Monday, December 8, 2014


Emmanuel Macron has been minister of the economy for a relatively short time, but he's been ubiquitous in the media for almost all of it. He has a knack for attracting attention in every possible way--effet d'annonce, interview, controversial statements, even gaffes--that is reminiscent of the young Nicolas Sarkozy. And like Sarkozy, all his abundant energy and obvious ambition are spurring opposition--and most notably, opposition within his own party. His latest proposal--for a "growth and activity" law--may even fail to win a majority, which would force the government to invoke Article 49-3, making passage an issue of confidence.

What is striking about Macron's approach to governing through notoriety is his apparent eagerness to use small-bore measures to declare his ideological colors. Extending Sunday working hours and deregulating the notarial profession aren't measures likely to invert the unemployment curve or meet Brussels' demands for deficit reduction, but they do place Macron--and the government of which he is a part--on the ideological map, and that seems to be his main goal. In this he is no different from his predecessor, Montebourg, who also "talked his book" without accomplishing much. The difference was that Montebourg's book was at odds with that of his prime minister (first Ayrault and then, even more, Valls) and president (although the president largely avoided making his position clear, allowing him to straddle the gap, whereas Hollande seems prepared to embrace Macron's line openly).

The new macroneconomics is a lot like the old sarkoeconomics. It is long on symbolism and short on deep reforms. It signals a direction but doesn't actually move very far. This doesn't come as a surprise. Macron was after all the rapporteur of the Attali Commission, which Sarkozy purported to support, and now he is the spokesman for the Gallois report, which Hollande purports to favor.With such persistent policy orientations across changes of regime, one might expect to see some actual change occurring. But France is an old country, and venerable old things change slowly.

1 comment:

FrédéricLN said...

"The new macroneconomics is a lot like the old sarkoeconomics. It is long on symbolism and short on deep reforms." Once again, you make the good point.

Moreover, imho, most reforms in the Attali report (that I reviewed in my blog) and possibly the Gallois one (that I haven't read) are ill-designed. Just because since +-1986, our policymakers totally lost the practice of changing real things, and focused all their energy on making as if.

Even people who are frankly critical of this way of doing, such as Mr Macron himself, may have been influenced. Because their intentions or ideas about reforms were never discussed on their substance and constructively; only "located" by commenters as right-wing-inspired or left-wing…

I just finished reading Florence Aubenas's "En France" (if that might be translated in all languages attn. to sensible lovers of our sensible country!). Most of it is about how the political debate runs between people in all France (maybe excepted Paris intra muros, downtown Paris). It sounds like bullet-proof evidence that all existing national policies remain unheard (excepted "mariage pour tous", same-sex marriage); and most political parties too, excepted FN.