Tuesday, August 28, 2007

George Will vs. Sarko

I think I am incapable of being unbiased when it comes to posting about France due to my incredibly positive experience with their cheese. Thus in that spirit I will disagree with George Will's refusal to acknowledge Sarkozy's election as a good sign for those hoping to see liberalizing reforms of the French economy.

What Will doesn't recognize is that the anti-globalization and anti-Americanism of the left which stifles reform in France is so historically blind, and discredited due to snail-like rates of growth and high unemployment that it has come to occupy in France the position that right wing talk radio occupies in America. Don't forget that in France the Socialists are the conservatives. They are the ones who don't want change, and against all good sense they want to protect a statism whose entitlements they try to intertwine with French identity. And like talk radio they make the same intellectually impoverished and ideologically dogmatic claims about resisting a gravitation to a more liberal system which inevitably gets compared to America.

When I was in France during the tumult over de Villepin's attempt to liberalize French labor laws a friend, who opposed him, could do nothing more than speak in vagaries claiming that unlike America, France had no "working poor" and other such horrors of the American system. It apparently passed him by that they do in fact have quite a lot of non-working poor.

Will's pessimism about Sarkozy needs to be tempered. At least now a French politician has been elected on different rhetoric, and speaking kindly of America and of economic liberalization is no longer anathema to the electorate. Many economic neo-liberals here were overly ebullient at his election and expressed hopes- calling him the French Margaret Thatcher -that he won't be able to satisfy, but he is a step in the right direction and if nothing else will make talk of reform politically tenable in the near future. If you keep in mind that in France the socialists are the conservatives this makes sense. They are the ones who represent what they think is more traditionally French. And as the right here uses cultural demonization of liberals and Reagan-worship, so too do the socialists in France use Mitterrand-worship and anti-Americanism. That's not Sarkozy.


Harry said...

...the ones who don't want change, and against all good sense they want to protect a statism whose entitlements they try to intertwine with...identity.

Conservatives? Those French folks sound much like the Massachusetts House, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, MBTA workers, or any number of other local groups in this Bluest of Blue States.

Bill said...

Oh they are much worse than the MBTA. The subway and bus drivers in Lyon have been on strike for about 15 years now and to keep the spirit alive they shut down public transit for a few hours once a week. A scheduled tantrum if you will.