There is something wrong with this cheese.

There is something wrong in France. 

We English have always had a complicated relationship with our Gallic neighbours. For long we were bitter enemies, sworn to destroy each other. Then bitter friends, sworn to destroy each other. The English have always been berated by the French for boring food, sexuality of glacial temperatures, a passionless outlook on life. English men are taught that French women are everything that ours are not. English women are taught to swoon at a French man’s seductive tones. The French it seems, have it all, good food, good wine, good love; the good life. 

The newest conflict comes between our two governments. The UK coalition is seen as the standard-bearer of austerity economics. The French, being a contrary lot, elected the manifest opposite of this in Monsieur Hollande, back in May. It gives me great pleasure to say that, well, they really got that one wrong.

A French chap I knew a few years back exalted to me the “great savior” of the French nation. That was one Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He assured me that once DSK swept to power, France would be restored as the great economic, cultural and politico-spiritual powerhouse of Europe. Oh how things have changed.

Mr Strauss-Kahn as we all know turned out to not be quite the savior envisaged. Monsieur Hollande, while a less controversial figure (although the Rottweiler [link] might have something to say about that), is enacting the economic policies that DSK promised. And how badly it is all going. 

This week’s breaking news is that the French state has been unceremoniously stripped of it’s AAA credit rating. Well, what could be expected? The frightening socialist policies Hollande has introduced are literally sucking the life out of the economy. His punishing tax rates are pushing investors and the highest earners (i.e. those who make the economy function) to leave [link]. It has somehow been forgotten that in the EU, the freedom to move to another country is a cherished right. 

London is now joked as being the 6th biggest French city [link], as those who create jobs, invest money and ultimately breath life into the economy flee the onslaught of the French socialist tyranny. 

At first glance this seems to be the mistake of economic mismanagement by an inept government. But one must remember, this is what the French people wanted. Hollande was elected for exactly what he is doing now, to plunder the rich and feed the poor. So this begs the question, how could the French have made such an utterly misguided decision? 

It all comes down to the nature of French society. It can be argued that this corrosive nature is traceable all the way to the beginning, the French Revolution.

The previous President, Nicolas Sarkozy, was rather more to the right than his successor (this is the French right, in Britain he would be positively New Labour!). He ordered reform of the teaching of economics in France [link]. An audit of French economics text books was orchestrated, a committee set up, and discussions of how to better teach business and economics began. This however failed, and the committee was stopped. A report into economic school books found that no one single book mentioned entrepreneurs. Oh the irony that the English borrowed the word in the first place! 

What this all suggests is a fundamental disdain, bordering on hostility to free market economics that is deeply ingrained in the French psyche. The French Revolution exchanged deference and obedience to the nobility with deference and obedience to the state. The new republic had liberated the people, so it was expected that they be subservient to it. A fundamental hatred of any perceived wealthy class blossomed, as any emerging wealthy class would be perceived as a proto-aristocratic challenge to the hegemony of the French people’s state.

Hollande was supposed to introduce a new wave of post-austerity economics. It was to be another French Revolution, punishing the evil wealthy classes for the economic chaos they caused. It was supposed to signal a return to growth, led by the brave French socialists, taking Europe toward a new dawn of prosperity and ultimately, socialist Nirvana. 

Well, it lasted six months. Now the economy is in appalling condition, Hollande has performed any number of U-turns [link], scrabbling to reverse the rot.   

Oh well, at least they still have all that delicious cheese and the wine.

Edmund Greaves is co-editor of The Libertarian Press. He also writes travel articles at the www.curiousenglishman.com

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