Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sarkozy's Impatience

An interesting comment from Bernard Girard this morning on Sarkozy's recently renewed zest for reform. Unlike many commentators, including myself, Bernard thinks that Sarko's motive is not to enhance presidential power (he's no different in that respect from his predecessors) but rather "to eliminate anything that might stand in the way of rapid execution of his instructions." His impatience is structural as well as characterological: the short duration of the quinquennat makes it essential for a president who intends to run for reelection on a platform of "reform" to get rid of procedural obstacles to getting things done. When it was possible to donner du temps au temps, one could temporize, dicker, negotiate, or simply outwait one's opponents. Now one has to steamroller them.

Procedural bottlenecks are not merely impediments to impetuosity, however. They are also checks on autocratic temperaments. An obstacle removed today in the name of efficiency is a potential point of resistance absent tomorrow when it may be needed. This is not an argument for government by quagmire, in which the headlong rush to disaster is prevented by ensuring that every attempt to move forward ends up to its axles in the muck of soggy opposition. It is, however, a brief on behalf of dialogue. When obstacles are eliminated and carefully prepared reforms rush ahead to conclusion, there is little opportunity to take account of the voices of those affected, whose resistance to change, while sometimes narrowly self-interested, may at other times afford an opportunity to impart useful information to would-be reformers, without which their project, however efficiently executed, is doomed.


Anonymous said...

Dear Art, unless you prefer Arthur,

I came across your French Politics blog while searching for interesting and regularly updated blogs that might be of interest to readers of the new web magazine France Revisited ( I'm getting ready to launch France Revisited within the next two weeks and wondered if you'd like to exchange links on our respective blogs. On France Revisited the link would appear on either my own blog:

or the site's Guest Blog:

Let me know if you're interested.



Gary Lee Kraut

MYOS said...

So, the quinquenat suits Sarkozy's temperament especially well - except that the system of checks and balances is inherent to democracy.
Another issue is that, in reality, Sarkozy does not get "things done". He passes laws but not their "decret d'application", unless he deems them necessary - end of commercials on public TV or plea bargains and harsher mandatory sentencing come to mind.
Another issue: if the parliament can no longer amend or refuse to vote laws, people' voices will no longer be represented.
A good example is Sunday Work, one of Sarkozy's pet projects. His own majority refused to vote it because it was so unpopular. If the reform had been passed as the President wanted it, there would likely have been a form of popular revolt.
So we are to believe that President Sarkozy does not believe that winning over those resistant to change or those who perceive the change as going backwards is worthy of his time?