How to Squander a Victory in Five Seconds

The French electorate preferred Nicolas Sarkozy as President of the Republic over the Socialist candidate Segolene Royal. Their preference for Sarkozy clearly showed that they want a right-wing government. Will they get what they voted for? It seems less likely by the day.

In his victory speech on election night (6 May), Sarkozy stated that his “primary battle” will be “against global warming […] because what is at stake is the fate of humanity as a whole.” Frenchmen who had expected that Sarkozy’s first priority would be to reassert the authority of the Republic over its lost territories, where criminals and/or Islamist fundamentalists hold sway, will have to wait until their President is able to beat the sun. Let us hope for a cold, miserable summer in France this year. Perhaps that might bring Nicolas Sarkozy back to his senses.

Then, last Wednesday, in his inaugural address, the new President announced that he is “going to fight for a Europe that protects, because the meaning of the European ideal is to protect the citizens of Europe.” Unfortunately, protecting the French citizens in the Republic’s lost territories, or “zones urbaines sensibles,” seems less important than protecting the citizens of Europe against “the ravages of globalization.”

Today, Sarkozy presented his new government. He has chosen the maverick socialist Bernard Kouchner, a former minister under Mitterrand and “Europe’s most important humanitarian-activist politician [...] on issues from Kosovo to AIDS,” as his Minister of Foreign and European Affairs – a “bold choice” according to the BBC. Kouchner, though supporting the war in Iraq, is a liberal.

It is worth pondering whether Ms Royal, had she won the elections, would have appointed a right-winger or a maverick conservative as Foreign Minister. The answer undoubtedly is no. If people vote for the Left they get a leftist government. If in France they vote for the Right they get a partly leftist government, too.

For a while it looked as if Mr Sarkozy could become the French Margaret Thatcher. Apparently, it is his ambition to be the French David Cameron.

On the socialist label #3

@ De Kapitein


1) Mon Dieu, do you have hangups about the USA!   What have your comments got to do with the promotion of free trade?    What does "hegemony" concretely mean?  And can't you not see a difference between American "hegemony" in Western Europe (early after WW2) with promotion of both democracy and free trade, and Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe with forced collectivisation and no democracy?

Also, free trade is in principle beneficial to all participating countries.  The logic of the theory of comparative advantage is compelling, and the required assumptions for 'exceptions' (mainly to do with the so-called 'terms of trade' or relative movements of import and export PRICES) are quite rare in the real world.   Moreover, small countries tend to benefit more proportionately from 'free trade' than large ones do.  It is no accident that Luxemburg, Ireland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are much richer (in per capita income) than Spain, France, and Germany.  You seem to be parroting hateful ideologues who haven't got a clue about economics (and certainly not about "manipulation of the global economy in the national interest").  No one, at least no one in the 'free world' (that is the one supposedly under American "hegemony"), is forced to participate in free trade.  So why do they do it?  Because they like to be manipulated in someone else's national interest?  Your kind of European anti-Americanism is as childish as Latino gringo-bashing. 

2) Yes, my common sense rule applies as much to the world's "police man" as anybody else, if there is such a police man.  There exists  a very extensive literature describing different degrees of interventionism in economic transactions among countreis.  And even the "police man" has to contend domestically with congenital interventionists on the left side and with populistic interventionists on the right side.

3)  If you don't make distinctions between "right and wrong", what more is there to say?   You said it all.  I now understand better your tolerance for violations of constitutional provisions in some European countries.  

Surely, all nations will act in their own interest. But not in all nations are the interests of the nation confused with those of the ruling clique to the same extent.   And some nations, more than others, try to marry the pursuit of narrow own interests with some sense of morality.   To give an explicit example: the USA may well have been relatively 'friendly' with Saddam during his extended warfare with Iran in the 1980's, but only the French gave him a nuclear reactor (so they must have at least been 'friendly' too).  Luckily the Israelis managed to destroy that Osirak reactor in time.  We won't be so lucky in the near future with the Russian reactor in Iran.

And your platitudes about "black-and-white worldviews, colorblind and shades of gray" are as tiresome as an old record.  They are convenient copouts, to keep your head in the sand and to let others do the heavy lifting.   Mon Dieu, this 'radical chic' stuff of moral relativism seems to be as common on the right as on the left in some European quarters. 


In Reply to MarcFrans

MarcFrans: "The multilateral institutional structure on which the explosion of world trade in the post-WW2 era rests, was largely (though not exclusively) an 'anglo-saxon' creation."


Agreed. However, it is evident that this "structure" was based upon American hegemony in the global economy. Furthermore, Great Britain did not relinquish its colonial possessions to adhere to a laissez-faire ideology; rather it could no longer afford to control or exploit these territories, though British forces brutally suppressed rebellion for some time. The United States only committed itself to free trade because free trade was in its best interest due to the ravages of war across the globe and the resurgence of American economic might. This, of course, did not prevent it from manipulation of the global economy in its national interest.


This is no different from claims that the Industrial Revolution advanced liberty, democracy, peace and prosperity. Indeed, those serfs that were evicted from aristocratic lands actually had a degree of ownership in them due to the legal-rational origins of the medieval feudal system. How is competition fair when the race is staggered to begin with?


MarcFrans: "I think that you should apply the common-sense rule and assume that governments which are highly 'interventionist' in DOMESTIC economic transactions will also tend to be higly interventionist in INTERNATIONAL economic transactions."


So too for the world's "policeman."


MarcFrans: " you really think that any government that actually fights tyrants of all kinds with the blood of its soldiers can give the 'contracts' in that fight to other nations on the (comfortable) sidelines?  Remarkable!"


I could reply with a litany of historical counter-examples to bury this corny offering, however, it would not make any difference. I view the world with an amoral or neutral eye, and as such, no state's actions could be "right" or "wrong" from some universal objective moral standpoint, irrespective of whether or not I agree with the actions or disagree. The United States has always acted in its own interest first, not unlike every other nation*. You forget that Great Britain once nobly challenged "terrorism" long before the United States did: in Malaya, Ireland, Kenya, etc. You may ask how someone could possibly view the world as "amoral," however, when people commit themselves to black-and-white worldviews and are colorblind to the shades of gray, like you, they can be refuted again and again.


*Arguably, the Islamic Revolution was a step backward for Iran, as its economic shrank from that comparable to Spain to one comparable to the Palestinian Authority.

On the socialist label, #2

@ Kapitein Andre


I agree with you on 2 points:

-- Sarkozy should be given more time and not be prematurely judged too harshly.

-- All governments will be inclined to favor 'own' corporations.  Ater all, those are the corporations that will have greater access to the political corridors of power on which that government rests.     


Moreover, Paul M Kennedy is probably right in asserting that Britain was at its zenith "more open to free trade than the United States was or is".   The main reason for that is that at that time (of Britain's zenith) "socialism" was not as powerful a societal force in any major country than it is today.  The main opposition to free trade in the developed world today comes essentially (though not exclusively) from the 'socialistic' side of the political spectrum.  Everywhere in the developed world.   


However, were we disagree is that you seem to imply that there are no qualitative differences among major countries in terms of their respective efforts to tolerate and/or promote 'free trade'.   That is manifestly untrue.  The multilateral institutional structure on which the explosion of world trade in the post-WW2 era rests, was largely (though not exclusively) an 'anglo-saxon' creation.  And there are clearly significantly different degrees of protectionism between the major players in world trade.   I think that you should apply the common-sense rule and assume that governments which are highly 'interventionist' in DOMESTIC economic transactions will also tend to be higly interventionist in INTERNATIONAL economic transactions.    So, on the face of it......but, it is of course possible that Sarkozy will turn out to be 'revolutionary' and (at least try to) mark a different (new) course for France. 

P.S. Your examples of "overt" and "covert" are silly.   They are totally marginal to the great issues of the day in international trade.  They wouldn't even register on any 'rough monitor' of major trade flows among trading nations.   Moreover, do you really think that any government that actually fights tyrants of all kinds with the blood of its soldiers can give the 'contracts' in that fight to other nations on the (comfortable) sidelines?  Remarkable!       

On the 'Socialist' Label

Government intervention in the economy, including Keynesian macro-economic policy and protectionism, is neither derived from Marxism or socialism nor monopolized by these ideological positions. Indeed, mercantilism evolved into capitalism primarily because of the technological and scientific advances enjoyed by Western European great powers and their unquestioned commercial and military hegemony across the globe (led by Great Britain). Not only are non-Western states (especially China) only prepared to use the free market as a tool for national macro-economic policy, but they are not prepared to fully surrender their economies to the global economy. Moreover, every single Western state engages in some form of intervention in their economies (and other states' economies), which would contradict laissez-faire capitalism.


For instance, American foreign policy, both overt and covert* favors large American corporations**. Because this support requires the re-allocation of tax revenues and results in manipulated markets, the United States is not quite the bastion of laissez-faire that it claims to be. According to economic historian Paul M. Kennedy, Great Britain was at its economic zenith more open to free trade than the United States was or is; of course, this could be due to the fact that Great Britain became dependent on foreign goods (largely raw materials), and the United States possesses an enormous domestic market and resource base that places it in a more advantageous position than the British Isles or Japan.


Overall, my point is, get over it. Firstly, no one here has even given Sarkozy a chance; secondly, if everyone here is going to judge French economic policy by the laissez-faire standard, than it will never pass - nor would any state if anyone bothered to check.


* Covert: CIA intervention in Latin American political economy e.g. Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, etc.

  Overt: exclusive contracts given to large defense contractors for Iraq reconstruction projects; the use of tax revenues to purchase     over-priced oil for the American armed forces from Texan oil companies, etc.


** General Dynamics, McDonnell Douglas, United Fruit Company, Coca-Cola, etc.

Lies Lies Lies!....

Well, so much for that!  Sounds to me like old Sarko is taking a page out of the Bill Clinton book of deceiving the masses.  George W. Bush, from what I have been hearing lately, is also following that same path. Why should these politician be any different regardless of party?  Phonies!



Only in France

Only in France can a leftist neo-Stalinist be called right wing.  I think even Hillary Clinton is more right wing than Sarko.

Did anybody really believe Sarkozy was a right-wing politician?

Sarkozy used public money to save Alstom.

Sarkozy was viscerally opposed to the idea of ugly foreign capitalists taking over a French yoghurt maker (national champions and all that).

Sarkozy is now discussing injecting even more state money in EADS/Airbus.


Ergo: Sarkozy was, is and will be a socialist.


Pigs will fly before France will elect anybody who wants to decrease state intervention in the French economy.

Which is it?

Whenever I read that a major politician is spouting off on global warming, I ask myself three questions: 1) Has he really fallen for this alarmism?; or 2) Does he know it's grossly overstated, but he's just too cowardly to stand up to the alarmist lemmings?; or 3) Does he know it's grossly overstated, but he has some other agenda in mind, such as "wealth redistribution"? In Sarkozy's case, I think we can rule out number three. That leaves us with either number one, and he's uninformed or foolish, or two, and he's a coward. 

Does France want a Thatcher?

Apparently not. Call the British ungrateful and the Western Europeans misguided, but Neo-Conservatism is highly unpopular. If those standing to gain from Sego must accept Sarko's victory, than Neo-Conservatives must accept that they will be disappointed for the time being by their fellow electorates.