January 29, 2017


The Future of France : Review of Faire by François Fillon (EAMON MOYNIHAN, University Bookman)

With respect to his political program, two themes stand out. In a chapter entitled "Regaining Control of our Destiny," he calls for a significant reduction in the size and cost of government, stating that on a percentage basis, France employs twice the number of government workers that Germany does; he has subsequently said that he wants to reduce the number of government employees by 500,000. As part of this reduction process, he plans to extend the work week from 35 to 39 hours. For those workers who are retained, he has promised to increase salaries. Fillon also says he will restore the age of retirement to 65 to reduce the cost of pensions. Further, he promises significant changes in labor law. In another chapter entitled "Belief in Progress," Fillon makes clear that he has no time for modern environmentalism. Deriding what he refers to as a "new religion" that is dedicated to "décroissance" or "shrinkage," he writes, "We have learned to be afraid of everything, of nuclear energy, genetically modified organisms, fracking, nanotechnologies, globalization." Rejecting what he calls the "absurd precautionary principle," he wonders whether "the land of the Enlightenment" is still recognizable. "The world challenges us," he says, "and we respond with obscurantism, jealousy, fear of progress, hatred of success, a blind egalitarianism that drives talent into exile and causes poverty to rise."

Fillon's politics also involve an unusual willingness to acknowledge his Catholicism and a more tentative willingness to support social conservatism. He tackles these issues in two chapters, one entitled "Faith" and the other "Authority." In the chapter entitled "Faith," he writes, "I see in religion an interior force that summons life to rise towards an ideal. It is, since its origins, a remarkable attempt to humanize a desperately untamed humanity and give it the hope of an eternity that can render its brief passage on earth more bearable." In this context, he addresses two controversial social issues, abortion and same-sex marriage. Of abortion he writes, "I believe in the sacred nature of life that Catholicism has taught me, but I consider choice as a fundamental right. I made that decision in good conscience a long time ago." With respect to same-sex marriage, he writes, "I understand the desire of homosexual couples to be recognized for who they are." But, "I contest the desire to have children, which can only be satisfied through adoption or surrogacy, which puts into question one of the fundamental principles of our society, which is kinship [filiation]." And then: "There is no right to a child. This notion is profoundly unhealthy. It proceeds from an incredible egoism that makes a child into a mere instrument for the happiness of its parents."

In the chapter on "Authority," he makes a strong defense of the family in general. "Nothing," he says, "can replace the family in terms of human development, in how we learn to master authority and respect." In a reference to the massive but unsuccessful protests against the imposition of same-sex marriage in France, he says, "The movements that were born in opposition to mariage pour tous were all based on a belief that I share: the essential role of the family. Without it, society would be dehumanized, totalitarian, "socialist" in the sense of the stultifying regimes in the East that lost fifty years of history to the twentieth century. Without it, life consists of loneliness, filling out forms, and waiting in line." In this chapter, Fillon also weighs in on transgenderism, which arguably is the Lysenkoist cousin of the effort to redefine the family. Here he writes, "The force of popular opposition to the wacky [farfelu] project of introducing gender theory into the school curriculum is explained by the exasperation of seeing the State intrude everywhere, going directly into the home, trying to regulate everything."

Posted by at January 29, 2017 8:41 AM