Naysayers! Prophets of doom! Sightless pundits failing to discern the feverish competitive activity unfolding before their very eyes!
Behold: France boasts a highly competitive unemployment rate of 11%, locked in hot pursuit of Hollande’s 17% approval rating.
As the competition is hotting up, the current bet is that the two numbers will soon converge halfway.
The mauvaises langues are even saying they already have converged, which would be apparent if the unemployment statistics weren’t being manipulated with the dexterity normally found at massage parlours in the low-rent parts of Paris.
(I’ll resist developing this metaphor any further, and I hope you appreciate my self-restraint.)
Feeling this isn’t exactly the kind of competition that’ll pull France out of the doldrums, my friend François yesterday took another bold step to the precipice.
Shocked by the criticism of his economic policies by two ministers on the left of his already Marxist government, he sacked not only them but the entire cabinet.
François then asked Prime Minister Manuel Valls to form a new cabinet “consistent with the direction he [Francois] has set for the country”.
This is like a ship heading for the rocks with its captain screaming “Full speed ahead!”. No, scratch this simile. The moribund ship at least follows a definite, albeit ill-advised, course, which is more than can be said for François’s policies.
He was elected two years ago on the promise of turning France into a Britain circa 1970 if not quite a Russia circa 1920.
Nationalise everything that hasn’t yet been nationalised, regulate everything that hasn’t yet been regulated, soak the rich (fair payer les riches) and do as Angela… sorry, the EU says – these were the highlights of François’s vision.
It took but a few months for the vision to acquire a distinctly nightmarish tint. Rather than payer through the nose, and eventually bleeding through it, les riches ran away, taking the jobs they had been generating with them.
At the same time the economy was being strangulated by a noose woven out of four strands: overregulated labour market, Gargantuan public sector, high taxation and tight fiscal policy dictated by Angela… sorry, the EU.
Vindicating every sensible economic theory, the economy, its oxygen supply cut off, began to stagger between recession and stagnation, with an out-and-out depression leaving the realm of possibility and entering one of near certainty.
François eventually realised that perhaps his extreme left ideology wasn’t the right vantage point from which to view economic development.
Actually his ideology is extreme left only by the standards of les Anglo-Saxons. In François’s own country there’s much mainstream politics considerably to the left of him.
For example MEP Jean-Luc Mélenchon, former government minister, gathered 11% of the vote in 2012 on a platform broadly based on a return to the glory days of the 1870 Paris Commune.
Recently he delivered himself of an historical insight the likes of which one would be hard-pressed to hear anywhere in Britain outside the more radical mosques. Mélenchon expressed a deep retrospective regret that Charles Martel won the 732 Battle of Tours, thereby checking the Arab northward expansion.
According to my friend Jean-Luc, that unfortunate victory plunged Europe into ‘centuries of obscurantism’, meaning Christianity. Europe, he evidently believes, would be much better off today if it resembled Iraq, especially its northern part.
In relative terms, François looks like a fire-eating reactionary against that political background. However, in absolute terms he’s still your typical leftie ready to sacrifice all for the sake of his barbaric ideology.
Yet, faced with a likely catastrophe, in the last few months he tried to take a tentative half-step towards the centre by offering some symbolic tax incentives to businesses. The only tangible result was making him the whipping boy for those ministers who are typologically close to Mélenchon.
They accused François of selling out to what my other friend Tony Blair called ‘the forces of conservatism’. They focused their wrath on one strand in the aforementioned noose hanging France’s economy high and dry.
Namely they blamed François for kowtowing to the austerity measures dictated by Angela… sorry, the EU.
Anyone without obvious learning difficulties would of course know that loosening up the money supply while leaving the other three strands untouched would be certain to turn stagnation into depression.
What the country desperately needs is devaluation, which alone can make its goods competitive with Germany’s. Nobody would buy a Renault if he could get a BMW for the same money. It would be a different story if the Renault were half the price, as it would be if France could devalue, which of course it can’t.
As a founding member of the eurozone, France has no control over its currency. This is firmly in the hands of Angela… sorry, the EU. And Angela… sorry, the EU doesn’t want French goods to be competitive with German ones.
They are elated with, for example, today’s news saying that the German Continental is about to overtake the true tricolore Michelin as France’s top tyre company. What’s good for Germany is good, well, for Germany.
The accusation of playing lickspittle to Angela… sorry, the EU is levelled at my friend François not only by the left by also by what passes for the French conservative right.
French MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan published an article in yesterday’s Le Figaro with a self-explanatory title that can be loosely translated as We’ll Have to Choose Between Growth and the Euro.
At the risk of the European skies opening and the federalist lightning smiting him, the intrepid politician said the previously unsayable: France must leave the euro and by inference Angela… sorry, the EU if there’s to be any hope of a sound economy.
That such a departure would spell the end of the EU doesn’t seem to bother my friend Nicolas. The current arrangement, he says, benefits no one but Germany – and not even her, I’d be tempted to add. After all, while France’s economy stagnates, Germany’s has contracted.
One way or the other, the argument is beside the point. It wouldn’t be if the EU, as went its founding claim, had indeed been created to ensure prosperity across the European board.
It wasn’t. Its objectives were and are wholly political, with the economy used only as a smokescreen, an eerie Potemkin village of plywood cutouts.
Its founders wanted a single European state not because they thought this would benefit the Europeans, but because they wanted a single European state – dominated by Germany. C’est, as they say in these parts, tout.
A single currency is an essential tool to this end, just like the Reichsmark was from 1940 to 1945 and the Deutschmark was trying to be from 1948 onwards.
The euro pegged to the mark, ruinous as it is for European economies, is essential for European federalism. If one is abandoned, the other will die, and Angela… sorry, the EU will never allow it – no matter how sound the economic arguments in favour of such a development would be.