May 7, 2007

EuroShock: France Moves Right

Europe appears in shock today as the center of European socialism has rejected the Socialists and moved to the right. The victory of Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential election has the continent abuzz, trying to discern its meaning and its impact for the rest of Europe. Der Spiegel reports that France "lurched" to the Right, and warns of social conflict as a result:

Perhaps it wasn't exactly a landslide, but it was certainly an unambiguous result: France's 44 million voters have chosen Nicolas Sarkozy, the strong man of the governing UMP, with a resounding majority and a record turnout. They have chosen his vision of a radical revitalization of the Republic and a return to the nation's patriotic foundations. Sarkozy's convincing win is the triumph of political individualism over the rival worldview of the Socialist candidate Ségòlene Royal and her vision of a "participatory democracy" -- which too often got lost in vague affirmations.

What's clear about Sunday's vote is that it marks a turning point for France. After the gray era of 12 years of "Chiraquie," the citizens of France have backed the candidate who spoke of change and even a "break" with established tradition. With an eye to chronic unemployment, spiraling state debt, globalization and the disappearance of entire industry sectors to lower-wage countries, the French have put their money on a politician who has always vowed to radically and swiftly liquidate France's historic mortgage -- the civil servant apparatus, the privileges of teachers and social workers, the influence of the unions.

Stefan Simons doesn't make this sound like a beneficial move on the part of the French. He denigrates the notion that Sarkozy will make any changes to France's direction, noting that Sarkozy helped Jacques Chirac run France for the past five years. He's hardly an outsider, Simons complains, even if he almost ran as an opposition candidate. That's about what a non-Socialist is in Europe these days, though, something Simons doesn't address.

He also sneers that Sarkozy ran a campaign based on fear. Sarkozy "dipp[ed] his hand into the toolbox of America's neoconservatives," Simons accuses. However, it was Segolene Royal who tried to scare the French away from Sarkozy by talking about riots in the streets if he won; Simons doesn't bother to mention that, nor does he give any thought at all to the fact that Socialism is founded on fear. Socialism addresses the fear of failure by never giving individuals the opportunity to risk and gain in proportion to that risk.

Simons deplores the thought of Sarkozy at the helm of the presidency, and doesn't bother to mask it. He fears that Sarkozy will be "seduced" by the power of his office. Farther on, he dreads Sarkozy's "brutish approach" and warns that he will pay no regard to "civil society". The problem the French perceive is that civil society is under threat from riotous Muslims, unemployment, and a sense of failure.

In fact, Americans might recall this kind of hysteria. It happened in late 1980, when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter, and the liberals screeched that the end was nigh for American democracy.

The Times of London takes a more balanced approach:

Setting the tone for a revolution after 12 years in which President Chirac often seemed to be disconnected from events, Mr Sarkozy has promised that after he takes office on May 17: “I will not be a referee, a monarch sheltering in the Elysée Palace. I will govern and take responsibility.”

His first task, after several days’ reflection, is to appoint a Prime Minister and what he says will be a tight Cabinet of only 15 full ministers. ...

Mr Sarkozy, who calls himself the “champion of the France that gets up early in the morning”, expects to face strong resistance from trade unions, public-service workers and the Left to his radical measures to encourage people to work longer hours and to cut benefits for the unemployed. He believes that his mandate from the majority of France will give him the authority to face down protesters, as Margaret Thatcher did in Britain after 1979. “I’m sorry if they don’t like change, but they are not the ones being elected,” Mr Sarkozy said of the powerful, Communist-led CGT union.

If Sarkozy can get the kind of reaction from the Left as he has from Der Spiegel based on his moderate panel of reforms, then France has elected the right man for the job, as well as the man from the Right.

UPDATE: Financial Times predicts that Socialism will have to mutate to a capital-friendly form if it expects to survive:

Let the finger-pointing begin. Ségolène Royal’s defeat on Sunday night left the French Socialist party in disarray and searching for someone to blame. There is hardly a shortage of scapegoats.

It is the party’s third consecutive presidential defeat. The Socialists now face the question of whether they can ever regain power without ditching their anti-capitalist rhetoric, as the mainstream left has done across almost all of Europe.

Ms Royal can argue that she did better than Lionel Jospin, who in 2002 led the Socialists to a humiliating third place behind Jacques Chirac and far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. But France’s main opposition party still faces a wrenching crisis.

”The left is not credible on so many issues, from the 35-hour working week to immigration and law and order,” says Dominique Reynié, professor at Sciences Po university.

Michael van der Galien puts it rather succinctly:

Socialism has had its day; socialism has brought moral decline, high unemployment rates, weak, unstable economies, huge governments, regulation in just about every area of one’s life; it has caused something called personal responsibility to disappear; it has brought moral relativism; it has learned us that we cannot be proud of our respective country; it has made large groups of people unnecessarily dependent on the government; it has forced us to accept the failed concept of multiculturalism; it has taught us (I mean Europeans in general with that) that whatever you do, you have to be politically correct; it has created an environment in which one is not allowed to name problems, let alone deal with them; it has taught us that criminals are not to blame for their crimes, society as a whole is and that they, therefore, should be coddled instead of punished… oef, the list goes on and on.

Socialism has weakened France, and Europe as a whole; it is time to get rid of it.

Perhaps it has put Western civilization back on its historical path -- the reliance on and the rights of the individual, not the collective.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference EuroShock: France Moves Right:

» First Cup 05.07.07 from bRight & Early
... [Read More]

Comments (21)

Posted by Rob D [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 8:59 AM

Sarkozy expressed support for the US but also asked the US to take the lead on the global warming issue. Will American conservatives also applaud this stance?

Posted by TomB | May 7, 2007 9:06 AM

Maybe, just maybe there is hope?...

Posted by Labamigo [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 9:15 AM

It is too much to think that this election means socialism is dead. It is not. There are more people who want to be supported by the Nanny State than who want to be responsible for their own well being.

Posted by redleg | May 7, 2007 9:17 AM

Yet Sarkozy also said that friends may disagree. Unless the liberals would like to believe that adage only applies to one side of the friendship. That's the beauty-- we don't have to agree but still can work together unstead of undermining each other.

I think the eco-nazi stance is junk science as are the Kyoto Protocols but that does not mean we should trash the enviornment. But I would hear out his views and act on them as appropriate (even if I think them to be wrong headed or bloody minded).

Posted by Labamigo [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 9:34 AM

It is too much to think that this election means socialism is dead. It is not. There are more people who want to be supported by the Nanny State than who want to be responsible for their own well being.

Posted by IAmFree [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 9:35 AM

Socialism is a disease that eventually destroys every country it touches. America needs to look at Europe and see where this path leads but most of America won't be allowed to see this because the carriers of the Socialist virus are the media and academia, who have a vested interest in keeping the truth about how deadly socialism is to society suppressed. In 1980 I believed America was doomed because we were too far gone to turn it around but we did under Reagan (God rest his soul). I hope and pray that Sarkozy will do the same for France. (This does not mean I agree with every thought he has, but I love his general vision.) Godspeed Sarkozy.

Posted by docjim505 | May 7, 2007 10:09 AM

”The left is not credible on so many issues, from the 35-hour working week to immigration and law and order,” says Dominique Reynié, professor at Sciences Po university.

Wait... Are they talking about the left in fwance or the American left???

Cap'n Ed wrote:

In fact, Americans might recall this kind of hysteria. It happened in late 1980, when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter, and the liberals screeched that the end was nigh for American democracy.

We don't have to go back to 1980 for this kind of hysteria. We get it on a regular basis today. At least the libs then didn't blame Reagan for everything from hurricanes to terrorist attacks as they now blame Bush.

The reaction to Sakozy's election is absolutely predictable, though. Lefties are so intolerant that they simply can't comprehend that people would possibly vote for anybody but them or fail to wholeheartedly embrace their policies. Sarkozy's going to have as much fun dealing with lefty clowns in his country as Bush has had dealing with the loonies here in America. Maybe they should get together and compare notes... assuming the Congress doesn't monopolize Sarkozy for advice on how to surrender.

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 10:19 AM

There may be hope in the notion that perhaps France has rediscovered itself. Maybe they've decided to be Frenchmen rather than Europeans.

And as far as their being friends of America, that could mean almost anything. They may identify with our ideals but let's don't get all dewy-eyed and assume that they are going to agree with us about everything we decide to do or say. They are France, and that is a wholly different experience and vision and set of interests. Remember, friends know how to argue without fighting, and that's the real difference!

All my friends argue with me; that's why they're my friends!

Posted by Jabba the Tutt [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 10:26 AM

France lurches right or moves right. I prefer a vertical scale, where moving up is moving towards freedom, individualism and human rights and moving down is moving toward authoritarianism, collectivism (tribalism) and loss of human rights. Sarkozy definitely wants to move France upwards, while the Socialist Royal (what an appropriate name) wants collective ethics, where any nail that sticks up above the others is pounded down.

Socialism/communism/fascism, collectivism of whatever flavor is the attempt to re-create the ethics of the earliest of humanity: the nomadic clan. Look at today's Bushmen living in the wild, they share everything, they live in extended family groups and there is no individual property ownership. Socialists like to paint individualism as old values, with socialism as the new, modern values. The opposite is the truth.

Collectivism tries to re-create the ancient tribal/clan society. This simply is not possible to do and maintain a modern industrial society. This is actually recognized by the deep ecologists, who value collectivism over modern industrial society and advocate a return to the pre-modern.

In a Democracy, voters eventually learn this about collectivism and vote it down. A majority of French voters have voted for modern, free, industrial society with all of its problems over the vague phantasies of the socialist family society. I predict even more hysteria and violence by the collectivists, which will push even more French into the Sarkozy camp.

Posted by SM | May 7, 2007 10:44 AM

"Perhaps it has put Western civilization back on its historical path -- the reliance on and the rights of the individual, not the collective."

I admit to being perplexed by statements like this from self-described conservatives. If someone put that quote in front of me and asked whether a conservative or a leftist had said it, my first guess would be that he was a leftist--my only apprehension being that I caonstantly see this sort of quasi-libertarian sentiment on supposedly right-wing blogs all the time.

I don't think that the West's "historical path"--as Marxist a formulation as you're likely to find--is some dichotomous favoring of the individual, on whose rights we somehow "rely." Note that the Consitution makes paltry and indirect reference to the rights of the individual, but numerous explicit references to the rights of "the people." Conservatism of any serious kind does not establish this opposition between the individual and the collective. Maybe I'm just an old-school Burkean kind of guy, but my understanding of conservatism has always been an appreciation of the recieved wisdom of the collective, expressed in tradition, custom, and, finally, law.

It's true that the exalataion of the individual is uniquely Western, but it is an understanding that does not denigrate "the collective," nor establish the individual as the entire basis of the social order as against opporessive things like families, nations, ethnicities, religions--you know, collectives. Conservatives are so confused on this point. Law-and-order, pro-family, and so on; but never missing a chance to sound that libertarian bell and equate "the West" with "American individualism." They aren't synonymous, and it is entirely possible to conceive of one without the other.

But there again, this is a quasi-libertarian weblog. I should expect that the main real objection to socialism here is that it does not exalt the individual quite enough, which is a major misreading of what is wrong with socialism. I was truly astounded to discover, by actually studying European history, how pivotal socialism of various sorts has been in the raising up of the individual. I despise socialism all the same, but the fact is that when leftists talk about the Power of One, they really mean it.

Posted by SM | May 7, 2007 11:04 AM

I should note that when I say that the Constitution does not explicitly reference the rights of "the people," I realize that those rights also guarantee the rights of individuals. But it is significant that the rights of the individual were believed to follow naturally from protecticng the rights of the self-governing collective, not the other way around.

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 11:32 AM

I agree that there is a large confusion out there about the differences between Socialism and the more Libertarian notions of society, but I think it stems from a failure to recognize some critical distinctions. For example, we like to pay homage to "Liberty" without really understanding that the term implies a self-ordered society that doesn't need the formal coercive structure of government to maintain itself. Under this kind of regime, government is created by the society to provide a broad space for society to function on its own while guarentying the rights of individuals within it. The remark attributed to Justice Frankfurter comes to mind that "The law should fit a man like a comfortable suit of clothes." in the respect that the government should fit the society that create's it with equal ease.

The problem with that model however, is that it degrades and frays as the society fragments and atomizes in the process of industrialization and growth and migration and civil war and depression and social change, so that it no longer has the structure required to be self-regulating. When this happened in America, we redefined "liberty" into "license" with the help of John Stuart Mill, where the highest virtue lies in a kind of Maslovian individual self-actualization that appears more like hedonism than anything else. Consequently, the "collective" needs to use the force monopoly of government to structure society because the natural structure has failed, and that leads into the intrusive micromanaging that everyone resents so intensely. In fact, I have often thought that one of the critical differences between left and right is that conservatives strive for freedom IN society, while liberals strive for freedom FROM society!

In any event, nice post SM! Very thoughtful, and very well expressed. Thanks!

Posted by Joselito | May 7, 2007 12:10 PM

Unfortunately, it is too late for France. There are too many muslims, too few jobs, and too many socialists used to the government benefits in which they have been basking. What the French have done to themselves, and, perhaps what we are in the process of doing to ourselves, cannot be undone without some great loss of blood. Just as the cauterization of a wound requires pain, so does the cure for the deadly socialism of the French.

Posted by Kinch [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 12:44 PM

A pro-American, pro-capitalist has been elected President of France. How long will it be till Democrats demand a recount?

Posted by Snippet [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 2:12 PM

"Perhaps it has put Western civilization back on its historical path -- the reliance on and the rights of the individual, not the collective."

This is obviously an expression of the sort of person that would be described as "conservative" in contemporary American politics. Whether or not he should be is a different question entirely.

It reflects an emphasis that most Americans who are called conservatives harp on incessantly.

We could quibble forever about what 'REAL" conservatism is, but for whatever reason, contemporary liberals DO talk about, think about, and obsess on "society" way more than people called conservatives (PCCs).

Abortion is one exception, but in the debates I've seen in the last 25 years, if a guy is talking about the need to increase the interference of government in individuals lives in order to save society, he is almost certainly a person called a liberal (PCL).

One could argue that the above quoted sentiment represents actual, genuine, LIBERALISM, and that the whole kit and kaboodle has shifted so far socialism-ward that those who advocate genuine individual-rights on principle are now called "conservatives."

Frankly, the real debate these days is not between conservatives (whatever that means today) and "liberals" but between conservative liberals and liberal (permissive/socialism-friendly) liberals.

Posted by Snippet [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 4:20 PM

OK, more rambling.

While BOTH "conservatives" and "liberals" advocate collectivism to one degree or another, the notion that conservatives are more hostile to collectivism than are liberals is persistent. Valid? Who knows, but it IS persistent.

I think I know why. Stop the presses.

Conservative "collectivism" tends to emphasize well worn collectivisms - church, state, family, community - and the complex webs that hold these together.

Liberal collectivism tends to focus on new fangled and government-enforced limits to behavior and thought that, while maybe (maybe) not actually more repressive than conservative collectivism, at least makes a deeper impression on contemporary debate.

Posted by SwabJockey05 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 4:55 PM

I second Lew, SM. Thanks.

Posted by owl2 [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 7:52 PM

I blame Bush.

Posted by Jack Okie [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 8:20 PM

I'm still digesting SM's comments, but if Lew and SwabJockey05 like them, then I'm for 'em.


Of the collectives you mention, only government has true coercive power - the others are more-or-less voluntary. Could this be a reason they are more attractive to conservatives?

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 7, 2007 9:15 PM

Its even more dangerous than that Jack, because as the other more voluntary and non-coercive structures fail, power flows by default to a single more concentrated and purely coercive center to the exclusion of all others. The result is a highly centralized and concentrated decision-making structure that also carries the sole power to command obedience to its every whim. At that point Lord Acton's proverb becomes excruciatingly real; "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!"

Posted by Snippet [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 8, 2007 10:19 AM

Jacki and Lew,

I agree, mostly.

To say that traditional structures are voluntary is not quite right, but they are NOT governmentally enforced. They are enforced by little old ladies gossipping on street corners.

The "conservative collective" is held together by a very complicated web.

The "liberal(socialist) collective" is held together by tax-payer funded bureaucrats attempting to define and enforce a written, legal code that just keeps getting more complicated and absurd as it tries to keep up with human nature.

Another factor is simply that, for whatever reason, people who rail against ECONOMIC collectivism tend to be called conservative. Why? I think (maybe) that there is a natural relationship between economic freedom and social "conservatism" (self-discipline, family, chuch, prudence...), but I'm just guessing at this point.