Summer vacation - Old papers brought here to keep the blog alive - The following text has been lectured
in a libertarian summit in Gummersbach, Germany, in 2005. Some of the
parts are a bit outdated there. For example, the special branch of the
police named RG doesn't exist any more, it has been merged with another
service and is now branded "internal intelligence", mostly the same thing with another name. Most of the issues raised here remain valid, and my "optimism" at the end of this text has been proven unjustified.
BTW, the analysis starts
from the end of the XIXth century. I could have gone much further back
in our history to find deeper roots of french centralism, but I had to stay focused and limited in time. The roots of french centralism during Louis XIV's reign aren't described here. Those who are interessed in the subject can google "Jean Bodin", who was one of the spiritual fathers of french centralism.
When the Hayek institute asked me to speak about French anti liberalism* (For US Readers: Liberalism in its european meaning, aka "libertarianism") for the world freedom summit, my first reaction was: "why bother?". Why would an international audience care about such an especially French concern ?
Then I realized that there was at least two reasons to deal with French anti liberalism during this summit.
First, French anti-liberalism, and its strength amidst every level of our decisional powers, is turning France into the main blocking force against liberal reforms in Europe, and has already deeply harmed the "Lisbon agenda", which was supposed to bring back growth and competitiveness to the European community. French president Jacques Chirac and his government has been and still is the main force that impedes liberal processes like CAP reform or the opening of markets like mail, energy, and railways. And it is in France that a wide protestation movement against the liberalization of the European services market (the so called "Bolkestein directive") was born into the leftist political circles, and has been widely accepted by our right wing parties. That's why the liberalization of services market, one of the goals of the 1957 Roma's treaty, is still not achieved in 2005, and is once more delayed. French anti-liberalism is currently the most harmful phenomenon surrounding the European construction.
The second reason why French anti liberalism matters, is that I'm not sure that every other country in the world is immune to what's happening to us. Even in the most advanced liberal countries, statist, bureaucratic or Marxist forces are challenging liberal values, globalization and its benefits, on a daily basis. Many of your countries are more or less successful in their fights against these movements, and despite all the biased media can say, more and more countries are now walking toward more individual and economic freedom. But can we be sure that the institutionalization of anti liberalism that occurs in France can't happen elsewhere ?
So my purpose is not to give a mere picture of French anti liberalism, but to explain which sociological factors made this painful situation possible, and to give you a method that will help you monitor signs of any "French-like" evolution in your country, so that you can react before things become too tough for liberal values.
The sorry state of liberal ideas in France.
Sixteen candidates were competing in the first round of French presidential ballot three years ago. Only one of them, A. Madelin, labeled himself clearly as liberal. Of course, leftist parties built all their political argument against "ultra-liberalism", but more importantly, right wing mainstream candidates, especially Jacques Chirac, have been eager to dissociate themselves from liberalism, and treated liberal ideas like a kind of evil in their speeches.
Finally, the liberal candidate captured only 3.92% of the votes. The four (yes, four) communist candidates (one classical commie and three... Trotskysts) grabbed 14% all together, Fascists got 19% (17% For Jean Marie LePen who qualified thus to the second round of the ballot), environmentalists 7%, even the candidate of "hunters and fishers" got a little more than 4% ! The three social-democrat candidates got 23% and the three "conservative dissociated from liberalism" right wingers (including J.Chirac) obtained 28%.
So today liberalism is a political dwarf in France. Despite this, we've never heard so much about liberalism than in recent electoral campaign about the constitutional treaty for Europe. "Yes" advocates, mainly the democratic right parties, and one half of socialists, told us that the project of treaty "would protect France against the deadly effects of ultra-liberalism". Meanwhile, mainstream naysayers, essentially leftists and right nationalists, answered that this constitution was much too liberal to be acceptable. Most arguments developed during the campaign were directly referring to the "degree of liberalism" of the constitution.
This is another French paradox: liberalism has become the center of our political debate, but virtually doesn't exist in France. How we came to this situation is a complex question.
The marketing handicap of economic freedom
Most of you know the wealth engine of liberal societies, the capitalism cash machine: it's the phenomenon known as creative destruction of value, first theorized by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. Recent set of data coming from every rich country have shown how the Schumpeterian analysis was accurate: in France, yearly job creation and destruction are roughly equal to about 2.5 million per year. Studies led by some liberal think tanks (like the Cato institute) showed that in USA, during the 90's, the job force grew by a stunning figure of 23 millions, resulting from 329 M job creations and 306M job destructions.
Schumpeter himself warned us against the unpleasant side of this equation: To create new jobs, more productive and better paid than former ones, we have to make the destruction of older jobs acceptable to people who hold them, and this is especially difficult. Just try to say to a textile worker in northern France that the destruction of his job allows a lot of new job creations in services, IT industries and nanotechnologies in the neighborhoods of Paris and just wait for his reaction!
You will say that this argument is not specific to France, and that worldwide, socialists try (and sometimes succeed) to prosper on the fears created by this perpetual need for human adaptation. But in many countries, socialist ideas are efficiently challenged and people's votes go sometimes to social-democrat majorities, sometimes to liberal ones, and even some social democrats around the world, like Bill Clinton or Tony Blair, have exploited with profit the strength of liberal ideas to achieve their political goals. Why is there, in such condition, another French exception ? Why does this total refusal of liberalism occur, from our political leaders and the main part of our public opinion ?
First, we shouldn't minimize our responsibility in this sorry situation. We French Liberals have been especially bad at explaining that while perpetual competition induced by liberalism and globalization destroys jobs, that is the excess of socialist rules which prevent enterprises from creating new jobs. Market forces allowed to operate partially are able to begin the destructive aspect of creative destruction but regulations prevents the creative part from operating and that is needed to solve long term unemployment.
But our lack of efficiency is deeply rooted in a very tough mediatic and cultural context. The origins of this context holds in a perverse combination of sociological issues and historical events that gave an excessive power to anti-liberal forces. I call the three pillars of this context "gramscism", "enarchy" and "accommodation".
Antonio Gramsci was a Marxist activist who advocated a strong penetration of communists militants into those activities that shape human minds, especially teaching, media and culture.
In France, the success of Gramscists strategies have been huge in the teaching domain. How was this success made possible?
Historically, in 1881, when free schooling was made compulsory, the French government, by legacy of its centralist tradition, created a big national and state funded schools network instead of opting for several regional or local entities. This education system has always been built on a very centralized "top-down" model, where official programs that will be taught to pupils are created in a few offices in the ministry of education, and where teachers are constantly submitted to a very tough set of rules designed in Paris.
So you can understand that the directions where programs and human resources management are elaborated inside our national education have been a priority target of Gramscist tactics.
In 1945, conservative Charles De Gaulle built a government of national union, including communists, who got 25% of the votes in the first post war ballot. Maurice Thorez, chief of the Communist Party (and notoriously pledged to Moscow), got the ministry of civil service. He used this historical "window of opportunity" to bring many of his loyal friends to strategic offices in the civil service, and has been one of the builders of the French "civil service statute" which, among other things, forced the administration directors to share power with unions, especially in the management of job force. This statute, though several times revised, is always running on this basis in today's France.
Then De Gaulle resigned, and the constitution we experienced in these times (1946-1958), known as our fourth republic, brought to France such a weak executive power (in reaction to the two first years of the war, when powers were centralized to an executive power which collaborated with nazis...) that Gramscists could easily widen their influence.
(another essential bad legacy of this constitution, not developed in this speech, is the 1946 declaration of human rights, which has widely put "social equality" and so called "social rights" ahead from "freedom and property rights"),
So even today, in most of the French scholar manuals, you can read that enterprises are "places of workers exploitation", that capitalism promotes inequalities, that globalization forces our businesses towards job international outsourcing, and so on. I've myself experienced some of these history and geography teachers who used their teaching time to indoctrinate pupils with such ideas. At an age where you're prone to "emotional thinking", these teachers could be very successful in building solid anti capitalist roots in young people's minds. So you find in France many people with whom it's impossible to respectfully debate of liberalism. They're conditioned since infancy to see liberal values as evil.
Even at the university level, leftists use their prominent position limit every possibility of influence for liberals. Recently, the presidency of a jury in the selection of candidates for economic chairs in French universities has been given to a famous liberal professor, M. Pascal Salin, former president of the Mont-Pelerin society. For the first time, leftists teachers protested against this designation, they led a defamation campaign against M. Salin, accusing him of promoting liberal candidates, bashing his ability as an economist (!), and so on, and finally succeeded in preventing several liberal candidates access to the highest graduation.
So here's the first point you've to monitor: If in your country, some politicians try to build a monopolistic and centralized system of education, behind the alibis of "universal access" or anything else, just fight to prevent them from doing so, because it will first benefit the anti capitalist forces. Fight against every form of academic monopoly.
Gramscist effects are perceptible in the press area, too. You've all heard about the French recently liberated hostage in Iraq, Florence Aubenas. Mrs Aubenas is a typical representative of the Gramscist movement in the French press. She regularly attends to the reunions of "the Gramsci circle"( yes, there is an active Gramsci circle in France and nobody cares. It's more romantic than a "Jospeh Goebels circle", no ?) and advocates that the role of the journalist is not only to inform but to shape opinions by selecting appropriate informations and bringing "accurate" commentaries inside information.
Isolated case? No. Recently, Jean Marie Colombani, CEO of "le Monde", our main daily newspaper, (self depicted as a "neutral reference" among newspapers), advocated exactly the same position. And our publicly funded (110 Millions of Euros in 2003) AFP, the first information provider of our newspapers, has for long been a place of choice for leftist militant journalists.
You'll say that French press is not monopolistic. It's true. But militant journalists are generally more motivated than those who simply do a job to gain good places in redactions. Darwinist selection favors them.
More insidiously, since 1945, and due to the historical "window of opportunities" offered by De Gaulle to Communists, France is experiencing a state system of public aid to the press which has made our press addicted to subsidies. In exchange of these aids, national press distribution has for long been a legal monopoly of a cooperative structure, the NMPP, where job hiring was (and is always) a monopoly of the CGT, the most leftist union in France closely linked to the Communist Party and its Moscow's masters. Today, the NMPP monopoly has been only slightly altered but is far from being dismantled. NMPP has a long tradition of strikes, a terrific way of pressure against every paper which would challenge the NMPP system.
According to a senate report, direct and indirect aid to the press (including AFP funding, NMPP, and huge fiscal deductions) totals more than 12% of yearly sales of French newspapers. All these causes lead to this obvious statement: even the most right wing papers in France just know "how not to go too far in the criticism of the state and its servants". Or don't bite too hard the hand that feeds you.
So here's the second point of awareness: if your state wants, for any reason, to "help" the press, just fight this intention. Press independence from any state subsidy and pluralism is the only guarantee that socialist ideas can be efficiently challenged. State-assisted press can't go to far in the critic of state control.
Oh, just one more thing: French journalists enjoy some specific fiscal rebates as they possess a press card. Sometimes some deputies put the end of these rebates on the parliamentary agenda. Such proposals have been systematically rejected. Journalists and the French political class have a tacit gentlemen agreement.
You now know why French press looks so complacent to political leaders, viewed from abroad.
(There is a wide system of public funding for culture too, which favors mainly left sided works or artists - I won't discuss this point here)
"Enarchy" derives from the acronym ENA, "Ecole Nationale d'Administration", which selects the 25 years old. students who will take the top chief executive jobs in high civil services. Graduate of this school are called "enarchs" (French: enarques, by reference to monarchs/monarques).
This very special branch of French civil service has been created just after WWII, and, as usual in France, have received through times a de facto monopoly in the attribution of top executive jobs in civil service. (The only exceptions to this monopoly are public engineers, coming from the Polytechnic school, who trust the remaining 20% of direction jobs that don't fall into Enarchs portfolio).
After WWII, it was difficult for the state to recruit some highly skilled people because it didn't have money to pay them at the level they were expecting. So the leaders of these times elaborated a status that allowed the best of them to join the private sector at good conditions. If the experience in the private sector was not satisfactory the graduate could come back to the civil service without penalty in terms of career advancement! Of course, job security and automatic advancement are granted for enarchs as for any other category of civil servants no matter how they perform.
Enarchs quickly took many key positions inside French administration. Although they don't represent a monolithic school of thinking (there are even some liberal enarchs, yes !), they developed a very strong sense of corporatist solidarity. No matter if one enarch is a conservative, or a liberal and another one is a social democrat, he's enarch first: the corporation always helps its members to climb the steps through French civil service. Or in two other areas: business and politics.
Enarchy and business
As the French economy has been and is strongly tied to state decisions, big public or even private enterprises found many advantages in hiring the best of "Enarchs" as CEOs or vice CEOs, because their relations with the other Enarchs who remained inside the ministry of finances could be highly profitable. Enarchy thus promoted a class of CEOs selected not through their managing aptitudes, but through their address book. Some of them performed well, but many of them have been disastrous for their shareholders. Big and formerly sound businesses such as Credit Lyonnais, Alstom, Vivendi Universal, or France Telecom have been nearly sun by such CEOs, who were not well prepared to face competitive and globalized markets. Only state, i.e. taxpayers interventions, saved these businesses from bankruptcy.
These CEOs were excellent in rent seeking from their civil servant comrades. Want to have a law that protects you artificially from outsider competition? Just phone your former room mate in ENA, who is now director of the treasury! Want to discuss a very special fiscal rebate? Just call the finance minister! One example: JM Messier, who destroyed Vivendi Universal in just a few years, obtained a special rebate of 12 billion Francs for VU when the first financial difficulties came, without any other justification than that he was a enarch and asked for a favor to a member of the same cottery.
No wonder why this class of "public capitalists" is not exaggeratedly liberal: rent seeking CEOs really love stock options but don't endorse transparency for small shareholders, they praise job force flexibility but want protection against Chinese "unfair" competition, they advocate lower taxes but don't spit on subsidies when they come.
Some Enarchs, however, are remarkable people and are today denouncing the abuses of the French system. Non-enarch CEOs sometimes behave like bad enarchs and rent seekers, and rent seeking exists in many places elsewhere. But the massive presence of enarchs at the top of Cac40 businesses and simultaneously at the head of the most important directions in civil services creates a dangerous confusion of interests that doesn't lead our businesses and the laws which regulate their activities in a good direction.
Here is my third point of awareness: we, liberals, must be as tough against capitalist rent seekers as we are to leftists. Mainstream media and most people equate these bad capitalist behaviors to "normal liberalism", we have to show that liberalism doesn't endorse such practices and is not aimed at bringing protection to unfair capitalists. By doing so we will cut one of the favorite arguments from leftist to discredit liberal ideas.
Enarchy in politics
Not all Enarchs can become top CEOs in big enterprises. So many of them, who find civil service perhaps quite boring, choose politics to widen their life horizon. President Jacques Chirac is an Enarch, as has been before him Pdt Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
To improve their possibilities to make beautiful political careers, Enarchs have implemented, step by step across the years, laws that allow "secure" political courses. Of course, they have been obliged to open this system to non enarch politicians, who now all benefit from this system.
First, if you come from civil service, you can go back to your administration without career penalty, if a voters whim throws you off your place. Even if you didn't effectively work in civil service for many years because you were elected, there's always a place waiting for you. This explains why civil servants account for more than a half of our deputies, and why enarchs trust top level jobs in this hierarchy.
Secondly, you can accumulate two electoral mandates (e.g: mayor of Paris and deputy of a small rural central France area !), an ability which is rarely seen is other countries. In order to offer enough political jobs to our nomenklatura of professional politicians, successive laws (written mostly by Enarchs) have ensured that many level of powers need representatives: small cities, big cities, counties, countries, deputies, senators (indirectly elected, better for self promotions inside political class !) , and so on.
Best of all, laws made possible for local representatives to create special organism - inter cities, mixed economy societies, syndicates for water supply or electrification, ... - allowing to the most powerful leaders to accumulate presidencies, vice-presidencies, with cumulative attendance fees that provide them very high standards of living. So enarchy and its followers has muted into a professional political class, eager to grab more money and to keep their political jobs at any condition. There is always a golden parachute that prevents our high level leaders from being thrown out of the political game, even after being defeated.
Could you imagine politicians losing twice the presidential race and being finally elected at their third attempt? In many other countries, their political career would have been stopped. But François Mitterrand (not an enarch), and Jacques Chirac have done so, because despite their previous defeats, their political courses were highly secure.
So these politicians are not naturally prepared to love political liberalism and competition. And whenever one of them does have an inclination toward liberal ideas, his natural trend to choose his advisers among other lower level enarchs will surely lead him towards more interventionist compromises. That's why its so hard to put ahead liberal reforms in France.
Here is my fourth and fifth recommendations:
(4) If a university, or any other group tries to achieve a monopoly over civil service top management jobs, Fight it. (Even if every country has its excellence establishments, it's better to have 8 Ivy League universities competing for recognition, being always challenged by other lower level universities willing to topple them, than having one ENA with ensured quasi-monopoly on top civil jobs).
(5) If your political class tries to secure their political courses or if it tries to build secure paths from civil service to politics or the private sector with an easy way back to its armchairs, just fight it fiercely.
How does our class of professional politicians secures its positions: accommodation.
Our nomenklatura faces the challenge of maintaining the appearances of a living democracy in France, but without being challenged by newcomers who won't "follow the rules".
You remember that I dealt with Gramscists strategies from leftists activists. They've tried elsewhere, but nowhere like in France, have they been so successful.
The first reason is historical: the Fourth republic was weak, and couldn't counter very efficiently Communist strategical moves. After 1958, Charles De Gaulle came back to power and was convinced that if the Communist Party remained the first leftist party in France, the left could never take the power. Francois Mitterrand and the rise of the Socialist Party after De Gaulle's death showed how this analysis was right. So there were a kind of tacit gentlemen agreement between the very conservative De Gaulle and communists, De Gaulle didn't fight communists too fiercely, in order to preserve communist prominence over socialists inside the left block. He accommodated.
But this strategy of perpetual accommodation is not only tied with our history. Ancient Greek philosophers showed that the more a political class looks for permanency, the more their behavior turns into demagoguery. Rent seekers of every kind (from leftist unions to right wing farmers) have not waited long to exploit this structural weakness of our professional nomenklatura. After De Gaulle and George Pompidou's disparitions, Valery Giscard d'Estaing took the power. An enarch himself, and acting like a representative of the cottery, he didn't try to counter violent strikes from farmers, fishers, and unions, in a period that has been rich in social conflicts. He just accommodated, and following presidents did so: every protestation led to an aid program, meaning more burden on taxpayers to finance them.
This behavior is aimed at preventing too hard challenge against the concept of a powerful welfare state which provides so many good and lucrative jobs to our nomenklatura. This tactic has succeeded over any expectation. France really became the country of the big state illusion, "where anyone believes he could live at the expense of others". There is nearly no individual who doesn't "benefit" a small allocation, an aid, or some protection laws provided by state. This has a cost: public expenditures now reach 55% of our GDP (from 36% in 1974), resulting in low growth and high levels of unemployment.
You'll say that this trend to demagoguery is not proper to France. True. But in France, there is nearly no counter powers against this demagoguery.
First, we have no real parliamentary control over the quality of public expenditures. Neither National Audit Office, nor GAO there. Our "cour des comptes" has too limited powers and can't force bad administrations to reform themselves, or bad policies to be reoriented.
Second, the enarchs who built the parliamentary process for voting budgets in 1958 have been successful in building something impossible to understand for any deputy or senator. This situation will at least end next year: a new bill has been passed to make our public expenditures scheme more legible with identified programs. Of course, this new scheme finds a lot of resistance from some layers of our bureaucracy.
Awareness point n°6 : You have to fight to make your public budgets as readable as possible, and any attempt of your government to reduce the power of parliamentary structures who have to control them has to fail. And the more public administrations are placed under the direct monitoring of civil society, the better it is.
Locking the political game
After many corruption scandals involving underground political parties funding, a bill was passed in the 90s, which created a mainly public funding of political life, reserved to parties which reach a significant share of voters in the national ballots. This bill doesn't allow private persons to fund parties beyond a quite low level, and strictly forbids enterprise funding, so parties mainly rely on public funding for their budgets.
So every party under 5% of voters doesn't receive public funding and can't compensate this lack of cash with an active search for private sponsoring or patronage. This system progressively eliminates smallest parties from electoral competition. The Liberal Party had been one of the main victims of this system in 2002 and doesn't exist any more, other small parties will certainly follow after the next ballot: this public funding monopoly, supposed to fight against corruption in political life, won't certainly reach this goal, but will surely ensure to the two mainstream parties (with nationalists extremists...) a de facto monopoly over our political life.
No pretext should prevent individuals to fund whatever NGO they want, even political ones, at the level they want.
Point of awareness n°7: don't let governments decide which parties will be funded in the place of individuals. Don't accept private funding thresholds. People should be able to do whatever they want with the money they honestly earn.
How does our class of professional politicians secures its positions: repression.
But of course that's not all. All these flaws of the French institutions are well known and documented. Soft critics of the system can't be avoided, in order to preserve the appearances of democracy. Our nomenklatura doesn't care too much, as liberal voices will be covered by non liberal ones.
But what if some people become really dangerous to our political class? What if some journalists could reveal bad things about a major politician, or a big business friendly to power? What if some over zealous judges discover big issues concerning our political class?
French successive powers, since the end of monarchy, have step by step built up a "smooth repressive" system that brings a high and effective level of protection to our dishonest politicians, especially in the last twenty years.
First, laws have been enacted to protect private life, which is a fundamental protection against powers, but have promoted a very extensive definition of private life. An example: if a president has a mistress, this is obviously private life and shouldn't matter. But if this mistress and her child live in a state owned castle, enjoy high revenues directly provided from taxpayer's pockets, and benefit of a special protection from police, this is obviously no more a matter of privacy, is it ?
Er, not in France. This is private life. And if a politician breaks the law, it won't automatically become a public issue. Journalists who have to write about the history must be very careful and shouldn't violate this very extensive definition of private law.
A special court (the XVIIth chamber of the court of Paris) has been created to rule very quickly against any publication which could be considered defamatory or violating privacy of powerful people, according to these definitions. Some publications may be forbidden before they're published. Others could be published but the editor could be heavily fined. This is clearly censorship.
I told you about a gentleman's agreement between press, edition and political class. The director of a paper knows very well "the limit he shouldn't dare to cross". So if one of his authors or journalists makes his job too well, there's a high probability that his chief editor will censor him before the justice has to do.
If this is not enough, fiscal inquiries will be used. Fiscal inquiries in France have two very specific characteristics: (1) they can be decided out of any judicial process (2) the burden of the proof is often reverted and is owned by the defender. If fiscal administration, out of any judicial process, thinks you've a fiscal debt, you have to prove you're innocent, they don't need to prove you're guilty! Of course, it's possible for law abiding people to defend their rights before courts. After years of procedure, a victim of abusive fiscal fines may recover his money, penalties from administration, and honor. But many people are not rich or strong minded enough to bear such pressure. So fiscal inquiries are a good way to force "conscious people" towards more docility.
There is more. The WWII government of Marshal Petain created a special political police (called "renseignement generaux", or RG) aimed at grabbing intelligence over any citizen in order to prevent counter-government activism. After the war, curiously, no government thought that this kind of police force was unfit to a democratic society. Anti-communism, anti-terrorism, war on drugs and other purposes have been used as pretexts to reinforce this political police. And of course, this police doesn't limit itself to intelligence. They can be used to threaten and intimidate undisciplined people, or sometimes.. more.
Sounds incredible to you? Impossible in a supposed democratic country? Not in the "pays des droits de l'homme", as we love to depict ourselves?
You heard yesterday Mrs Sabine Herold's lecture. A newspaper revealed that the NGO she has created, "Liberte Cherie", has recently been the object of very special attention from RG: The paper found that some policemen received instructions to monitor and to preventively arrest people wearing "liberte-cherie" shirts during a demonstration. Are liberal movements perceived so badly by our powers that it puts RG in charge of "preventive action" against us? Are they so determinate to prevent liberals from gaining influence? Fortunately, even some RG policemen are now shocked by theses practices inherited from archaic times, an this time there have been no serious consequences.
I don't want to be too alarmist here. France is still far from being run by dictators, and people comparing France to "a successful Soviet Union" certainly never set foot in Russia. But regular attacks against our freedoms, without any reaction from our masses, could make our elite think that they might try to use insidious or explicit force against the liberal movement, whose ideas could be the main threat to their hegemony, without suffering any political consequence.
France is certainly one of the most imperfect democracies among democracies. Just keep it in mind and announce this fact every time you can do it. It's not only good for us, it's good for you, too.
( biblio. Notes : among dozens of interesting books, albeit generally confidential, you might find more precisions about press and edition censorship, institutional repressions over disturbing people, and other related issues in two essential books written by two courageous journalists and editors, Sophie Coignard and Alex Wickham, called " Omerta Française" and " vendetta Française". More on enarchy could be found in "les intouchables" by Ghislaine Ottenheimer, or " nomenklatura Française", by Wickham and Coignard, or an old but still not outdated classic book, "toujours plus" byFrançois de Closets. Thierry Wolton, a journalist, has written many interesting articles and books related to communist infiltration strategies in France. Marc Lazar, a soc'dem author, has analyzed why communism was so "romantic" in France in "le communisme, une passion française", even after the horrors of communism have been widely commented. )
Some reasons to be optimistic
How might this quite bad situation evolve during the next few years? Here are some facts that make me more optimistic than I was one year ago.
The first one is that even some of our nomenklaturists don't even try to hide how bad is our situation. The current minister of finances has released for the first time a report showing not only our official debt (equaling 65% of our GDP), but all our state's contingent liabilities, including mainly public sector retirements, equaling about the same amount and bringing our actual public debt up to 130% of our gross domestic product. Such an effort of transparency is so unusual from our leaders, that it could mean they're now preparing minds for further changes.
Such figures could lead financial institutions (like S or Moody's) to downgrade French debt. If this happens, financial consequences over state budget will be huge. In this situation, every government will be forced into heavy reforms, otherwise it could experience the same crisis as Sweden had in 1993 when the state came near to bankruptcy.
The second source of optimism I can find is the growing pressure from partly liberalized states around us. The French people might be mislead by their political parties and mainstream medias, but blogosphere and cross borders circulation of information will make it more and more difficult to hide the fact that countries which solved their internal crisis achieve such results with liberal reforms. Viewed from French liberals, a clear victory of Angela Merkel in the upcoming German elections could have an important impact on French opinions and could force even most soc'dem medias to bend their editorial line towards more comprehension for liberalism.
You can help us. Every time France causes harm to freedom, to EU reforms, to WTO rounds, or any other liberal cause, don't be deferent to us. Forget we've been once in our history a country of great liberal philosophers, stop considering us as a respectable country. Until we strongly endorse the values of individual freedom, put the most pressure you can upon us. Don't do it for us: do it for you and the rest of the world, to diminish the bad influence France today has on world affairs.
If our leaders, and especially our newly converted to anti globalism president, still have one ounce of reason, pressure from abroad will put them (and us !) in the right direction again.
Conclusion: the final quiz : Is your country run the French way ?
I've summarized in the following table the issues listed above. If you might answer yes to more than 50% of the questions, your country is in danger of "Francomutation"..
Minds formatting... Is there a monopolistic public school system where programs are elaborated by a few people with no autonomy for public schools ? Y/N
... Is there a significant system of public subsidies to press ? Y/N
... Is there a significant system of public subsidies to culture ? Y/N
Nomenklatura... Is there a university achieving a monopoly on top level management in civil service ? Y/N
... Are there laws that secure political courses for top level politicians ? Y/N
... Are there laws that allow civil servants to run into politics and business and to come back to civil service in case of failure ? Y/N
... Are « liberal-libertarian-neo conservative » forces not so prone to denounce capitalists when they act as rent seekers than they're tough against Marxists, or other kinds of leftists ? Y/N
Government action... Is the budget voted by your deputies impossible to understand ? Y/N
... Is there no parliamentary institution controlling public expenditures with real power over controlled administrations (like UK's NAO) ? Y/N
... Is there a public funding system for political parties ? Are there law limiting the ability for private persons to fund a political party ? Y/N
... Are there laws preventing power abuses from being denounced (e.g. extension of the field of defamation or private life) ? Are there laws that allow to judges to censor "unpleasant" writings ? Y/N
... Has the government legal ways to put pressure on citizens outside any judicial process ? Y/N
... Have you got a political police in your country ? Y/N
(This list is not exhaustive. I Could have spoken of lack of justice independence, special justice for administrations, number of legal texts ruling society and percentage of these texts - 98%- adopted w/o any parliamentary validation, amnesty laws for corrupted politicians, state's monopoly over statistics... )
Thank you for your attention.