October 17, 2016


Could France's Next President Be a Thatcherite? (Dalibor Rohac, October 17, 2016 | The Weekly Standard)

If the U.S. election season looks too depressing, you might consider following the presidential primaries in France instead. A week ago, the French magazine Le Point--which lies on the French center-right but is very far from the intellectual conservatism in the British or American sense--dedicated a whole issue to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, asking on its cover whether Thatcherism was "the best platform for the 2017 presidential election." [...]

True, the leader of the Kremlin-funded National Front, Marine Le Pen, has a good chance of making it to the second round of the presidential election. Besides her well-known anti-immigration agenda and a promise of leaving the European Union, on the economic front Le Pen promises increased protection against "unfair competition" from countries with low labor costs, employee quotas for native French in specific professions, and industrial policies that she claims would lead to a "re-industrialization" of the country.

Yet it is unlikely that she can command a popular majority against essentially any plausible center-right or center-left candidate. [...]

Hollande's blunders are an opportunity for Emmanuel Macron, whom many on both sides of the political spectrum consider as truly the best hope for the French economy. Until recently a minister of the economy in the cabinet led by the Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Macron spearheaded distinctly pro-market economic reforms: a liberalization of long-distance bus transport, opening up of protected professions including notaries public and judicial officers, and making it easier--albeit only marginally--for companies to fire their employees.

Don't be fooled by appearances. Although Macron was part of the Socialist cabinet, he is not a card-carrying party member. One of Macron's most vocal supporters in France, the libertarian lawyer and intellectual Mathieu Laine (also a Le Point contributor), recently wrote a preface to a French edition of Margaret Thatcher's speeches, giving a glowing endorsement of the Iron Lady's economic reforms he thinks France desperately needs.

It is quite refreshing to see the growing recognition in France that what the country needs is not economic protectionism, populism, and heavy-handed government interventions, but serious structural and fiscal reforms. It is equally refreshing to see the French political class increasingly cognizant of the role that liberal democracies play in keeping the world safe--and of the fact that the United States have failed as of late to hold its part of the bargain.

Posted by at October 17, 2016 12:57 PM