December 6, 2018

France in Turmoil

French President Emmanuel Macron scrapped a fuel tax rise Wednesday amid fears of new violence, after weeks of nationwide protests and the worst rioting in Paris in decades.”

AP News

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From the Left

The left generally thinks the French government should not have retreated, but also acknowledges the tough predicaments of an increasingly unequal economy and populist protests.

“Mr. Macron must find ways to address a central problem that Western democracies now face: the bitter disenchantment of those who feel left behind by rapid technological change and economic dislocation. While there’s no clear road map, retreating from needed reforms is not the solution.”

Washington Post

The retreat is a dangerous gamble. In the view of the demonstrators, [Prime Minister] Philippe and his boss heard their anger only when they started torching cars on Avenue Kléber, not when it smoldered in distant villages. Social media is already buzzing with calls for more. Demands now include Mr. Macron’s resignation and dissolution of the Parliament...

“But when the government tried to open talks, there was no one to talk to. Some unofficial interlocutors appeared but were pulled back by threats from other yellow vests... The power of social media to quickly mobilize mass anger without any mechanism for dialogue or restraint is a danger to which a liberal democracy cannot succumb.”

New York Times

“What began as an automobile-focused, cost-of-living protest undertaken by a coalition of the white, rural working-class and petite bourgeoisie has evolved into a Hydra-headed autumn of discontent, with many objectives, no leaders, and a base that encompasses a cross-section of French life from engineers to paramedics to Parisian high school students...

"Spurred by everybody’s favorite anti-governmental social network, Facebook, the gilet jaunes crisis is best understood as a revolt against all things Macron.”


“Macron may be on the right side of history with many of his policies, like the fuel tax, but to many French citizens, even ones who supported him, he comes across as tone-deaf and out of touch.”

The Atlantic

“The beauty of the movement, for Macron’s political opponents, is that it can be whatever they want to say it is... Both Mélenchon and Le Pen are trying to glom a long-term objective—the establishment of a voting system that would make it easier for extremist parties like theirs to gain seats in Parliament—onto the gilets-jaunes agenda...

"The European Parliamentary elections are coming up in May. Macron knows that they are [a] referendum not only on him but also on the values of globalism, centrism, and environmentalism.”

The New Yorker

“This is not a revolt, monsieur le président. It’s the French equivalent to Brexit – a raging cry for help from the disenfranchised. Unlike the British ruling elite, it would be wise, after saying that you heard them, to act on what they say.”

The Guardian

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right thinks the protests are an indication that costly, top-down efforts to combat climate change are not feasible.

From the Right

The right thinks the protests are an indication that costly, top-down efforts to combat climate change are not feasible.

“[Macron] is fiddling with carbon reduction targets while Paris burns... Instead of uniting the country behind an absolutely necessary reform of its ossified institutions and employment-hostile labor laws and taxation policies, instead of inspiring the country with the grand project of national renewal, he has united the country against himself.”

Spectator USA

“[Macron] has perhaps been truest to his anti-nationalist rhetoric in his willingness to have his countrymen bear the brunt of (purportedly) addressing a global problem — and it hasn’t gone well... Macron might not have stumbled into this debacle — which will seriously diminish him and, thankfully, his ambitions for the E.U. — if he had taken the concerns of his own struggling citizens as seriously as U.N. climate reports.”

National Review

“It didn’t matter to [Macron] that French emissions already are very low on a per capita basis and further cuts to transport emissions would be extremely difficult to achieve. But this matters a great deal to lower-income rural voters whose use of cars for daily life and business was about to become much more expensive...

"The public seems to understand better than progressive elites that the consequences of climate change, whatever they turn out to be, will be easier to confront the more prosperous the world is.”

Wall Street Journal

“The French people are balking because the government doesn't appear to care how much disruption there will be in the lives of ordinary people.  Whether French voters believe in man-made climate change is not the issue. This is an issue that hits at the wallets of the French lower and middle classes and, along with the rising cost of living, is squeezing the average Frenchman, lowering their standard of living.”

American Thinker

“What the rioters seem to be saying is this: We cannot see the benefits you are promising to future generations from cutting carbon emissions. And we cannot survive the taxes you are imposing on us in the here and now... Western elites may be reaching the limits of their political capacity to impose major sacrifices upon their constituents, who are turning to populists of the left and right to dethrone those elites.”

The American Conservative

“At the same time this was going on, delegates are meeting in Poland—a nation where more than 85 percent of electricity is generated in coal-fired power plants—so that signees of the Paris Agreement could iron out how they would reach their own emissions-reducing pledges. The United States, which exited the deal Obama entered without congressional approval, has already matched the carbon emission reductions of the European Union since 2005... We didn’t even have to riot.”

The Federalist

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Lil’ Bill could be the world’s tiniest cow.

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