Although he probably thinks it the other way around, I am referring to the betrayal by President Macron of those who voted for him. I wrote a certain amount about the French elections last year and haven’t written much if anything about President Macron after he won. In the pre-election posts I said that I thought Macron was a creation of the French “Deep State” who created their own ‘outsider’ to protect against the genuine outsides of Le Pen and Melanchon. I was pretty sure that Macron would be more or less Sarkozy v2:

Macron’s ideas, it seems to me, are just a gloss on the long standing French ideas of dirigism and hence unlikely to result in the reforms that the country so desperately needs. A Macron presidency is likely to be similar to Sarkozy’s, promising much but generally failing to deliver anything meaningful.

I think I may have been slightly over-optimistic. There are quite a lot of similarities in background and general intentions, and both have fought strikes and protests. However Sarko did not show quite the same arrogance that Macron has. Macron also has not shown any of the political deftness Sarko showed in disarming most of his political rivals. On the contrary Macron has managed to be disliked by the elites for not being sufficiently in tune with their love of virtue signalling while yet virtue signalling enough to really irritate the regular French voters who joined his “En Marche” movement.

What his regular supporters wanted (note wild generalization here) wasn’t completely possible – essentially they wanted the jobs and job security etc. of the France of the 1980s, say, plus all the benefits of modern society – but it should have been possible to do some of it. Macron started with the usual plans to reform state businesses like the railways and, entirely predictably, the railway ‘workers’ went on strike. He didn’t immediately roll over and surrender which was a positive, but he didn’t dare do anything absolutely revolutionary like firing every single SNCF worker who failed to turn up for work on a particular day. So that was kind of a wash and what it mostly did was allow his bodyguard to pose a riot policeman and beat up some protestors.

In addition to not doing the big reforms his government has not even been reducing the burden of nit-picky rules and regulations that are the grit of daily life for motorists and others, in fact it has been adding to them. At No Parasan there’s a must read background post, that includes a short timeline of the crack down on driving in the last 15 years:

For the past four to five months, the nation’s drivers and motorcycle riders have been growing increasingly irate at the “bloodsuckers” in the French government who seem to do little else, road-security-wise, but double down on bringing more and more gratuitous oppression and more and more unwarranted persecution measures down on their necks.

In fact, the imposition of ever harsher rules has been going on for the past decade and a half or so — whether the government was on the right or on the left — and that is why the choice of les gilets jaunes (the yellow jackets) by the demonstrators is particularly ironic.

The 2008 law (under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy) requiring the presence of high-visibility vests (gilets de haute visibilité) aka security vests (gilets de sécurité) in every vehicle — hardly an unreasonable rule, for sure, as similar ones exist throughout the continent — was just another example of the myriad of evermore-onerous rules for car and motorcycle owners over the past 15 years, and so the government in effect provided the 2018 rebels with their uniforms.

What has been most irksome for les Français since the turn of the century has been the ubiquitous radars, which, like red-light cameras in the United States, are accused of having (far) more to do with bringing revenue to the state’s coffers than with road safety.

And just like the arms industry in the Soviet Union, if there is one area of France where the technology was always moving forward, it is the radar business.

Over the years, the radars have become evermore stealthy and insidious. For instance, radars have gone from contraptions being able to photograph a single car on only one side on the road, in the lane closest to the machine (with a burst of white flash quite jolting to the driver at nighttime), to taking multiple pictures over the entire roadway simultaneously of several cars driving in both directions.

The first radars were installed in 2003 under President Jacques Chirac and his interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, and in the beginning, drivers were always warned beforehand when a radar could be expected ahead (which brought about what allegedly was the desired goal, to get French cars to slow down).

What has happened since shows the Deep State at work in Europe just as much as, if not more than, in North America — and this leftist statism is the kind of news that has been ignored by the mainstream media, in France itself as much as abroad.

Eventually — in spite of the insistent promises of then-interior minister Sarkozy — new radars were installed without the signs announcing their presence.

The attempts to make the rules harsher have been so outrageous that pushback led to their demise. For instance, the attempt to have cyclists breaking the law (running a red light, for instance) lose points on their driver’s licenses; or the attempt to require all cars to be equipped with a breathalyzer. (Not surprisingly, it emerged that a breathalyzer manufacturer who, naturally, was a close friend of a number of politicians, was behind the bill.)

Recently came the news of mobile radars, meaning unmarked cars loaded with a radar-installed contraption driven by gendarmes dressed in civilian clothes. (Everywhere, young boys daydream of wearing a shiny uniform and going into action to fight crime; imagine, then, a policeman being asked to put on plainclothes to do nothing but drive up and down the road or highway in order to trick otherwise honest citizens who have done nothing but “violate” a rather arbitrary administrative rule, one that has barely changed, if at all, in almost 50 years).

Meanwhile, crony capitalism has given rise to a side economy, a side economy whose only purpose revolves around the punishment of citizens with cars or motorcycles — not least with blossoming (and very expensive) driving schools for drivers to regain some of the points they have lost on their driver’s licenses (again, for violations of a rather arbitrary malum prohibitum rule). If that’s impossible, they lose the driver’s license itself, for a year or more, which leads in turn to job losses for some 80,000 Frenchmen every year, since they can no longer drive to work.

In other words the gradual boiling of the frog has gone far enough, the frogs are noticing that the water temperature is a tad on the warm side and doing their best to hop out of the pot.

It is, BTW, impossible to live in rural or even smallish town France without access to a personal motor vehicle unless one is wealthy (and even then not simple). Take, for example, the Côte d’Azur a.k.a. the French Riviera, a place that I am familiar with but which is anything but a deprived rural or post-industrial area. If you live in Nice and like the idea of doing things in Nice with possible occasional ventures to Monaco or Cannes, say, then things are OK. You can even live in Nice and work in Monaco or Sophia Antipolis (just behind Antibes some 40-50km away) and just about survive without a car – admittedly when the public transport is on strike you’re going to be working from home a bit but it’s an inconvenience as opposed to a disaster.

At least you can do OK working in Sophia until you decide to have a meal with your colleagues after work. You see most public transport, except that within Nice and within some other coastal towns (but not between said towns) shuts down around 9pm. So if you (for example) go to a nice restaurant in Mougins for a meal you’ll be finishing the post-prandial expresso about the time the last train or bus leaves Cannes for Nice (or vice versa come to think of it) so unless someone drives you back to Nice, your only option is to take a taxi at a cost of a good €100 (I haven’t tried this for a decade, so my prices are probably low). The same applies (though the taxi ride is less expensive) if you live in Grasse and dine in Cannes or Antibes etc. This is people living near the center of towns/villages. If you are someone who decided they liked a bit more space away from the coast there’s no usable public transport at any hour of the day. So if your friends invite you over for dinner then, unless you do the designated driver thing (as if a Frenchman would do something like that), you will be driving home at approximately the legal BAC limit or slightly over it (Note: you probably won’t be smashed. We’re talking 3-4 hours during which you eat and consume, say, half bottle of wine plus an apero, but a hypothetical brandy at the end could well make the difference between which side of the limit you are on). In fact at this time of year on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night I’d guess that about 90% of the vehicles driving after about 9pm on country lanes are being driven by someone in that state. They aren’t tested and arrested because the Gendarmes know full well that a crackdown on this would catch their friends, colleagues and bosses and because (see the recent protests and riots), a Gendarmerie that did so would probably be besieged by the locals who would be noting names and license plate numbers if they weren’t pelting the entire place with manure or petrol bombs.

In addition (see above about France of the 1980s) towns and villages that are not on the tourist trail and/or don’t have a significant number of Brits or other expats living nearby, are dying – many of the ones with these advantages are not exactly thriving either but they are doing a little better. Away from the tourist trail there are no more charming village squares with boucheries, epiceries or other shops except for a pharmacy, maybe one boulangerie (baker) and a convenience store/mini-market. There may be a tabac/bar PMU and there may be a restaurant (it’s probably a pizzeria) but that’s about it. On the outskirts of the nearest sizable town is the hypermarket everyone does their shopping – for which a vehicle is of course required – plus a huddle of chain restaurants (McDonalds etc.) and a grotty Ibis or Formule 1 hotel. On the other side of town is Aldi or Lidl (cut price supermarkets) and a car dealership or similar. That’s rural France once you leave the touristic bits and the employment prospects for the children in these places are about as low as you’d expect from that description.

Which leads us to the other thing that Macron has not dared to: properly reform the labor laws. Now admittedly this would be unpopular initially. When he tried it before under Hollande and when others (e.g. Sarko) had a go there were strikes and protests from the brainwashed students, but every single economist from Paul Krugman rightwards has pointed out that the employment regulations and taxes as they are now are an enormous brake on employment. To name two obvious problems: young people get temporary stages (traineeships) for years before they can land a permanent job and companies spend extra money to artificially bifurcate when they approach the 50 employee mark because the red tape for companies with over 50 employees is nightmarishly worse.

That’s the background to Macron deciding that if he was going to do something unpopular he’d rather kiss up to the environmentalists than enrage the unions. Plus this would appear statesmanlike and allow him to take his divinely appointed place as the primary European leader and stand up to that horrible Trump person.

This is not what he was elected to do. His voters wanted him to fix France and the French economy. They want urban crime to be reduced, they don’t want any more distracted motorists driving on the “trottoir” as they look for “l’Aloha Snackbar”. They want jobs and pensions and wages that allow them to have a good life. Jacking up the price of diesel (as used in 50% of French cars and 99% of French delivery vehicles) is obviously not going to help with any of that. And then you combine it with promises to shut down the nuclear power plants (so France is going to warm itself on unicorn farts?) and the passing of laws to outlaw smacking children (which is so much further down the list of priorities than the environment that you need a telescope to find it).

To the average Frenchman this agenda reeks of ENArque elitism and is a betrayal of everything that “En Marche” was supposed to be about.

Well then? so what? you think. Macron is not the first politician to promise one thing and then do something totally different when elected and he won’t be the last. The problem is that the 2017 election saw the destruction of all major traditional parties/groupings to the benefit of En Marche and the extremists of the far left and far right. At this point no one sees any of the traditional politicians as electable in 2022. I actually don’t know who the Socialists are thinking of (Hollande has mentioned he wants a comeback, but I think he’s even more damaged goods than Hillary Clinton) and the bloke on the right is someone whose name I can’t spell without checking on the internet. He’s also an ENArque and so is unlikely to be trusted by Macron voters – like the Who they “won’t get fooled again“. On the other hand he is being tarred as “hard right” by a lot of the chattering classes means they won’t want to vote for him either. So unless he can somehow thread the needle of turning the hard right label to mean actual sane reformer he’s not going to go anywhere near the presidency.

As this article at AIER concludes we may be seeing the death of “social democracy”

At some point, it is too much. Just as the citizens suffering under Soviet rule finally said no more, the people suffering under social-democratic rule might someday do the same. Observers have waited decades to see reforms that might forestall such a thing. Reforms haven’t happened. Now the people are in the streets, setting fires and protesting the police.

And it’s not just France. It’s spreading to Belgium and the Netherlands – the building of a European Spring.

What we see in Paris today might be the end of social democracy as we know it. What comes in its place is what the battle of ideas today is really about.

This means that in 2022 (or earlier if Macron completely collapses), we could well see a presidential election which ends up being between a Le Pen on the right (maybe Marine, maybe her niece Marion) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the far left. This is pretty much what we saw in Italy and similar rumblings have been observed elsewhere on the continent. For France this is a problem. I reluctantly supported Le Pen over Macron in 2017 because I felt it was better to have the riots now rather than later, but I think her economic policies would have been a disaster. It turns out that we’ve got the riots anyway and we may be getting the economic collapse so that turned out not to be very helpful. I still think the FN’s economic policies are deluded but I think they are no more deluded than those of Mr Melenchon. In other respects Melenchon seems to be a lot worse. He’s very Corbyn-like in the way he seems to wriggle out of anti-semitism claims and he similarly seems unable to condemn Islam-inspired terror as such. Indeed he is being a lot more open about supporting the rioters than the Le Pens. Both Marion and Marine have offered support to the genuine Gilets Jaunes while deploring the violence and blaming it on the anarchists, unemployed immigrants, and far left. They are being somewhat successful in that blame shifting because it is blindingly obvious that the anarchists, unemployed immigrants, and far left were indeed out in force last weekend and looking for a riot, but I don’t think their supporters are as blamefree as they would like to claim.

In the event of a Le Pen – Melenchon run off I would hope the Le Pen would prevail but I’m not sure it will make much difference. In either case we’re likely to see civil unrest that makes what we’ve seen in last few weeks seem tame and the question of when that edges into actual civil war is likely to be one that historians debate 50 years from now. That sort of scenario is going to have major impacts on the global economy. Such civil disturbance is going to hammer the French economy and that, in turn, is going to negatively impact the economies of its neighbors and major trade partners. Note that France is the third largest economy in Europe and the 6th in the world and is the home of numerous globally dominant companies. Her major trade partners include the non EU parts of the G7 i.e. the US, Japan and the PRC – and all those nations have major debt issues and “too big to fail” companies that could end up in severe trouble in the event of the European economy going into recession. In fact there aren’t many major economies that have fully recovered from 2008 including of course all of France’s fellow Southern European nations.

It is of course possible that the Gilets Jaunes movement will manage to coalesce into an actual political movement with a platform beyond “STOP” and that this movement will produce sufficiently skilled politicians that one of them gets to be in the run off. Depending on the platform they run on that could be good or at least less bad than either far left or far right, but there’s a lot of ifs that have to come true for that to be the case. Based on 2017 the FN has a hard floor of support of about 25% of the electorate and a ceiling of around 40%. Melenchon seems to be slightly weaker – base of perhaps 15-10%, max 30-35% – but not by much and depending on how he navigates the current protests he could grow his ceiling. Either way though that leaves a good 30-50% of the electorate up for grabs by someone who can appear sane, non-extremist and yet reformist. I think that hypothetical sane reformist is the best chance for France to survive without a civil war but I’m not exactly optimistic that one will appear.

Macron’s rise to the presidency and his rule since looks like the betrayal of the current French Republic

PS the Babylon Bee manages to do that whole “fake but accurate” thing perfectly with regard to Macron