Farewell, Jacques Chirac

Highlight — I tend to be prudent when it comes to what France will become with incoming Nicolas Sarkozy.

Pick any slice of the French population and scratch the surface. Almost always, you’ll find some level of desperation (too much taxes, too much rules, not enough welfare) and expectations from a once ever present Nanny State. State should do this, State should care about that, State should…

The Nanny State is long dead in France, but no one has really noticed because necromancers have managed to keep its ghost around for a few extra decades.

Sarkozy’s election may strike some outsiders as good for French-US relations, others as bad for Turkey’s possible integration to the EU. It may strike insiders as a ray of hope in the area of State dynamics.

It strikes me as an oddity. A candidate achieved Presidency with proposals that broadly go down to letting the French care for themselves. This is unheard of since the 1929 crisis.

Even with a mandate (53% of votes with an 85% turnout), the task ahead is all but trivial. The previous attempt at this by Juppe and Madelain under Chirac’s initial mandate was greeted with some of the worse strikes in recent French history, and an almost immediate return to power of the opposition. France as a whole has spectacular assets. But it was not quite ready for a new start yet.

I’ve still doubts it does today, and Sarkozy’s tough stance isn’t necessarily a trump in a country nursed by political “langue de bois.” (French politicians are extremely skillful sophists.) Then again, I haven’t lived there in a while. Maybe the country is desperate to a point where it’s ready to sit tight and try new recipes.

In the meanwhile, Anne Applebaum depicts a biting picture of outgoing Jacques Chirac. Enjoy.