Marine Le Pen at a May 2012 Front National rally after finishing third in the presidential elections.
This is a guide to the French far-right nationalist party the Front National, based on numerous interviews, articles and polls. It also covers broader issues of French attitudes towards their democracy, immigration and Muslims. It is composed of the following subheadings:
- What is the Front National?
- Is support for the Front National growing?
- Do the French agree with the Front National?
- Where does support for the Front National come from?
- What do French people care about? (It’s the economy, stupid.)
- Conclusion: Permanent protest or a party of Government?
Last January a poll claimed that 87% of French said they wanted “a real leader in France to restore order.” The media were equally alarmed with a poll the same month which found that a majority of French thought there were too many immigrants, that Muslims had too many rights, that the police were not tough enough, and that “traditional values” were insufficiently defended. Most remarked upon was that 31% of people said they “completely or mostly agreed with the ideas” of France’s far-right party, the Front National.
I write this rough outline as a sort of postscript to my debate with Leigh Phillips on national democracy.
A typical, and unsurprising, response was that I was idealizing national democracy today. This is a legitimate point of discussion. The fact is that virtually nowhere is classic Western-style liberal democracy working well, at least not in the North American and Western European heartlands. This suggests there are broader trends at work affecting all these countries.
The eurozone is an easy target as it is formally undemocratic (elected representatives of the people have no say over monetary policy, soon will have limited “wiggle room” for budgetary policy, as Jörg Asmussen puts it, and eventually the same for wage, labor and general economic policies). But euro-critics need to answer the charge: isn’t it necessary that national democracy itself to have become heavily dysfunctional for 17 national democracies to create the euro-regime? The eurozone may be merely an aggravating factor or the most open expression of democratic decline in the West.
This chart uses very simple assumptions. It takes the OECD economic outlook data on headline and underlying primary public budget imbalances and look at the impact on GDP if these were brought to zero, assuming a fiscal multiplier of 1.3 (the median of Olivier Blanchard’s range of 0.9-1.7).
I read this little book by John Kenneth Galbraith, the great American liberal economist of the Twentieth Century, over a couple days. I was disappointed. It’s not much more than a narrative history of the speculative stock boom of the late 1920s United States, with just a little bit of analysis at the end. It is history as “one damn thing after another,” with obviously perfect hindsight, made all the more boring because it is financial history, which is to say, a minutely documented record of the mood swings and various tricks of those people who dedicate their lives to “making” money by spinning it in circles. Dismal stuff.
This said, Galbraith is a good writer and there’s quite a few excellent passages, that I quote here that resonate with me, on speculative booms, “pointless meetings” of business and political leaders, central banking, regulation and more that strike me as perfectly relevant to politics today.
I write this post after debating with a friend the merits of Baltic austerity. I add my piece to recent ones by Paul Krugman, Matt Yglesias and Mark Adomanis.
The question is: Are the Baltic states, especially Lithuania and Latvia which both have currencies pegged to the euro, proof that austerity can work? Are they “successes” as described by IMF Chief Christine Lagarde and some American conservatives? Most analyses of these have tended to focus on GDP. I will focus on employment.
I write this post to further a debate I’ve had with Leigh Phillips on his Austerityland blog and Twitter. It was supposed to be a mere summary of our debate. It’s grown into an opusculo developing the extent of my thought today on democracy in the Twenty-First Century. I add it is only an interpretation given my vantage point and others are possible.
In short, the question is: Do we really need to break up the euro? To which I answer, if one is attached to democratically accountable economic policymaking and moderately progressive, Keynesian economics, simply yes.
Click to enlarge.
This post seeks to document, and partly explain, collaboration between the United States of America and Western European states (most being democracies founded under U.S. protection after World War II) in military and political interventions in the Balkans and the Third World.
This is a critical summary of a little manifesto (86 pages) written by French Socialist politician Arnaud Montebourg in the run-up to the Socialist primaries of October 2011. The then-relative unknown, managed to finish third with 17.2% of the vote, and notably far ahead of former presidential candidate Ségolène Royale. Today Montebourg is “Minister for Industrial Renewal” in the Socialist government.
The book offers a look into the French argument for “European protectionism” as a means of maintaining European industries and promoting international environmental and labor standards. While the rhetoric is out of sync with other Europeans, in practice the EU (and many countries across the world) are increasingly resorting traditional and “progressive” protectionism (e.g., that aims to fulfill social or environmental objectives, notably on climate).
I am more and more optimistic these days. I say this even as, or especially because, of the ever-worse economic figures. Even as EU leaders are declaring the “end of crisis” and are hailed by the markets for saying with apparent conviction they’ll “do whatever it takes,” we find out the eurozone’s recession accelerated at the end of last year shrinking -0.6% annually in Q4 and with ever-higher unemployment at 11.9% now spreading even to core countries like Austria and the Netherlands.
Why does this make me optimistic? Here is Emmanuel Todd (one of the few French intellectuals worth listening to):
The euro is not an economic problem but a psychological one. The right comparison is with the Algerian War. Like back then, the ruling classes knew they had failed. But it took four years for de Gaulle to get us out of there. Why can’t we grant the same credit to Hollande? He arrived saying: “I’m going to keep the euro.” Just like de Gaulle had said: “Algeria will stay French.” I have one reason to hope, the interest that Hollande has shown on questions of medical relentlessness [at] the end of life [e.g. not keeping the fatally ill alive beyond all reason]: the euro could be his warm-up!
This post covers Paul Krugman’s views on France between 1990 and 2010 as expressed in his public, non-academic writings. Knowing the champion of American liberalism’s past views helps place his current criticism of the euro crisis in context and highlights similarities and differences with European progressives.
These views can be summarized:
- Criticism of the French project of abandoning the franc in favor of European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU, which created the euro).
- Despair at the excessively symbolic, factually-challenged nature of French economic debate, in particular willful denial on the causes of high unemployment (in his view, overregulated labor markets and the dysfunctions of EMU).
- A strong belief in the power of the French State to act meaningfully in a globalized world.
- Praise for specific regulatory achievements of the French State in areas such as Internet access and healthcare.
- Praise for the “French way of life” as a more balanced, secure and healthy form of economic life.
There is a clear shift in Krugman’s writings. In the 1990s, his writing features his trademark biting analysis and humor, but he is more dispassionate. He sees mainly irrationality: The French are going against their interests in creating the euro, are doing nothing to tackle unemployment, and are in denial as to their own State’s ability (without “Europe”) to manage challenges in a “globalized” world. In the 2000s, with Bush in the White House, his writing is more polemical. Krugman the American liberal can can only look longingly across the Atlantic: France embodies the rational State, managing capitalism in the public interest, while his own country is ruined by an incoherent federal government beholden to business oligopolies and a corrupted pseudo-free market ideology.
I have used the Unofficial Paul Kruman Archive, Krugman’s retro 1990s website, and his New York Times op-ed archive to write this post.