Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Government Vanishes

What has become of the French government? To be sure, there is Éric Woerth. And there is retirement reform, which has become so bound up with the Woerth affair that public discussion of the issues has been submerged. But is there action on any other front? Education? Research? Justice? The suburbs? Housing? Fiscal overhaul? Territorial reform? Defense? Foreign policy? Energy policy?

Sarkozy, who arrived in office beating all drums, seems to have concluded that the system can handle only one reform at a time. No longer the "omnipresident," he risks becoming what he once despised, the caretaker president that he accused Chirac of being, un roi fainéant. No doubt he is busy preparing his re-election campaign, or the promised October remaniement. In the meantime his ministers are either scouring the want-ads for future employment or lobbying quietly to be included in the shrunken government promised for the fall. With the government marking time, the papers have nothing to discuss but the tribulations of the soccer satyrs and their underage playmate.

It is truly a summer of discontent, but also, I fear, of ominous disconnect. The country is not happy, despite the apparent calm. France has exhausted its elites. Feeling let down by their énarques, the French decided to let the nouveau riche business elite--the Neuilly crowd--have a go at running the country. What they got in return was an expanded tax shield and the Bettencourt-Woerth affair. In place of the network of old boys from X and Sciences Po, they discovered a nexus of financial advisors, tax shelters, horse-race enthusiasts, luxury hotels, thermidors humidors filled with Cuban cigars, private jets, microparties, and appartements de fonction. So who is to govern now that these two elites have discredited themselves?

5 comments:

Gero von Randow said...

"thermidors filled with Cuban cigars" - nice pun.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Well, it might have been a nice pun had it been conscious, but in fact it was an inspired Freudian slip.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Or a malapropism.

meshplate said...

The portrait is spot on, but can we really say this came as a surprise? You will get what you elect: we made the mistake of thinking that it didn't matter who governed the USA when we elected Bush, now France has done the same - for different reasons of course. We are now listening to the fiddling as Rome burns

brent said...

The 'Neuilly crowd,' as you so usefully put it, will surely not go away, even if they duck out of sight in the remaniement. Using the American analogy, the 'Wall Street/K Street crowd' lubricates both parties and waits for its best offer. I'm betting the Neuilly bunch do the same. So to your last point: who will govern? Well, it seems like it's the PS/Enarques' turn to prostitute themselves--unless of course the electorate tires of this exhausted system. In that unlikely event, perhaps the Greens, the PG, even the NPA (or alternatively, the FN) will find themselves in play.