Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rousseau on Inequality

David Lay Williams looks at Rousseau and inequality here.

Kapil on the New Government

Arun runs down the new ministers.

The New Government

Ségolène Royal and François Rebsamen are in; Vincent Peillon and Pierre Moscovici are out. Arnaud Montebourg has been promoted to Minister of the Economy. Christiane Taubira remains at Justice. Cazeneuve has moved to Interior. Martine Aubry remains nowhere in sight.

Kremlinologists can read into these retouches various tensions that must exist within the Socialist Party. It's interesting that Montebourg has outlasted his two arch-enemies, Ayrault and Moscovici, especially since his policy preferences seem at odds with the steady-as-she-goes (straight to the bottom?) approach to the economy. His mellifluous tongue will no doubt be used to sugar-coat the bitter pills ahead. This is an all-Socialist governments. There are no Greens, Communists, or centrists.

A Guest Post on a Left Alternative to the Status Quo

Regular reader Brent Whelan has often remarked that there are good ideas for resolving the current crisis in France on the Left of the Left, a quarter of the French political spectrum that I don't cover as thoroughly as I perhaps should. I asked him to condense some of those ideas into a post for this blog. What you see below is Brent's contribution. I think some of these ideas are feasible, others not, but I present them to you as Brent has written them for your contemplation and comment.

Brent Whelan:
The Big Question posed by pundits commenting on the municipal elections seems to be: Will France maintain its alternation between nearly indistinguishable policies of its center-Left and center-Right parties? Or will it veer off toward the radical alternative posed by the FN: withdrawal from the Euro, reconstitution of a traditional Franco-French culture, closure of borders, protection of national industries, etc.? This is the stark choice Marine LePen’s success has thrust into the forefront of media discussions.
But those discussions tend to ignore another alternative, supported by the Front de Gauche and its 10% of the electorate as well as by left elements in the PS and the EELV—a constituency almost as large as the FN’s. With some justification Jean-Luc Mélenchon has complained about the near-total neglect of his movement’s policies by the mainstream media.
So what would a Left Front government do?

· Build social housing, restore the previous pension system, reduce health contributions, increase educational spending—a fully restored and expanded network of social services
· Place environmental protection and greenhouse gas reduction at the center of development policies, including localized agriculture and production, greater supports for rail transportation and public transit; and support the establishment of an international court of environmental justice
· Support immigrant rights, regularize undocumented workers, open shorter routes to citizenship
· Institute greater controls on banks and financial institutions to reduce financialization of the economy, and create a public lending agency.
· Support a ‘Different Europe’ focused more on social solidarity than commercial interests, with power transferred to the elected parliament and direct ECB lending to member states
· Withdraw from NATO, oppose the Transatlantic trade initiative, reorient French interests toward the Maghreb and Middle East as well as a decolonized French Africa, and oppose the austerity policies of the IMF, while annulling the debts of developing countries
In short—and this is a highly abbreviated selection of proposals— the Left of the Left presents a vision for a complete overhaul of French society and the EU according to Socialist and Ecological principles—a transformation comparable in magnitude to the 30-year drift into free-market capitalism controlled by global financial corporations whose consequences we live with today. All those who have convinced themselves that this current system will soon have us back on the track of steady growth; will resolve the gathering ecological catastrophe; and maintain democratic governance in the face of massive social inequality will find this proposed transformation unnecessary and absurd. Others, less confident, are flocking to the FN to rebuild a mythical France that never was. Given that bleak pair of alternatives, I would propose that the Left Front, Eco-socialist alternative is at least worth discussing.

[In its full detail the FdG’s program can be found here in the Front’s 2012 platform, or in part here in the 2013 Eco-Socialist Manifesto]