Monday, October 17, 2011

Royal Comeback

Ségolène Royal will rejoin the National Bureau of the PS--a first step toward diluting Aubry's control of the party apparatus, as I predicted earlier this morning. Of course, a seat for Royal doesn't necessarily connote an increase in Hollande's influence over the BN.

La gauche hollandaise

Gérard Grunberg thinks that Martine Aubry made a serious error in polarizing the second round with her attacks on "la gauche molle" since she herself has long steeped in the same sauce hollandaise façon Delors. The pertinence of this observation depends, I suppose, on whether you're thinking about political ideology or personality. Aubry, taking advantage of her reputation as the bulldozer who pushed through the 35-hour law, wanted to come on as the tough guy. It was a logical card to play, but, as I see it, the base of support of the governmental left has changed--it's aged, moderated, and bourgeoisified. That's where the votes are. Or at any rate 56% of the votes.

Krugman on European "Fantasy Economics"

Paul Krugman, lucid as always:

That said, I think Munchau is being too kind here. European leaders and institutions by and large didn’t even get to the point of devising policies that might have worked in a small open economy. Instead, they went in for fantasy economics, believing that the confidence fairy would make fiscal contraction expansionary. The ECB, which Munchau credits as the institution most aware of the linkages, was also the institution most dedicated to the doctrine of expansionary austerity.

Can Aubry Remain Atop the PS?

Will Martine Aubry be able to continue as leader of the Socialist Party after losing badly to François Hollande in the primary? Already Hollande's advisors have been pressing for more representation on the party's leadership councils. The geography of the vote is revealing: Aubry led in only a few départements in the north, her home region. Clearly, of the 2.7 million voters who chose to express an opinion, an incontestable majority favors Hollande and therefore, by implication, a change of direction at the top. Having occupied the post himself, Hollande undoubtedly knows what levers need to be pulled to ensure that his candidacy isn't sabotaged from within (as some say Royal's candidacy was under Hollande's leadership). But he will probably prefer to avoid a frontal assault. He needs the support of the party's left wing, which prefers Aubry, so for symbolic reasons he will probably leave her in place while diluting her influence as much as possible. This shouldn't be too difficult. The rewards are now his to distribute.

A commenter disputed my argument that Hollande would run, and win, in the center by noting that he had pledged to run on the party platform, which is arguably tilted leftward. To my mind, this objection overestimates the role of the platform, as vague as it is, as well as the degree of its "leftish" slant. Perhaps the only real problem in it for Hollande is the promise to return the "early retirement age" (thanks, Kirk, for the correct terminology) to 60. But Hollande has already shown how he is going to finesse this plank by adhering to 41.5 years of contributions as the criterion for full benefits. Sure, the Right will beat him about the head with the contradiction between the party's fixation on age 60 and the fact that Hollande's actual position coincides with Sarkozy's most recent reform. But this won't decide the election. Nor will any other single plank in the platform. Voters mainly want to be convinced that Hollande can fill the role of president (the problem of "incarnation," as Pierre Rosanvallon calls it), and Hollande has already shown how he is going to attack that issue: by presenting himself as a "normal" leader, by implication painting Sarkozy as an aberration--an argument that apparently most voters are prepared to accept, since their rejection of the current president, as reflected in his extraordinarily low approval ratings, cannot be accounted for by his record alone, which has been mediocre but hardly catastrophic.

Ominous Words from Michael Spence

Nobel economist Michael Spence:

Finally, global economic-management institutions need to address whether the pace of globalization, and its implied structural change, is faster than the capacity of individuals, economies, and societies to adjust can withstand. If so, the next challenge will be to find non-destructive ways to moderate the pace in order to bring capacity to adjust and the need for adjustment into closer alignment.

October 17, 1961

Today marks the 50th anniversary of a dark day in French history: the savage repression of Algerian protesters demonstrating against a curfew aimed exclusively at Algerians, which resulted in nearly 300 deaths. The prefect of police at the time was Maurice Papon, a key figure in the deportation of French Jews under Vichy.


Tristane Banon's lawyer has advised her to abandon any further legal action against DSK. Just as it seemed that the French side of the DSK affair might be ending, new allegations arose. Of course France has been through this before with l'Affaire Alègre, in which a prostitute leveled (false) charges against a political figure (Dominique Baudis). The new allegations against DSK may well be false too, but the story has spread beyond the tabloids, with new information about Jean-Christophe Lagarde's alleged visit to DSK in Washington on the day before the Sofitel affair. Lagarde has also been accused of involvement in a Paris orgy featuring a "political figure." DSK has asked to be heard by the investigators in Lille.

In any case, the former IMF head is sporting a fresh growth of white beard. He looks pretty good for a guy who's being hounded from pillar to post.