Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Right Divides over the Primaries

The Socialists have to choose between two candidates, but the UMP seems to have got its knickers in a twist over the recourse to primaries. Sarkozy invoked the spirit of de Gaulle to denounce the primary system as a perversion of the Fifth Republic, which was supposed to detach the president from the parties--a somewhat strange argument coming from a figure whose route to the presidency lay through capture of the party and who continued to control the party, and participate in its activities, for some time after his election. Fillon, on the other hand, thinks primaries are just dandy--and no doubt he expects to win one against Copé in 2017.

Do primaries in France make sense? Arun Kapil offers some interesting thoughts on the subject here. In the US, the turn to primaries was a reform that grew out of the anti-establishment revolt of the late '60s, and its consequences have been mixed. Candidates must raise a lot of money and campaign in many states, and the role of the media, as well as accidents such as the sequence of elections in various states, has distorted the process. The "smoke-filled room" was not necessarily worse than what we have now. But people seem to like being consulted, so whaddayagonnado? as Tony Soprano would say. A political party is not the Mafia, which chooses its leaders by cooptation (even if it sometimes behaves like the Mafia--and I'm not naming names).

Royal Endorses Hollande

Primaire socialiste : Royal soutient Hollande pour le second tour

Ségolène Royal, éliminée à l'issue du premier tour de la primaire socialiste avec moins de 7 % des voix, a annoncé mercredi qu'elle soutenait au second tour François Hollande, notamment pour "amplifier" l'avance qu'il a prise dimanche dernier sur ses rivaux. (AFP)

Interesting. Very interesting.

France Will Protect Its Banks

It isn't clear whether this is a French plan or a European plan that has been prematurely announced by France:

Alain Juppé, the French foreign minister, told the National Assembly that several leading French banks like BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole and Société Générale, which are deeply exposed to the sovereign debt of Greece and other Southern European countries, would move to increase their capital reserves, initially by using their own revenue or through the financial markets. Money from the government would be drawn upon only as “a last resort,” he said, according to Reuters.
But Mr. Juppé said that the move, which was agreed upon with Germany during talks on Sunday, meant the banks’ best buffers against losses — so-called core Tier 1 capital — would increase to 9 percent or higher, from 7 percent, by 2013.
It was unclear whether any of that money might be drawn from the proposed euro zone bailout fund rather than directly from French government funds.
The issue is particularly sensitive in France because of fears that the country could lose its triple-A credit rating if it had to inject billions of euros into its banks. That would be a huge political setback for the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who faces election next year.

Mélenchon Answers Montebourg's Letter

It wasn't addressed to him, but Jean-Luc Mélenchon is answering anyway. Since Montebourg is poaching on his terrain, he figures the quarry is his. So he's offering "a maximal ecological relocation of our agricultural and industrial production." The theory here seems to be that transporting goods is polluting, so we should produce as much as possible as close to home as possible. To this end he proposes issuing a "social and ecological visa" to prevent anti-social, anti-ecological outsourcing. Who could ask for anything more?

This "locavore" solution to the world's problems seems to be intended in all seriousness, but when I try to imagine myself in the position of Minister of Social and Ecological Visas, I find myself facing a host of knotty problems. Think of all those Parisians who are fond of poulet de Bresse. Shall I issue visas to hundreds of Bresse poultrymen to build coops somewhere near Rungis? That would certainly cut down on the fuel used to transport chickens from Bresse, but then I think of the railway cars full of chicken feed, and wonder how many times its own weight a chicken eats before it is ready for the oven. Hmm, perhaps this isn't such a good idea after all. Maybe we'd better issue visas to the Parisians of the 18th Arrondissement and ship them all to Bresse instead.

But this is unfair, you say. The social and ecological visa will be denied only in egregious instances of social and ecological dumping: when Renault wants to build cars in Hungary, for example. How offensive to the environment to build automobile subassemblies in Hungary and burn fossil fuel to ship them back to France. To workers employed in export industries, however, the idea of building things here to ship there doesn't seem quite so illogical. Indeed, it's their bread and butter, and there are quite a few of them, since France is a major exporter and wishes it were exporting even more.

How will "social and ecological visas" be allotted to French exporters by a government of the Front de Gauche? As Visa Minister, I suddenly find myself courted by all sorts of people eager for the S&E visa. But of course I'm immune to their blandishments, because I have taken to heart M. Mélenchon's admonition: "Quant à la corruption, je la tiens pour un symptôme de la décomposition de notre République." Of course the victory of my party would put an end to such corruption, because "elle est la conséquence de l’accumulation de richesse par quelques-uns." Once I have the power to issue the sociological and ecological visa, however, you can be sure that the accumulation of wealth will be limited to quelques autres.