Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Americanization of French Politics

At first glance the contrast could hardly be greater. In Germany, the main political parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party, have agreed to share power, after expressing (polite) differences before the voters. In France, the right and the left abuse each other to the point that one might imagine they differ about almost everything — levels of taxation, social security and immigration policy. Nevertheless, with a distinct prospect of a rematch for the Elysée with the same leading contenders as in 2012, and the media already setting the scene, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande might do well to follow the example of Angela Merkel and Sigmar Gabriel, and join forces to form a government that would more or less continue to follow the direction of the past 30 years.

Hollande, in Devoirs de vérité (The Duties of Truth, 2006), admitted that the Socialists and the liberal right were of one mind on European economic, financial, monetary, trade and industrial policy: “It was François Mitterrand … with Pierre Bérégovoy … who deregulated the French economy and effectively opened the way for all forms of competition. It was Jacques Delors who … helped to establish the European monetary system with its political implications for the development of macroeconomic policy. It was Lionel Jospin who introduced the most innovative industrial changes, even though it meant partly privatising utilities — a move for which he was criticised. So, let’s get rid of this wretched ideological baggage that deceives no one” (1). Eight years later, there is nothing to add.

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