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Technocrate, Moi?

My reasons for bringing up the current political unrest in France on this blog in articles here and here are simple: the tectonic plates of public opinion on climate change move slowly but inexorably. Identifying where the big quake will happen is of key importance. It might be in Australia or California or Germany. Suddenly, it seems as if it might be in France, and I’ll try to explain why.

That the insurrectional movement of the gilets jaunes (yellow jackets) is profoundly altering the political landscape in France, and therefore eventually in the European Union, is no longer in doubt. How it affects the position of environmentalism, and therefore of climate change orthodoxy, is not so clear. The movement started as a grassroots protest against a recent rise in the price of petrol and a rather greater rise in the price of diesel, due in part to increases in the carbon tax. But prices have since fallen, without diminishing the level of protest, which has morphed into a generalised rebellion around the cost of living. The government is standing firm in its determination to put in motion la transition énérgetique, without ever defining exactly what that means. And no-one among the protesters is yet questioning the importance of “l’écologie,” without ever defining what that means.

A demographer gave a most interesting explanation for the strength of the movement, laying the blame on INSEE, the government office of statistics, which apparently decrees that 95% of the population lives in urban, and only 5% in rural areas. A child, or a climate sceptic, could spot immediately the flaw in this statement, but not a President, his government, or the highly educated élite which advises them: It all depends what you mean by urban and rural. So, successive governments have ignored the sparsely populated three quarters of the country, where half the population lives, closing railways, hospitals and post offices, and leaving the mayors of small towns with no industry or commerce worth speaking of to finance their infrastructure from local taxes, with ever diminishing help from central government.

It’s all about Europe of course, and its golden rule of reducing the budget deficit. The pressure on wages exercised by twenty years of austerity dictated by Brussels has forced low paid workers further and further out of the cities into what has suddenly been identified as the périphérie – not the despised banlieu (suburbs) where the lumpenproletariat (often Arabs) vegetate in permanent unemployment – but the small towns and villages inhabited by the working class (or classe moyenne in French) – those whom Macron has described as “the people who are nothing.” And where a decent life is possible only as long as one can afford to drive to work, to school, to the hospital, or to the out-of-town shopping centre.

But what about the environment? That was the reason for raising prices of petrol, diesel and heating fuel, a policy that had the lukewarm support of the entire political class, but only Macron and the far left made it central to their campaigns. Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate accord was experienced as a slap in the face to French pride, and hence Macron’s call to “make the planet great again.” Macron’s ardent espousal of the climate cause confirms everything people like me and Ben Pile have been saying for years – that the environmental movement, far from being a grassroots affair, is a cult of the chattering classes, the cool city-dwelling, left-leaning hipsters centred round the opinionating professions; the media, advertising, marketing, and information technology: Macron’s “start-uppeurs,” the social class known in French as “les bo-bos” – the bourgeois bohemians.

After the disastrous scenes of violence on the Champs Elysées on the 24th of November, it was announced that the following Tuesday President Macron would re-establishing his authority with a major speech announcing the formation of the HCAC – the High Council for the Climate; the publication (twice delayed) of the PPE or“Pluriannuelle Programmation pour L’Enérgie;” and an address to the concerns of the citizens, as expressed so clearly in the past three weeks on roundabouts and motorway exits around the country.

Macron spoke for half an hour about energy transition before getting to the subject of the current climate of insurrection. I didn’t hear a word about the HCAC or the PPE, which is hardly surprising. Half the country is wondering whether they’ll be able to get to the shopping centre next Saturday, while the other half will be blocking the entrance. His high councils and pluriannual programmation can go take a running jump. Blathering about the climate for half an hour before announcing that he had nothing to offer the men and women who have been standing day and night for two weeks round campfires on motorway exits was a sure way of keeping the movement going.

The President has two modes of discourse, the technocratic and the emotive. The first half of his speech was in technocratic mode, in which he excels, indeed, Excels. When his piercing blue eyes stare into the camera, gleaming like the lamps on a pair of police cars reflected in the puddles left by a water cannon on the Champs Elysées, you can practically see the pie charts and coloured bullet points which illuminate and energise his dissertation.

He started by announcing that there will be no going back on the planned increase in the tax on fuel promised for January. Instead he announced an increase in expenditure on the transition énergétique from 5 to 7 or 8 million euros per annum, the phasing out of coal fired plants by 2022, and a reduction in the use of nuclear to 50% of electricity production by 2035. There were vague mentions of tidal, geothermal and hydro; and the number of wind turbines is to triple and solar installations to be multiplied by five.

Then he turned to the concerns of the citizens, the gilets jaunes who are supported by 85% of the population and who have helped to make him the most unpopular president at this stage of the presidency in history. He made it clear that he was addressing, not the “seditious,” the “populist lepers,” the “brown plague” (all expressions used by Macron or his ministers recently) who trashed the Champs Elysées last Saturday, but the honest citizens who have made their feelings known in demonstrations which have reduced consumer spending in shopping centres by 30% or so, thus reducing this year’s growth to about 1%, and making it well nigh impossible for France to attain the European Union’s deficit criteria. He repeated a formula popularised by Nicolas Hulot, the ex-ecology minister in a surrealist tearful two hour documentary last week: “Some people are worried about the end of the month. I’m worried about the end of the world,” adding that he was worried about both. (It sounds punchier in French, which is a neat example of how accidents of language can influence vast questions of geopolitics. Only in the French language could you announce with a straight face that you’re worried about the end of the world in the tones of a bonkers death cult like the People’s Temple or the Union of Concerned Scientists.)

For this part of his speech he lowered his head in a gesture of humility, and made that peculiar Gallic gesture of holding his cupped hand before his face and staring intently at it, as if about to inhale the odour of a priceless truffle, and started talking about – his feelings. Buried in the expression of his compassion and comprehension were some announcements. There will be no tax cuts, no moratorium on the hated carbon tax, no rise in the minimum wage, no backtracking on the pitiful below-inflation rise in pensions and public sector wages. All we were offered was three months of consultation at a local level between all interested parties, with each cluster of yellow jackets invited to consult with interested parties in whichever one of the 35,000 communes into which France has been divided since 1789 they happen to inhabit. And he also found the time to criticise the measures to help with the burden of energy prices announced by his Prime Minister a few days previously, admitting that even he didn’t understand the “cheque énérgie” a programme which he was responsible for introducing. The result was a rise in support among the general public for the gilets jaunes from 70% to 85%.

On Friday, 30th November, the Prime Minister invited the gilets jaunes to meet him at the prime ministerial palace at 2pm. At 2.40 a guy in a leather jacket wandered up with his hands in his pockets. Ten minutes later he wandered out again and announced to the waiting journalists that he had refused to participate in the discussion because the prime minister and the minister of the environment had refused his request to film and relay the discussion on his i-phone. Some other unknown person did take part in the discussions, and the prime minister announced that he was very satisfied with the exchange of points of view.

If ridicule could kill, the life expectancy of a politician would be that of a soldier in the trenches in 1914-18. But they kept going for four long years.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I get the impression that the British press, Europhile, Francophile, and Remainophile, will do all they can to suppress news of the vast social and political earthquake occurring here. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this:

I get my information largely from three “independent” rolling news channels, all owned by millionaire oligarchs, and financed by ads which are almost exclusively for fast cars and perfumes – the kind of luxury products which France produces par excellence. In France, less than 8% of the population reads a national newspaper. News is for the élite. I switch to Skynews, and I feel I’ve descended ten rungs on the social ladder, with rather ordinary journalists feeding me rather ordinary stuff for rather ordinary citizens. It’s not particularly informative, but it feels democratic – sort of.

BUT, these French channels are devoting 95% of their time (I’m not exaggerating) to a movement supported by 85% of the population, which is now demanding the resignation of a president recently elected by 65% of voters, plus the dissolution of parliament, to be replaced by some kind of popular assembly. This situation, incomprehensible to the English, is easily explained by the sociological analysis of Emmanuel Todd, to which I have frequently referred, e.g. here.

The English believe fervently in liberty (liberty from the EU, for example) but are not much concerned about equality. The French are divided between a centre and south which believes fervently in liberty and equality, and east and west fringes which share with Germany (as well as Scandinavia, Scotland, Ireland, Catalonia, and Japan) an authoritarian streak arising from the unconscious belief in the INequality of man, based on the historical principle of primogeniture. Which, paradoxically, gives rise to solid social structures which maintain social cohesion (think of the welfare states in Scandinavia, of the German trade unions, or the practically one party state of Japan.)

The French mix of authoritarianism and égalité gives rise to a kind of tidal flow in its politics, an instability which bewilders the Anglo-Saxon observer. Or did, in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the French experienced revolutions, often accompanied by military defeat or civil war, in 1789, 1812, 1830, 1848, and 1870. Which didn’t stop France from being the world’s greatest civilisation for the best part of two centuries. But then, the Anglo Saxon observers, from Laurence Sterne through Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine, to Ernest Hemingway, were deeply interested in France. Find me a commenter now in the serious press anywhere with any interest in or understanding of any non-English-speaking country. The Guardian’s news from France in the past three days consists of articles on Macron’s meeting with a Saudi Prince, a French civil servant arrested for spying for North Korea, and something about poor restaurants. Because France is somewhere you go to eat, and therefore somewhere you’re desperately, viscerally determined to stay attached to, like mother’s teat. Is mother suffering some hugely significant change of life? Why should we care, as long as the restaurants are open?

[added 4th December: next Saturday they won’t be.]

Back to climate again. The rolling news channels don’t treat any subject that can’t be summarised in thirty seconds, so climate change hardly gets a mention. The positions remain stuck, as in 1914, with the government saying they won’t renege on their measures to save the planet, and the gilets jaunes saying that they’re all in favour of ecology, but the cost of living comes first.

But the leftwing press, and possibly the leftwing politicians, are starting to see the danger here. Since it is quite impossible to satisfy the demand for a substantial rise in wages or a reduction in taxes without cutting government expenditure or defying Brussels, the left is going to have to start explaining the need for the energy transition. Libération, the equivalent of the Guardian, started yesterday with a detailed demolition of the argument that renewable energy was incapable of providing the energy necessary for a modern state, an argument whose existence they had never previously acknowledged. A hundred thousand readers who had previously swallowed the climatist kool aid without question were suddenly being presented with arguments countering objections to their beliefs which they’d never thought of. The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow, and the number of dammable valleys in the Alps is limited. Who’d have thought it? Certainly not our well informed highly educated élite, until a few thousand fed-up, poorly paid workers started blocking motorway entrances, and therefore forced journalists to start delving into the subject.

Political thought is forged in action. It’s Praxis, stupid. This rather banal observation is at the foundation of Marxism, and is therefore never expressed in polite society. Suddenly, it’s being enacted on 24 hour rolling news, with mainstream politicians forced to explain to their electors why the present system is the only possible one. Angry and often inarticulate actors are rehearsing long forgotten arguments initiated by Plato and Aristotle, Rousseau, and Marx, in television studios before millions of spectators. This is the true significance of what’s happening, and not the number of demonstrators on the Champs Elysées tomorrow.

And the cool defenders of the status quo, who believe in no political dogma, who mistrust Anglo-Saxon “liberalism,” have never read Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes, and have rejected both the nationalism of de Gaulle and the Stalinism of the French Communist Party, have only environmentalism to cling to, an environmentalism which the gilets jaunes have said clearly can wait until they’ve achieved their objectives of decent wages.

* * *

The above was written on Friday 30th November, before the events in Paris last Saturday (which are still unclear, by the way. Only this evening, December 4th, we learned on the news that hundreds of demonstrators tried to enter the Opéra, and briefly besieged the Senate.)

This is not the place or moment to publish a match replay, but note, in case your media aren’t reporting the fact, that the first problems occurred at 8.40 am, at the entrance to the Champs Elysées. After the first few dozen peaceful demonstrators had got past the bag and body searches, the crowd behind began to get impatient, and those in front started pushing against the shields of the riot police. The immediate response was to fire tear gas and a water cannon over the heads of the troublemakers at the front, into the peaceful crowd behind, who naturally retreated back up the avenue to the Arc de Triomphe.

I mention the fact because that sequence hasn’t been replayed in the dozens of hours of coverage I’ve seen since. We’ve seen other sequences though, of eight policemen kicking someone on the ground; of the police throwing stones at demonstrators. And there was a death – an old lady closing her shutters was hit by a police tear gas grenade, one of over ten thousand fired on Saturday. That’s not the kind of dangerous gas emission that the government had in mind when they launched this campaign in defense of the environment.

69 thoughts on “Technocrate, Moi?

  1. Geoff,
    Excellent.
    Pielke’s Iron Law is being vindicated.
    As are skeptics and heretics of the consensus.
    Macron Antoinette is as clueless and callous as the late Marie Antoinette.
    The heart of the climate consensus has always been weaponized counter factual nonsense.
    Viva la Revolution!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. HUNTER (04 Dec 18 at 10:06 pm)
    I’ve seen some good graffiti scrawled on the Arc de Triomphe and trashed banks, but not “Macron Antoinette” – yet.

    My favourite was a reaction to a recent confrontation between Emmanuel Macron and an unemployed horticulturist, in which the president had said (indicating some posh restaurants across the road) “I could cross the road and find you a job” (as an underpaid waiter.)

    Last Saturday the people who’d pillaged a cash point stopped to spray the comment: OK MANU, ON TRAVERSE (“OK Manny: we’re crossing.”) Revolutions are made of slogans, as well as of destruction of property ands the overthrow of received ideas.

    On the counter factual nonsense: that continues on the state aided rolling news channel France Info.
    Though they too give over almost all their reporting to the current unrest, they intersperse it with publicity for the COP 24 (obviously prepared in advance) with NGO spokespeople earnestly explaining why we’ll all die if petrol prices aren’t raised.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Geoff, thanks for those views from much closer to the trenches. The disconnect between the elite and the hoi polloi could not be more stark. OTOH: You people should be ashamed of working in those dirty industries and driving cars and trucks. OTOH: We are just trying to earn a living, and you are making it impossible. BTW, the French attempt to reduce carbon emissions has to attack the transportation sector, since they have all that lovely nuclear electricity. So this is the vanguard event for any politician who attacks personal mobility in a modern society. A view of the conflict from this side of the pond, from IBD:
    https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/fighting-carbon-taxes/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Geoff – fyi/fwiw/icymi… – the UK mainstream coverage seems to be trying to portray this as almost solely a Parisian thing – if you have the time a few links to provincial stuff would be really good

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for this Geoff. I have been following your reports from France with interest. What fascinates me is that the English press are choosing not to make the connection between France attempting to meet her climate change commitments and the protests in Paris. A few articles make some reference to proposed increases in fuel taxes but many do not even bring that up, for example:
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/04/emmanuel-macron-crisis-france-europe-far-right
    Blaming the far right is apparently an easier narrative to trot out than France trying to implement climate change policies. I agree that once people catch on to the implications and real costs, public opinion will shift.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. RON CLUTZ has it right in his comment above, when he says that this is what happens to any politician who attacks personal mobility in a modern society. However, the editorial from Investor’s Business Daily which he quotes at his linked article is way off. Analysis of those arrested and already tried shows that the majority were not young, but middle aged men from the provinces with jobs and families. If you’re young with no job and no hope, you’re not bothered about taxes and petrol prices.

    TOMO
    This is not solely a Parisian thing – it’s very much an anti-Parisian thing. Even the poor living in the suburbs have been slow to turn up. So journalists have been forced to go out and interview the demonstrators where they are, standing on roundabouts in the provinces. And they’ve found young and old, men and women, manual workers and small businessmen reinventing the world round a bonfire with a pizza in one hand and an iphone in the other. Meanwhile, back in the studio a procession of politicians, journalists, and sociologists have had to share the platform with some unelected but articulate and thoughtful gilets jaunes. This is revolution as a 24 hour psycho-drama.
    Some of the Parisian experts are beginning to realise that they are part of the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The only thing I know comparable to the French protests was in some rural parts of the Western prairie states (Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming). In the 1970s speed limits on all roads (including multilane Highways) were reduced to 50mph, in order to conserve petrol stocks. States that refused to impose such limits were threatened with a withdrawal of all federal funding. In areas where communities were commonly 20+ miles apart, this low speed limit imposed real hardship by lengthening travel times considerably. Furthermore highway curves were banked assuming vehicles were travelling at higher speeds. Several single-vechicle accidents were attributed to the imposition of the lower speed limits. This resulted in widespread resentment against Eastern politicians and disobedience. There were some minor demonstrations in state capitals, but nothing comparable with Paris. Quickly methods were devised to warn motorists of the proximity of state trooper vehicles (the only way speeding could then be detected and punished) and travel times were only slightly reduced. I suspect matters would have got quickly out of hand (what with every other vehicle in Wyoming equipped with a shotgun (or two)) if speed limits had been imposed with greater rigour.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. As Geoff says, the French protesters are multi-generational, and it started in rural areas with people earning too much to get social benefits, but not enough to live securely facing rising taxes. The youth are now involved, including reports 100 high schools have been blockaded. From Reuters:

    “French students, meanwhile, have intensified their protests around the country – setting ire to buildings and engaging in violent clashes with the police. The students have “gradually started to get involved” with the Yellow Vest movement, leading to riots in southwest France, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and the city of Orleans. A school in Blagnac, near Toulouse was reportedly set on fire Tuesday, according to Reuters.”

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  9. Excellent piece – very many thanks. I agree about the insights offered by Emmanual Todd – see esp “Who is Charlie” – and will definitely follow up your links.

    BTW, your description of Macron’s disdain brought to mind that classic 1968 riposte to de Gaulle’s hauteur: “Le chienlit – c’est lui”. Gosh. What happened to him?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Geoff

    golly gosh…. who’d a thunk it …. les gilet jaunes presented on yesterday’s “pm” by Evan Davis as a Parisian thing …. at least that’s the way I took it. The BBC doing an inversion job on a subject ?

    I recall the 2000 UK fuel protests where police attacking peaceful demonstrators at Fawley and Avonmouth was presented by the state broadcaster as the opposite….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “Macron’s ardent espousal of the climate cause confirms everything people like me and Ben Pile have been saying for years – that the environmental movement, far from being a grassroots affair, is a cult of the chattering classes, the cool city-dwelling, left-leaning hipsters centred round the opinionating professions; the media, advertising, marketing, and information technology: Macron’s “start-uppeurs,” the social class known in French as “les bo-bos” – the bourgeois bohemians.”

    I think the idea that the environmental movement is class-based is definitely true in some countries, the sort of countries where the general public is not particularly Green-leaning, like France, UK and USA. For the UK, here are some statistics for average house prices versus political party in the constituencies that voted in the 2017 general election:

    https://order-order.com/2017/08/25/greens-live-expensive-homes/

    The Green party has the highest average house price, followed by the Liberal Democrats. The Greens and Lib Dems are the two British political parties that are most active in trying to appeal to the ‘Green vote’.

    However in countries where the general public appears to be significantly more Green-leaning than the UK and France, I’ve got a feeling it might be more than just being class-based, there may be something like a religious aspect to it. Examples of these more Green-leaning countries that I’m thinking of might be Germany and Australia. Australia doesn’t strike me as being a class-ridden country.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Geoff, thanks, I was hoping you’d give us an update. And great writing as usual.

    You are right that the media here is giving it less coverage than it deserves. There is an article on the BBC news website today, if you scroll down to the bottom of the news page, past the more important news such as who is presenting the Oscars and the drag show coming soon to BBC 3. But, predictably, the concern of the article is Will the environment be the true victim of the fuel-tax riots?

    > He started by announcing that there will be no going back on the planned increase in the tax on fuel promised for January.

    I think the latest news was that he has now backed down on that, at least postponing the tax increase:

    Emmanuel Macron forced into U-turn as France’s PM suspends fuel tax hikes after violent protests

    But it seems that this is too little, too late, and won’t stop the protests.

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  13. On that Evan Davis interview with one of the gilet jaunes – he tried very hard to suggest to her that the violence was being caused by the far right. The lady being interviewed was adamant that the trouble-makers were anarchists. I don’t know if she’s correct, but Evan certainly didn’t like it!

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  14. PAUL MATTHEWS
    Yes. I saw that BBC article. Another journalist (anonymous) who thinks his job, rather than to inform us of what’s going on in the world, is to perform a moral audit on everything that happens for the sake of the planet.

    We’ve all been living in hope that one day people will realise that the science is uncertain, that the margins of error around estimations of climate sensitivity are too large for conclusions to be drawn, etc. But that not how people work. First they realise that their petrol prices are going up for what they have been told is a good cause; then they notice that this cause is never clearly spelt out, and that the people supporting the cause get vaguer and vaguer the more one demands precision. We’ve already gone in France from “saving the planet” to “preventing the end of the world.” Once people start doubting about whether their 7 centimes extra per litre will really prevent the end of the world, they might start working backwards and ask “what exactly is an energy transition?” and “Is it really necessary?”

    I tell myself I should be paying less attention to what’s going on on the barricades and more to how the ecologists are reacting to this, but it’s all too interesting.

    A march for the climate is planned for next Saturday in Paris, though some, including M. Hulot, ex minister of ecology, have suggested it should be cancelled.

    There’s also a CounterCOP24 being held in Paris on Friday December 14th. The programme is here.
    https://www.climato-realistes.fr/contre-cop24-des-climato-realistes-programme/

    Do go if you can. Hotel prices on the Champs Elysées are very reasonable at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Brendan O’Neill has an article in the Spectator,

    In praise of the Gilets jaunes

    At last, a people’s revolt against the tyranny of environmentalism. Paris is burning. Not since 1968 has there been such heat and fury in the streets. Thousands of ‘gilets jaunes’ stormed the capital at the weekend to rage against Emmanuel Macron and his treatment of them with aloof, technocratic disdain. And yet leftists in Britain and the US have been largely silent, or at least antsy, about this people’s revolt. The same people who got so excited about the staid, static Occupy movement a few years ago — which couldn’t even been arsed to march, never mind riot — seem struck dumb by the sight of tens of thousands of French people taking to the barricades against Macronism.

    It isn’t hard to see why. It’s because this revolt is as much against their political orthodoxies as it is against Macron’s out-of-touch and monarchical style. Most strikingly this is a people’s rebellion against the onerous consequences of climate-change policy, against the politics of environmentalism and its tendency to punish the little people for daring to live relatively modern, fossil-fuelled lives. This is new. This is unprecedented. We are witnessing perhaps the first mass uprising against eco-elitism and we should welcome it with open arms to the broader populist revolt that has been sweeping Europe for a few years now.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Geoff, thank you so much for this article. I have tremendous admiration for the “gilets jaunes” – motivated by Macron, as Jonathan Miller for the Spectator put it, in the Antoinette style, “….let them buy Teslas”. Hopefully we’ll look back some time in the future and see this as the start of the push back against the UN/Davos global elite. Vive la France.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Just read on le Figaro

    “Alors que le gouvernement a multiplié les appels au calme mercredi, l’Élysée craint des manifestations d’une «grande violence», samedi prochain, à Paris. La présidence, contactée par Le Figaro, redoute un «noyau dur radicalisé» de «gilets jaunes» venus «pour casser et pour tuer». L’exécutif fait état «d’appels à tuer et à venir armé afin de s’en prendre notamment aux parlementaires et aux forces de l’ordre».

    Things seem to be getting 1917ish

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The timing of this has coincided with a major upheaval in the way the education system is being organised hence one more reason why youth are getting involved. Once again it seems to be that the centre has no concept of how the rest of the country lives.
    I don’t have the full details at the moment but it is at least partly the case that while the curriculum is supposedly being broadened in a département like Saone-et-Loire (which is rural but not all that rural) if you live in Louhans or Epinac you may well find that courses you are halfway through are only being offered at Chalon-sur-Saone — which in either case means a 40-minute drive. At least that is the fear.
    Which brings us back to the gilets jaunes and the cost of fuel!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Ta, an interesting read.

    It took 3 years for the shine to come off Blair’s prime ministership (I voted for him in ’97), but only 18 months for the Macron. Is this because only 24% of France actually wanted Macron? The rest wanted “not Le Pen.” (Also in ’97 came the video game Quake II, whose villain “the Makron” was defeated by a marine called “bitterman.”)

    A left-field, if serious suggestion: if Germany and France don’t want their nukes, can we have them? I appreciate that some plumbing might be required, but they should be selling them at knock-down prices.

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  20. Trump putting the boot in…

    Trump mocks Macron again over French fuel tax protests

    PARIS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has taken another swipe on Twitter at his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron prompted by Macron’s woes over violent protests against fuel taxes.

    “I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago,” Trump tweeted late on Tuesday.

    “The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters,” said Trump, referring to a global deal on the environment drafted in Paris in late 2015.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-protests-idUSKBN1O40M5

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  21. How many times have we been told by climate activists that the most effective action ordinary people can take to combat climate change is to put pressure on the politicians? On the BBC News Channel only the other evening, Guardian political editor Jessica Elgot was saying (apropos of COP24) “… but ultimately, the real thing that people can do is put enormous pressure on their governments…”

    And yet, ironically, when the public finally do turn out en masse, the message is not one the green technocrats want to hear.

    What’s happening in France is an actual grassroots movement, the likes of which climate agitators can only dream.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. Should it be bobo écolo or écolo bobo or does écolo = bobo so the ordering doesn’t really matter?

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  23. Oh! Canada!

    I daresay that legalising dope and giving the media about CAD$500m in taxpayer funds to say nice things about the government will make a difference.

    If there’s another country that needs gilets jaunes – it’s Canada

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  24. PAUL MATTHEWS (06 Dec 18 at 8:55 am)

    The BBC reports that the French Government has now dropped the planned tax rises entirely (just a day after saying that they were going to be postponed for 6 months)

    Yesterday was the big day that the prime minister was to speak to parliament and announce some kind of concessions to calm the atmosphere. But the junior minister of finance and government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux (he who said he understood the gilets jaunes’ anger – why – you couldn’t buy a meal for two in Paris for less than 200 euros, not counting the wine) jumped the gun by announcing on early morning radio that there would be a six month moratorium on January’s planned tax rises on petrol, diesel, and heating fuel, and on the rise in the price of gas and electricity, while negotiations were held.

    “But what happens if the negotiations fail?” he was asked. “Then the government will draw the obvious conclusion,” replied the minister, which, if it means anything, means that the opposing parties only have to refuse to agree to anything, and in six months the government will drop the tax for ever.

    When the prime minister gave his speech to parliament, the tone was more serious, and the message clearer. We’re holding off the price rises for six months, pending discussions. Period. So they weren’t giving in, but merely buying time until after the European elections.

    Finally, last night there was a three hour televised debate between two government ministers and some gilet jaunes. At one point the minister for ecology was seen fiddling with his I-phone, then he looked up to announce that the President had just informed him that the rise in energy prices wasn’t just put on hold, but annulled, cancelled, abolished, kaput. Then the ministers got back to explaining how they couldn’t negotiate with a movement that was incoherent, contradictory, and leaderless. Why not, I thought? Surely the only hope for a bunch of lemmings is if they meet another bunch of lemmings running in the opposite direction?

    Here I started to wonder about our interpretation of the climate problem. We’re acting on the assumption that our élites in government, academia and the media have an inexplicable blind spot when it comes to climate science, and if only WattsUpWithThat points out the flaws in the science, and Paul Homewood and the GWPF point out the flaws in the science-based policy, and we at cliscep faff about puzzling how we got into this mess, people will notice and change their minds.

    But what if our élites haven’t just got a blind spot about climate? What if they’re, collectively, really quite thick? I mean, how can a government minister, in the middle of a grave crisis, when everyone’s hoping for a concession to calm the atmosphere, announce: “We’re willing to hold off the next nasty shock while we talk, and if the talking gets nowhere, we’ll give in”? Does power in politics, or the media, or in academia, infallibly end up in the hands of the kind of unimaginative drone who gets to the top by sheer blind hard work, looking nether to left nor right, but plodding doggedly on to disaster?

    Stand up Mrs May and answer the question. Then sit down again. Then stand up again to answer the next one, and the next, on and on for ever.

    Does it have to be like this?

    Liked by 1 person

  25. @Geoff

    “I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”

    –Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

    Liked by 1 person

  26. The BBC obviously doesn’t want people “getting ideas” today.

    Elsewhere I took some screenshots of the BBC web landing page earlier today wrt Gilet Jaunes and the French government retreat on Carbon Taxes.

    North America IP address (c/w Gilet Jaunes coverage)

    UK Domestic IP address (no Gilet Jaunes / Carbon Tax)

    some graphics (photos) failed to render but the structure and text is preserved.

    Why you can trust the BBC huh?

    Like

  27. ALAN KENDALL (06 Dec 18 at 12:00 pm)

    I’ll raise your Yeats with Cavafy’s “Waiting for the Barbarians”

    What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

    The barbarians are due here today.

    Why did our emperor get up so early,
    and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
    in state, wearing the crown?

    Because the barbarians are coming today
    and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.

    Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
    (How serious people’s faces have become.)
    Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
    everyone going home lost in thought?

    Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.

    Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
    Those people were a kind of solution.

    Like

  28. Geoff
    “while reading this poem still won’t be the same
    as storming a bank or a parliament
    you may yet be reading this poem
    to a group of people with whom you will presently
    be storming a bank or parliament”.

    Stephen Collis.

    Like

  29. Geoff:

    “But what if our élites haven’t just got a blind spot about climate? What if they’re, collectively, really quite thick?”

    Regarding May / Brexit etc, attempting to draw too many close parallels with the climate domain might not be valid. But anyhow regarding the climate domain, it isn’t a knowledge deficit problem; it is one of belief, which overrides reason and biases perceptions of knowledge. We don’t accuse the great majority of the world’s population of being thick merely for believing (often passionately) in their religion. So, it’s the same for passionate believers in climate catastrophe.

    Like

  30. My impression is that the French/climatocracy reactionaries are going to push back against the people very hard this weekend.
    I wonder if Brussels will be sending out Euro troops to put down the pesky deplorables who believe in a democratic nation state?

    Like

  31. Hunter. What on earth can you mean?
    I’ve seen no, or little, evidence for
    A) “French/climatocracy reactionaries” anywhere being involved*.
    B) Brussels having any “Euro troops” to do anything, or
    C) Any mention of “embêtants déplorables” supporting democratic nation states. If anything , it could be reasoned that the yellow dressed are conducting, strictly speaking, undemocratic acts.

    *Although marches related to climate change I believe are scheduled in Paris today. Wonder what they will wear?

    Like

  32. ALAN
    Yes I’ve got that message too:

    451: Unavailable due to legal reasons
    We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time.

    Could someone from outside the EU tell us what it says?

    the yellow dressed are conducting, strictly speaking, undemocratic acts.

    No they’re not. Even the minister of the interior acknowledges their right to demonstrate, then adds under his breath “..but we’ll gas you anyway.”

    HUNTER
    That’s interesting about the Dutch leader. A French “leader” of the far left was arrested in his car for “membership of a group likely to take part in violent acts.” A ludicrous charge, but it won’t stop them confiscating his phone and examining the contents.

    I’m against censorship. Am I allowed to say that on the internet I wonder?

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Geoff. I was very careful with the words I used – “it could be reasoned that the yellow dressed are conducting, strictly speaking, undemocratic acts”. I call deliberately blocking road intersections so as to cause inconvenience to legitimate road users (sometimes with dire unforseen consequences) undemocratic. I did not say the yellow vests were undemocratic, but that some of their actions could be classified as being. Not really worth discussing further IMHO.

    Like

  34. This is the article from the Tribune Star, Terre Haute, Indiana. I took out the images.

    Clashes as yellow vest protests grow in Belgium, Netherlands
    LORNE COOK, MIKE CORDER Dec 8, 2018 Updated 13 min ago
    BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian police fired tear gas and water cannons at yellow-vested protesters calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Charles Michel after they tried to breach a riot barricade, as the movement that started in France made its mark Saturday in Belgium and the Netherlands.
    Protesters in Brussels threw paving stones, road signs, fireworks, flares and other objects at police blocking their entry to an area where Michel’s offices, other government buildings and the parliament are located.
    Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said that around 400 protesters were gathered in the area.
    About 100 were detained, many for carrying dangerous objects like fireworks or clothing that could be used as protection in clashes with police.
    The reasons for the protests are not entirely clear. Neither Belgium nor the Netherlands has proposed a hike in fuel tax — the catalyst for the massive and destructive demonstrations in France in recent weeks.

    Instead, protesters appeared to hail at least in part from a populist movement that is angry at government policy in general and what it sees as the widening gulf between mainstream politicians and the voters who put them in power. Some in Belgium appeared intent only on confronting police.

    Earlier in Brussels, police used pepper spray and scuffled with a small group of protesters who tried to break through a barricade blocking access to the European Parliament and the European Union’s other main institutions.

    The rallies, which started at different locations around the city and converged on the European quarter, disrupted road and rail traffic on one of the busiest Christmas shopping days of the year.

    Walking behind a banner reading “social winter is coming,” the protesters chanted “(French President Emmanuel) Macron, Michel resign.”

    Dozens of people were searched as they arrived, and police warned people to stay away from the area.

    Several hundred police officers were mobilized. Last week, yellow vest protesters clashed with police and torched two police vehicles in the same area. More than 70 people were detained.

    In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters in the high-visibility vests that have become a symbol of the movement walked peacefully across the downtown Erasmus Bridge singing a song about the Netherlands and handing flowers to passers-by.

    Sisters Beb and Ieneke Lambermont, aged 76 and 67 respectively, were among them.

    “Our children are hard-working people but they have to pay taxes everywhere. You can’t get housing anymore. It is not going well in Dutch society,” Ieneke said. “The social welfare net we grew up with is gone,” she said.

    “The government is not there for the people. It is there to protect its own interests,” she said.

    About 100 protesters gathered in a peaceful demonstration outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague. At least two protesters were detained by police in central Amsterdam.

    Jan Dijkgraaf, the editor of a Dutch “resistance newspaper” had called for peaceful protests in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
    Dijkgraaf said people are yearning for a past, more socially equitable, era of Dutch history, describing it as “a feeling of unity, but also looking after asylum-seekers well, taking good care of one another.”
    Other protesters appear more extreme — at a small and non-violent rally last week in The Hague one protester waved a historic Dutch flag that has become an emblem for the far right — and Dijkgraaf said some demonstrators are unhappy at his moderate plans.
    But he said violence like that seen last week in France and to a lesser extent Belgium does not work in the Netherlands.
    “The Netherlands is not like France — you light 100 cars on fire and you get what you want,” he said in a phone interview this week. “If you torch 100 cars here you are never allowed to demonstrate again and nothing more happens.”
    ___
    Corder reported from Rotterdam. Mark Carlson in Brussels and Peter Dejong in Amsterdam contributed.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Poses many questions:
    1. what legal reasons could there be to justify making this rather normal looking news report unavailable in the EU?
    2. what other reports have been embargoed?
    3. who’s doing the restricting?
    4. with what authority?

    Liked by 2 people

  36. ALAN KENDALL
    (I’ve just seen your latest comment. See below where I raise the same questions)
    You’re quite right on the legal point of course. But this is of little importance compared to the cultural context. The Dutch person quoted at the end of Potentilla’s comment explains that well. Violent demonstration is culturally acceptable in France, and so is a violent police response.

    As an example, many would-be demonstrators were stopped on the way to the demonstration and detained and held for twelve hours if they were found to be in possession of gloves or a cloth mask to protect themselves from tear gas, which is apparently defined as a category one weapon.

    POTENTILLA
    Many thanks for that. There’s clearly nothing in the article which would cause it to be banned for legal reasons. But the reference to “a small group of protesters who tried to break through a barricade blocking access to the European Parliament and the European Union’s other main institutions” would obviously be unwelcome to those institutions, which created the General Data Protection Regulation.

    I ‘d guess that the legal problem is with the photos used in the article being published without the permission of the owners. Since tracing the copyright owners of photos and obtaining their permission might take days, this law would effectively ban a paper like the Indiana Tribune Star, which doesn’t have a photographer in place, from publishing news as it happens.

    The question that occurs to me is: are all articles from outside the EU which contain copyright material now banned to European internet users, or only ones which contain material embarrassing to Brussels?

    Like

  37. Geoff:

    The access blocking doesn’t occur at the EU end, but at the provider end, and is because many sites outside the EU haven’t caught up with the needs of the data protection regulation yet, but I presume are also sufficiently legally responsible to actually take a default safe action while they do catch up (hence ‘at this time’). I presume all the big sites are already caught up, and many smaller orgs simply don’t care. At any rate I’ve had this message dozens of times from all sorts of different sites when trawling for research purposes, and I don’t think there’s any alignment to content.

    Like

  38. Geoff Chambers,
    I would be very concerned if agencies within the EU are abusing Copyright laws to enable and justify Censorship.

    Stopping and Detaining people to prevent them travelling, on the grounds that there were suspicions they were intending to demonstrate, seems a very sinister abuse of Police power within the EU.

    Les Gilets Jaunes were not inspired by violent activists or agitators. The movement has been overwhelmed by a minority of extremists, from the Left and Right.

    It remains to be seen whether the people of France believe that French Law Enforcement has been defending France, or Macron.

    If the EU has intervened with Censorship to defend Macron, then the EU has created a further problem for itself.

    Like

  39. Yesterday after I found a headline that mentioned protests in Belgium and the Netherlands I went in search of more detailed local reporting in Dutch, searching for “gele hesjes” and scanning the websites of a number of Dutch language news sources directly. Reporting was hard to find. Eventually I found a report that the small band of protesters in Den Haag had tried to enter the Binnenhof (parliamentary estate) but we’re blockaded by police, some on horseback. There was some reporting of the much more violent protests in Brussels from a Belgian TV station. The overall impression was that the press were under some pressure not to say too much, if anything at all.

    Like

  40. Now that the EU is actually censoring what we can share and see on the internet, it is clear that the consensus will not be gently nudged.
    Free speech was great as long as we didn’t actually matter to the reactionaries with their hands on the dials and switches.
    Overt mass censorship is coming to us ASAP.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. andywest and others,
    I sincerely hope that you are correct and that I am proven wrong.

    Like

  42. Hunter – it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. Both ends of the distribution networks will be subjected to restrictions.

    French telecoms were I feel very obviously filtering video streams on Saturday (although overloaded infrastructure could also be a factor). The absence of Paris drone footage hints that 2.4GHhz & 5GHz radio bands were rendered inoperative. It is to be expected that those who can exercise control over inconvenient coverage will do so ….

    Like

  43. ANDYWEST2012 (09 Dec 18 at 10:57 am)
    Thanks for weeding out that particular conspiracy theory of mine. It allows more space for the others to flourish.

    Now TOMO’s gone and planted it again.

    Like

  44. Tomo. Looks more like the police are only trying to move lawyers from the metal “fence” with a minimum of force, and as soon as they accomplish that, they let them go. Some lawyers even return to the fence (woman in blue hat). No sign, in the film clip, of any arrests. Nary a yellow vest in sight. More fakenews?

    Like

  45. There is a parallel in the demographics of the “gilets jaunes” in France and the strongest Leave-supporting areas of England and Wales. As Geoff explains “successive governments have ignored the sparsely populated three quarters of the country“. That is the small towns. Using the Chris Hanretty’s analysis by constituency of the EU Referendum result, I found the strongest Remain-supporting constituencies were in the centres of major cities like London, Manchester, and Liverpool, along with the University cities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol. Many of the strongest Leave-supporting constituencies were in the less-affluent towns on the periphery of the conurbations or outside of the conurbations. That includes Stoke-on-Trent, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Walsall, the Welsh valleys, Doncaster, Barnsley etc. The split went across party lines, but the most extreme votes, either for Leave or Remain, were disproportionately in Labour constituencies. In France and Britain there is a divide between the city-based pseudo-intellectuals and the majority.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. AK – tbh – I didn’t do usual xref on the lawyers…. It mightn’t even be current – if it is then it’s an indicator that the gilets jaunes aren’t simply rural grunts is all.

    Like

  47. https://notesonliberty.com/2018/12/10/the-yellow-vests-movement-in-france/

    J. Delacroix notes-

    “…he tried to buy some of the yellow vests off with other people’s money. The national minimum monthly wage will rise by about US$113; overtime will not be taxed anymore. You are not going to believe the next appeasement measure he announced. I have a hard time believing it myself but I read it and heard it from several sources. President Macron decreed a significant Christmas bonus for public servants and ordered (I think) private employers to follow suite. The bonus will also be tax-free. I have no idea what effects these measures will have. I suspect the weather has more influence on the yellow vests’ behavior.”

    Like

  48. The Real France

    Think you know the real France? Here are a few facts that may shock you:

    • The French state has been bankrupt since 2004. A minister finally admitted it in 2013.
    • French GDP hasn’t risen above 2% in 50 years. Yes – FIFTY. The average annual GDP growth rate between 1949-2018? 0.78%.
    • In 2018, 14% of the population in France live below the poverty line (they earn less than 60% of the median income).
    • Worse, more than 50% of French people have an annual income of less than €20,150 a year (about $1,900 US per month).
    • The ‘official’ unemployment rate is 10% – about 3.5 million citizens (in reality, it’s much higher).
    • The youth unemployment rate is 22%. Yes, you did read that right.
    • Astonishing but true: the French government employs 25% of the entire French workforce…and it’s impossible to fire them.
    • Because the citizens make such little money, they pay no tax. Less than 50% of French pay any income tax at all; only around 14% pay at the rate of 30%, and less than 1% pay at the rate of 45%.
    • The government can’t deliver services without taxes, so it borrows money. France’s debt-GDP is now 100%.
    Another revealing statistic: “structural unemployment” is now at 9 -10%. That statistic measures when it is impossible to find people who have the skills and qualifications, to fill available positions. Why? French kids aren’t being educated to participate in the workforce. So even if France has a growth spurt (it won’t), they won’t have the labor to fill the new jobs.

    So how did this epic disaster happen? And if blame is to be allocated, who bears the most of it?

    In other words – why are millions of French citizens on the rampage, right now?

    Because there’s a real France, that few ever see.

    The France of the gilets jaunes. Or as we might label them, les deplorables.

    —————-

    The French Ruling Class

    This small group of citizens have dominated the business, banking, legal and political scenes for decades.

    The ruling class comes from a small group of grandes ecoles, or elite colleges. There are only 3 or 4. The top of the top? L’Ecole d’Administration Nationale (ENA).

    Emmanuel Macron’s journey is typical of the ruliing class. He completed a Master’s of Public Affairs at Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris(called “Sciences Po”), the #2 elite college, before graduating from ENA in 2004, age 27. He then worked as a senior civil servant at the Inspectorate General of Finances (The Treasury), before getting a high paid gig ad an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque.

    See how fast Macron worked his way into the senior civil servant position in the Treasury, before flipping into an exclusive investment bank? That is normal in France. It’s a never-ending protected cycle of patronage, promotion, favors and cronyism.

    Here’s another French word: parachutage. It is normal for young ENA graduates to be “parachuted” into senior civil service positions at a very young age, some as young as 25 years of age, without even interviewing for positions.

    Imagine this. You’re an American, working in a French corporation. You’re a very talented executive with 20 years experience and stellar performance reviews. Suddenly, your boss’s position becomes available. You apply.

    A week later, a 26 year old is sitting in your old boss’s chair. Your new boss has been “parachuted” into the position.

    This happened to one of my best friends in France, a bi-lingual MIT/Stanford graduate with 21 years of superb work experience across the world.

    The French kid? A graduate of ENA.

    ENA has a complete stranglehold on the French state. Only 100 students graduate every year.

    by 1970, ENA’s meritocracy had become a self-replicating elite caste – and a ticket to the French ruling class. Astonishingly, every French President since de Gaulle has been an ENA graduate, excepting Georges Pompidou, who attended Sciences Po. Eight of the last ten French Prime Ministers have been enarques. All key civil service/government departments are run by enarques. How about business? 84% of the 546 top executives in France’s 40 biggest companies are graduates of a handful of elite colleges. 48% come from ENA and Sciences Po.

    Get it? If you want to be part of the French ruling class, graduate from ENA or Sciences Po.

    Otherwise, screw you.

    Arrogance & Ignorance : A Toxic Mix

    The French elites are young men and women, who have been told that they are not just the intellectual creme de la creme, but morally superior. Better human beings, than their inferiors.

    These people are arrogant. But they are also ignorant. Raised in very wealthy families and cosseted in the networks those families are part of, they have no understanding of ordinary people and their real lives.

    Arrogance and ignorance is a very toxic mix. Macron’s tone-deaf appeal to climate change to justify the rise in diesel taxes, as well as his outrageous suggestion that ordinary French folk must drive less, is a classic example of the problem.

    What makes the gilets jaunes protests unique?

    Their main gripe? Elites blaming ordinary people, for problems that the same elites have caused.

    Elites never being held accountable for their incompetence. And elites never having to experience the conditions, that their failed ideas cause.

    French people are sick of being held in chains by a ruling class. They are sick of being poor and unemployed.

    They want a new direction, for their beloved nation.

    Sound familiar?

    In my opinion, despite their education, a lot of these elites aren’t too bright.

    They are intelligent. They can absorb what they’re told at a very high level of complexity and then spit it out in an exam.

    But they’re not smart. They lack the ability to make decisions in situations that are ambiguous, or where the outcomes are out of their control.

    There’s no critical thinking skills. No skepticism, or testing what they are told is true, against their own enquiry.

    As Macron proves, they lack common sense.

    History demonstrates that a population will tolerate being led by an elite caste, as long as the same elite case can supply benefits to them, on an ongoing basis.

    Once the ability of the elite to ‘buy’ consent starts to decline, civil unrest and disobedience is guaranteed.

    But when an incompetent elite switches from depriving the deplorables of benefits, to punishing and blaming deplorables for the incompetence of elites, uncharted territory beckons.

    Another lesson from history, that French elites appear to have forgotten? National identity and character doesn’t die easy. The French have always been a revolutionary culture. They still are.

    Somehow, I doubt that these lessons of history were ever taught at ENA, or in any of the French elite schools.”

    See https://quodverum.com/2018/12/344/france-understanding-the-gilets-jaunes-uprising.html

    Liked by 4 people

  49. Excellent analysis by PHILLIP BRATBY above. I haven’t checked all his statistics, but I’d just add:

    The low growth in GDP is entirely since 1975. The “Trente Glorieuses” (30 glorious years) up to 1975 were marked by high growth as the rural population moved into the factories and France modernised. It was Britain’s inferiority complex due to our sluggish growth compared to Europe’s which led to our joining the Common Market and eventually to the Thatcherite counter-revolution. De Gaulle’s post-war settlement involved state planning under a technocratic élite (hence cheap nuclear power, fast trains, Ariane rockets and Airbus) and letting the communists organise a welfare state (which is expensive, but much appreciated when you want a doctor.)

    Phillip’s statement that less than 50% of French pay income tax may be true, but it’s misleading, since income tax constitutes a very small proportion of government revenue, the bulk of it coming from flat taxes. All workers have roughly 30% lopped off their salary in a dozen different compulsory contributions (for pensions, maternity benefit, sickness etc.) Then you pay a 9.2% “contribution sociale généralisée” (raised from 6.6% by Macron) which is a flat tax on your gross income, so you’re paying a tax on money you’ve never seen.

    Everything Phillip says about the élite is true, and more so. For a peep at their state of mind, look at Macron’s prologue to the English translation of his recent book “Revolution” (no kidding) by clicking on “look inside” here:

    I disagree with Phillip that the structural unemployment is due to poor education – rather the opposite. In Anglo Saxon countries unemployment rises and falls with the economic cycle. In France it’s been stuck at 10% for four decades, so the young are pushed into unsuitable further education in a desperate search for “qualifications.” – hence the articulate voices to be found on the barricades.

    As an example of the “unsackable civil servant” syndrome, one of the medias’ favourite spokesmen for the yellow jackets turns out to be an orchestral conductor who was taken on by a local authority as advisor for musical education. The authority found his project too expensive, so he was “placardé” (lit. put in a cupboard) and has been drawing a salary for doing nothing for ten years. Now he has a full time job sticking up for the “deplorables” in the television studios.

    Like

  50. The BBC continues to describe the gilets jaune as extremists. On the radio this morning, and yesterday (Evan Davis) they were described as far right and also far left.

    Like

  51. PAUL MATTHEWS
    It’s difficult to deny the label of “extremist.” There was a split in the movement last week. One of the leading “moderates” was the first to be interviewed on state TV last night about Macron’s last throw attempt to solve the crisis, and he immediately rejected the president’s latest offers of a 100 euro rise in the minimum wage and a climbdown on a 1.5% rise on the flat tax for the least well off pensioners as inadequate. When the moderates flatly reject an extra 10 billion (supposedly) coming their way, and the grass roots continue to call for Macron to dissolve parliament and/or resign, “extremist” seems fair comment, although one expects the BBC to keep comment out of their news reporting. And of course, these “extremists” are still supported by 70% of the population and all political parties outside the government.

    The problem is, Macron lies, and I don’t mean that he ties himself in linguistic knots like Theresa May, or blurts out nonsense like Trump. Before last Saturday’s demonstration, the Elysée Palace officially announced that they had information that “thousands of people were going to descend on Paris with the intention of smashing and killing.” Thousands of killers on the loose in Paris? I don’t think so.

    In last night’s solemn address to the nation, Macron announced a 100 euro rise per month in the minimum wage. This was false. It’s an automatic 20 euro rise to take account of inflation, plus a government subsidy for low income households, so you don’t get it if your partner is on a reasonable salary. A subsidy is not a salary. You’d expect someone trained as a tax inspector to know that.

    On the élitism which recruits half the government ministers from the same École Nationale Supérieure: we complain about Oxbridge, but imagine if half the government came from the same Oxbridge college, where they’d all studied the same subjects, sitting in the same classroom wearing nineteenth century military uniform. Weird.

    Like

  52. TOMO
    The site you link to seems to be on the far right, and obsessively anti-arab, which doesn’t make the idea impossible. I’m sure there’s a lot of finger wagging going on behind the scenes.

    Like

  53. Geoff I saw the provenance of the report – I wondered if was a simple shit-stirring expedition or if there were other political rumblings from the military – not unheard of in France.

    Macron has nettled some brass – after reading some Macron …. I can easily imagine he’s got their backs up big style.

    Like

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