For a nation supposedly committed to reason, the French are lamentably short of that faculty. In their defence, this deficiency is selective, only manifesting itself en masse in politics, economics – and especially the EU.
I’ve heard intelligent and educated Frenchmen talk about federalism in platitudes at best. I suppose I could try to analyse this paradox, invoking, for example, the unhealed trauma of 1940 and the subsequent Stockholm syndrome, making the French want to be Germans.
But instead I’ll focus on the latest manifestations of this malaise. One such manifestation is called Emmanuel Macron, France’s youthful finance minister. That is, at 38, he’s youthful for a minister. Otherwise he’s supposed to be mature, an expectation Manny frustrates by often sounding like a petulant adolescent.
If Britain leaves the EU, he whined, she’ll be like Guernsey, a Channel island of 63,000 souls. Since even Mr Macron can’t possibly think that Britain’s population will shrink so dramatically, he must mean that Britain will resemble Guernsey economically.
This prediction represents a downgrade, for a couple of months ago Manny foresaw Britain becoming like Jersey, a larger Channel island. Obsessed as Manny is with insular communities, I’m amazed he didn’t compare the UK to Devil’s Island, France’s notorious penal colony.
One can infer that, by contrast, Mr Macron regards France’s economy as a shining model to follow. Well, frankly, if we’re talking specifically economics, I’ll take Guernsey over France any day.
Even though Guernsey doesn’t inundate world markets with superior wines and inferior cars, it has a higher per capita GDP than France. Its unemployment rate is a negligible 1.2 per cent, as compared to almost 11 per cent in France tout court and 25 per cent for young people.
Not to cut too fine a point, France’s economy is a basket case, with not only a soul-destroying unemployment rate but also a practically nonexistent growth, exports stifled by the euro, unsupportable social costs made catastrophic by uncontrollable migration, constant strikes and riots – you name it.
Also, Guernsey boasts a top tax rate of just 20 per cent, as opposed to 45 per cent in Britain and 75 (!) per cent in Manny’s own economic fiefdom. Can we become like Guernsey please? And can we please not become like France, which we will if we vote Remain?
Sensing that his puerile rants don’t add up mathematically, Manny then switched to philosophy. Brexit, he said, will spell “the end of an ultraliberal Europe that the British themselves have pushed for, the end of a Europe without a political plan, centred on its domestic market.”
I’d like to have some of what Manny’s on, for I can’t imagine even a harebrained politician mouthing such gibberish if not under the influence. Rather than being ‘ultraliberal’, the EU is a protectionist bloc suffocating external trade with punitive tariffs.
That’s what Manny probably means by an economy ‘centred on its domestic market’. In other words, he equates economic liberalism à la Adam Smith and David Ricardo with protectionism. This is like equating sensible population control with Pol Pot.
This is what the original liberal economist Adam Smith had to say about Manny’s pet idea: “To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry… must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. If the produce of domestic can be brought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful.”
And the EU not having ‘a political plan’? Manny should brush up on the pronouncements of EU founders, Nazi, Vichy or other. The EU, as conceived by them, is nothing but one contiguous political plan, that of a giant suprastate pushing to grotesque limits the innate étatisme of Germany and France.
It’s staggering that the finance minister of a major European country can be so ignorant of history, economics, philosophy and basic arithmetic – in addition to being incapable of elementary sequential thought. But in that last category he’s outdone by the IMF head Christine Lagarde.
It’s refreshingly selfless of Miss Lagarde to divert her attention from her upcoming corruption trial to our EU referendum. I wonder if she’ll continue to pontificate on such matters even from the prison cell in which she’s likely to find herself. If so, one hopes she’ll learn to express herself with more logical rigour.
Miss Lagarde started out by correctly describing European economy as being on the verge of total collapse “due to political pressures”. She diagnosed the disease correctly, but her aetiology is suspect: she omitted her own role in this state of affairs, first as Manny’s predecessor and then in her current position.
But back to logic. What’s Britain supposed to do under the circumstances, Christine? Why, remain in the EU of course (!). This is what the Romans called ‘non sequitur’ and what the Russians deplorably call ‘woman’s logic’.
Then again, Miss Lagarde is a woman and, judging by George Osborne’s lascivious glances in her direction, a seductive one – at least to George Osborne. I suppose one has to make allowances for that, even as one rushes in four days to vote Leave.