French election: Macron’s huge majority a misleading guide to France

Today in The Australian

In Britain, voters split on left-right lines; in France, they moved to the centre. Little wonder the commentary has been all over the place, with some pundits claiming the swing to Jeremy Corbyn heralds a revival of the clash between left and right, while others have hailed Emmanuel Macron’s triumph as signalling a move away from the politics of division.

About Henry Ergas

Henry Ergas AO is a columnist for The Australian. From 2009 to 2015 he was Senior Economic Adviser to Deloitte Australia and from 2009 to 2017 was Professor of Infrastructure Economics at the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. He joined SMART and Deloitte after working as a consultant economist at NECG, CRA International and Concept Economics. Prior to that, he was an economist at the OECD in Paris from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. At the OECD, he headed the Secretary-General’s Task Force on Structural Adjustment (1984-1987), which concentrated on improving the efficiency of government policies in a wide range of areas, and was subsequently Counsellor for Structural Policy in the Economics Department. He has taught at a range of universities, undertaken a number of government inquiries and served as a Lay Member of the New Zealand High Court. In 2016, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia.
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6 Responses to French election: Macron’s huge majority a misleading guide to France

  1. Oh come on

    I had learnt not too have any faith in politicians promising miracles, as they never deliver – but that was before Trump. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because he devised a strategy to win the Oval Office that was pretty universally regarded as an impossible path to victory. Yet he did it. Now he’s governing in a way that makes you hopeful he’ll manage to enact at least some of the policy platform he took to the election. So yeah, I’m willing to suspend my cynicism when it comes to Trump because he’s made decent progress in he promised he’d do. Which happens these days…well…never. Trump doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk.

    But Macron? Oh, please. He’s just another Eurocrat made in the same sausage factory as the rest of them. Macron hasn’t got a hope of getting a great deal m ore of his domestic agenda through than his predecessor managed. He might make a few squeaks about reforming this and that, then the myriad of French lobby groups will stop that dead in its tracks. Along with anyone unfortunate enough to be on a French motorway at the same time.

    Sarkozy was a more formidable politician than Macron is, and Sarko pissed his pants at the forces ranged against him as a result of his proposal to raise the public service retirement age from 19 to 19 and 2 and a half weeks. Result? He ineffectually tinkered around the edges of what needed to be done and was a one-term President. Macron will go the same was as Sarko – and Macron’s mentor, Hollande.

    France needed a heart transplant in 2016. It got an ingrown toenail removed instead.

  2. Infidel Tiger

    A centrist in France would have similar politics to the Australian Greens.

  3. Harlequin Decline

    Fascinating to see the decline in voter participation. As Henry states it is as if the peasants realise that whatever they do via the ballot box it has no effect on the aristocracy so if they want something the only way is to demonstrate/riot. Sounds a bit like France before the revolution.

  4. Rafe Champion

    +1 The big story is the low turnout. That means there is next to no block of support for anything he wants to do. Result – “not happy Mr Macron!”

    But
    But inchoate social movements are poor vehicles for negotiating alternatives. France’s periodic explosions therefore have led repeatedly to paralysis rather than serving as a basis for building agreement on how to proceed.

    Compare with Popper’s comments on public opinion and liberal principles.

    Public opinion can be very powerful and hence liberals (wary of concentrations of power and their danger) should treat it with a degree of suspicion: “Owing to its anonymity, public opinion is an irresponsible form of power, and therefore particularly dangerous from the liberal point of view.”

    On the liberal theory of free discussion, he suggested that freedom of thought and discussion are ultimate liberal values that are not in need of further defence or justification. However he noted that they can be given additional support on account of the way they contribute to the search for truth and the elimination of error by critical public discussion.

    In connection with some practical problems such as censorship and monopolies of publicity he had no theses to offer, just questions, for example what should be done about the influence and responsibility of the intelligentsia in connection with spreading ideas such as socialism, and their role in the acceptance of tyrannical fashions such as abstract art [and political correctness]?

    He ended with some random thoughts on the use and abuse of public opinion.

    “It may sometimes assume the role of an enlightened arbiter of justice. Unfortunately it can be managed. These dangers can be counteracted only by strengthening the liberal tradition. Public opinion should be distinguished from the publicity of free and critical discussion which is (or should be) the rule in science, and which includes the discussion of moral and other issues. Public opinion is influenced by, but is not the result of, nor under the control of, discussions of this kind. Their beneficial influence will be the greater the more honestly, simply, and clearly, these discussions are conducted.”

    We could certainly use some honesty and clarity in public discussion. Good luck with that:)

  5. Fulcrum

    The odds favour Macron turning out to be Hollande’s clone.

  6. John

    A friend just sent me this. Tongue in cheek but interesting:
    Subject: Interesting Statistics on Europe’s decision makers

    Some statistics:
    One noteworthy reality about Europe’s current political leadership is summarized here by Phil Lawler:

    • Macron, the newly elected French president, has no children.
    • German chancellor Angela Merkel has no children.
    • British prime minister Theresa May has no children.
    • Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni has no children.
    • Holland’s Mark Rutte,
    • Sweden’s Stefan Löfven,
    • Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel,
    • Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon—all have no children.
    • Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, has no children.

    “So a grossly disproportionate number of the people making decisions about Europe’s future have no direct personal stake in that future.”

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