I wondered about France today. Not for the first time either. This bout was triggered by scanning John Gibson’s book “Hating America, the new world sport“. You want to ask, how many Frances are there actually? (Well, there’s West Germany, where they speak French and which faces us across the Channel, then of course you have Germany itself east of the Rhine, and…….but that’s a joke.)
France is a problem that libertarians ought to devote time to addressing, since its foreign policy activities – and its domestic ones in large and increasing degree through its catspaw the EU, impede the efforts of people all over the world to promote liberalism and individual freedom. You could almost be forgiven – the disarmingly frank admissions of French and other EU officials aside – for thinking that the French ruling class is against the whole idea of individual liberty. And the place is a Nuclear Power with it. (I don’t mind the electricity thank you very much, but ought France really to be allowed nuclear weapons, if we are pretending for a moment not to be libertarian?)
The France that impinges mostly on your average modern Mondeo Man is of leisurely vacational wanders by car, past patisseries, boulangeries, charcouteries, and roadside eateries, with the obligatory family stock-up trip to Carrefour etc, for cheap wine and (relatively rather) expensive food – but they don’t notice that in the passion of the moment. There is also this residual, sort of ghostly even, feeling that this France is somehow strange and exotic. I even know youngish people who think that Frenchmen are rural characters who cycle about cheerfully in berets, with massive strings of onions attached (to the bikes, not the berets.) I don’t know about you, but I have not seen one of these in years.
Then there’s the one you want to do your “No Turning Back” TV moment of fame in. I’ve just heard of another mum of a child at my wife’s nursery this evening, who wants to “go and live abroad”, probably in 2/3 years, and it would be so great to “live off the land!” This is not the same France, I feel, as the one Mondeo Man thinks he knows.
There is the urban France you get fed occasionally on the TV News, the one where disaffected North African Male Youth does its stuff, and whom the President famously called “Cannaile” in a previous life. I don’t think the French ruling class wants this exposed much, and in my experience it’s very hard to find your way to those places without a good map.
The ordinary French people are in there somewhere, but I don’t know any personally right now, so I have no idea whether they know how to act for themselves. I suspect they can’t owing to the sheer weight of bureauracy imposed on businesses and ordinary transaction. Make mental note to find out.
That’s four already. But now on top of this we have the French Political Class, which I suspect is the root of the problem. This is the France that kept the UN and the Allies (us) off the back of the wicked butcher Saddam Hussein for so long, when it was clear his number was to be up. This is the France that wanted us to pretend that it was nothing to do with NATO for so long. this is the one that merrily allows EU “directives” to be passed in its name and ours, while tacitly ignoring those that don’t suit its domestic and foreign interests.
It’s inconceivable that French people can be that different from other nations who inhabit this general neck of the woods; so then, why does such a construct as the énarquerie, relying openly on State authority, coupled to arbitrary application of logic and philospher-king-Platonism, not get turned over and thrown out? In liberal capitalist terms it is the cardinal anachronism! The French people are marvellously ingenious and creative – just like us. They have contributed much more than an average human share to science, engineering, music and literature; so why do they feel the need to tolerate a superimposed class of Platonists which appears to order their lives, and wants to order the world’s?
Perhaps the énarques ought to get out more. After all, France lost the First World War in 1759, or thereabouts. They lost the Second in 1815. Public rapprochement with “les Rosbifs” has saved them from total humiliation in World War Three (1899-1989 with three armistice periods starting in 1902, 1918 and 1945. I don’t know what the solution to the France problem is, for the future of world libertarianism, but I suggest it’s a psychological issue which chiefly affects their top graduates or the educational bureaucrats’ tradition which trains them.
Can anybody suggest soutions here?