the US; unemployment is near 8.5%, almost twice that of the US and England, and their brightest and wealthiest citizens are leaving the country for lower taxes in Belgium and around the world. In an interview with the "New Yorker," Sarkozy said the following: " “In this country, work isn’t encouraged, it has no value. We’re in a crisis that comes from a very false idea of solidarity—the idea that you have to give as much to the person who doesn’t work as to the one who does. The élites have been wrong about this for decades. They have betrayed the idea of equality and given us egalitarianism.” I[ the "New Yorker" author speaking] brought up the grim projects across the ring roads of every French city—hundreds of neighborhoods where young people are so disaffected and angry that the police are reluctant to enter, and where Sarkozy himself is largely unwelcome to campaign. “The voters there aren’t scared of me,” he said. “They are the ones who ask me to do something. Why else am I in first place in the polls? I have been interior minister for five years. I am efficient. I get things done. I say this in my campaign: the risk isn’t change, the risk is to refuse change.” Sarkozy is saying exactly what Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher said in the 1980s: that too many people are riding on the wagon and too few are pulling the wagon. France, absolutely, must give incentives for people to get off the government dole and disincentives for them to stay on it. Sarkozy is the only major candidate who remotely understands economics. He is the last best hope for France. If he loses, France, as we know it, may become nothing more than a kind of Disneyland of Europe -- beautiful old buildings, immaculately cared for, with lots of visitors, but everybody goes home at night. If the bettors can be believed, Sarkozy has a commanding lead. The chart below shows that at the online betting site, Intrade.com, he is favored by nearly 70% of the betting crowd. For the entire world's sake, let's hope they are correct. The French may be finally coming to terms with the abject falsehood of Leon Trotsky's assertion that capitalism would die under a workers' revolt. It is ironic that there now appears to be a "non-workers" revolt underway in France that will drive a stake in the heart of Leon, Karl Marx, and Frederick Engels.