Saturday, July 21, 2007

Guaino Speaks

Henri Guaino, President Sarkozy's plume and now special advisor, has spoken to Le Monde. It's a fascinating interview, full of things to comment on, of which I'll single out just one. I've been speaking in recent days about the presidential function of incarnation. Guaino takes up this same theme and proposes it as a fundamental feature of the Sarkozyan ideology: power, if it is to be responsible before the people, he argues, must be visible and incarnate. "Disembodied" rules are unsatisfactory. He draws a contrast in this respect between the European Union, which for him is precisely an apolitical institution of disembodied rules, and the Fifth Republic, which under Sarkozy will become again a state in which the incarnation of the Republic is the president. When asked what the most effective counter-power to the presidency is at the present time, he answered, the European Union.

This is a startling, almost shocking suggestion. It neglects the influence of states on the "disembodied rules" of the Union. It dismisses the role of domestic opposition. It implies that Europe is a concert of nations conceived as unitary actors with no voice other than that of the chief executive, the distillation of national sentiment in all its diversity. One would like to see Guaino expound this theory at greater length. It is worth recalling, incidentally, that Guaino directed Philippe Séguin's campaign against the Maastricht Treaty back in 1992. Ultra-Gaullist souverainisme appears to be alive and well and thriving close to the throne. Note, too, that Guaino was long associated with opposition to the franc fort, and that today Sarkozy is leading the charge against the euro fort.

In any case, read the interview. It will repay close attention. (Note in particular Guaino's stress on the complementarity of politics and markets, as well as his subtle justification of reduced inheritance tax on the grounds that it is more difficult for young people to establish themselves financially today than it was in the 60s and 70s, when jobs were more stable and inflation reduced the cost of borrowing.)

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