Macron is overrated

by on July 7, 2017 at 12:01 am in Current Affairs, Political Science | Permalink

The adoration has clearly gone to Macron’s already swollen bonce. He’s acting like a ‘liberal strongman’, says Politico, seemingly intending it as a compliment – he’s setting out to defend the so-called liberal order while garbing himself in the pomp and power of the old French monarchy. On Monday he summoned parliament to the Palace of Versailles, echoing ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV’s pronouncements to the nobility. And his team are talking up his ‘Jupiterian’ approach – a reference to the supreme Roman god, standing above the fray with thunderbolts in hand.

It’s not just the imagery that’s autocratic. In his Versailles speech, he laid out plans to streamline parliament. He wants to cut a third of MPs from the National Assembly, restrict representatives to two-term tenures, introduce a ‘dose’ of proportional representation, and cut back on unnecessary lawmaking. These tinkering policies may not seem much on the face of it. But as one academic pointed out, all of this will serve to shore up executive power – emboldening bureaucrats over representatives, and filling parliament with newer, less battle-ready MPs.

Macron has styled himself as the successor to de Gaulle, the father of the Fifth Republic who redirected power to the French presidency amid times of imperial crisis and parliamentary gridlock. Under the guise of ‘getting things done’, and pushing through his controversial labour-law reforms, Macron is similarly seeking to disempower the parliament and boost the executive, which already has far fewer checks on it than, say, the US presidency. And yet for all the media fearmongering over Herr Trump, Macron’s machinations seem not to have worried commentators or the global elite.

That is all from Tom Slater.  And here are brief remarks from Corey Robin.  Once you understand endogeneity, it should come as not a huge surprise that “the candidate you want” so often ends up resembling “the candidate you don’t want” more than you had expected.

1 Tanturn July 7, 2017 at 12:40 am

I’ll be looking forward to the strikes once he tries his reforms. De Gaulle? He’ll end up like his predecessor Hollande.

2 [insert here] delenda est July 7, 2017 at 7:04 am

no, the unions are particularly weakened at the moment. There will be strikes but he has a very good chance of seeing them off.

3 GoneWithTheWind July 7, 2017 at 11:20 am

This is what the press and the elites scared the French into voting for. So be it. Now endure the fool…

4 Paul ed July 7, 2017 at 4:07 pm

exactement — because absent those scarifying elites and media, the French would have voted in the first round for the Sensible Candidate, whose name you can’t quite recall at the moment….

5 GoneWithTheWind July 7, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Well of course; Le Pen (who I jokingly refer to a Le Plume).

6 Dots July 7, 2017 at 1:13 am

Don’t they have higher lfpr / employment rates than we have? Is there a way to hybridize youngster friendly Anglo policy and continental cushiness for older workers who r less agile as free agents?

7 JK Brown July 7, 2017 at 1:37 am

Deirdre McCloskey opined Macron was a classical liberal going to do great things in last Friday’s Free Thoughts podcast. I had to assume the actual interview had occurred some weeks prior it being posted given the actions Macron has taken recently.

8 Hoosier July 7, 2017 at 1:55 am

Still 1000x better than trump.

Would be interesting to hear which world leaders does TC hold in high esteem? Or at least are underrated.

9 Axa July 7, 2017 at 3:23 am

Peru’s president.

10 Axa July 7, 2017 at 8:06 am
11 TMC July 7, 2017 at 10:58 am

We got through Obama’s buffoonery. Neither Macron nor Trump will be a problem.

12 Locke July 7, 2017 at 2:31 am

Fewer checks than the US presidency? France has a semi-presidential system where the Head of State and Head of Government ( Prime Minister ) are separate people. Contrast that to the US where unitary executive theory places all executive power in a single individual with very little oversight by the other branches. If anything we should move closer to the French system and divide the policy making and execution roles between the President and Vice President (respectivly).

13 Olivier Simard-Casanova July 7, 2017 at 3:14 am

I’m not sure you really want such a separation. The Fifth Republic can be presidential or parlementary depending on who won the Presidency and the National Assembly: if the two are from the main political side, the President actually runs the government and the PM is almost powerless (Sarkozy called Fillon “a collaborator”…). If they’re from different sides, the PM is powerful. But because the National Assembly is elected right after the President since 2002, there’s virtually no chance the President and the NA comes from different sides.

There’s talks in France to remove the PM, as it creates confusion and actually reduces the power of the Parliament. The trend seems to go to something like the US system, with a powerful President and an equally powerful Parliament. But France has long been run by the parliamentary Tirdh and Fourth Republics, so I’m not sure an actual presidential system will fit.

14 Art Deco July 7, 2017 at 9:13 am

Actually, contingent parliamentarianism seems like a great idea. You should keep it.

You might work on local government consolidation as a conduit to decentralization. From a distance, that seems like a more salient problem.

15 Yoann July 7, 2017 at 2:33 am

I have difficulties with people saying Macron is monarchical when he talks to the congres.
The US president does this every year and no ones says that it is monarchical. Yes it is done at the Versailles Palace but this is not something that Macron choose. Versailles is the only place where the congres is, Macron did not choose the place.

The goal of the reduction of the number of representatives is to have more funds for each representative so they can have a stronger team and be stronger. It could at the opposite of the comments reinforce the representatives and not the executive.

16 Boonton July 7, 2017 at 10:36 am

Indeed, fewer representatives implies each representative has more power relatively speaking. Getting a Senator to vote for something you want is more potent than getting a Representative in the US

17 Fazal Majid July 7, 2017 at 10:55 am

It is also unclear why France needs as many representatives as the US for 1/5 the population. There are also too many levels of intermediate local government.

18 John Dougan July 7, 2017 at 3:16 am

As far as his sponsors are concerned, Emmanuel Macron’s core responsiblity is to not be Marine Le Pen. He is doing that job magnificently, so he should be safe.

19 Jack July 7, 2017 at 6:29 am

Interesting point.

I do think that Trump was elected to not be Hillary Clinton, and in that regard he can’t help but succeed.

I do wonder, though, if it holds for the long-term in the French case. Le Pen was never in power, where the Democrats were. And the in France Macron is clearly a member of the establishment, where is the US the establishment is still fighting fiercely against Trump, proving to his voters that they made the right choice.

20 John Dougan July 7, 2017 at 6:53 am

As I see it the difference in the French case is that the voters aren’t as close to the end of their rope as the US Trump voters and are much more used to authoritarian governance. However, if Macron cannot pull the necessary rabbits out of the hat, future French election cycles will probably move the same way the US’s has.

21 JK Brown July 7, 2017 at 11:11 am

“…are much more used to authoritarian governance.”

Really, I think a lot of French people learned just how tenuous their civil liberties are when the government declared the state of emergency that Macron just called to be extended indefinitely.

People in the US do not depend on the whims of the government for their liberties, only on whether they will need to put down that government if it decides to infringe them. Thankfully, so far the courts and elections have resolved problem, but in the US, ending government overreach by violent uprising of the people isn’t a coup or other historical problem, it is just getting rid of bad management.

22 daguix July 7, 2017 at 3:33 am

This speech was mostly posture rather than a real agenda. He is still traumatized by Hollande presidency where the deputies from the former president’s own camp started a revolt. He just wants strict voting discipline from the deputies from his party, which was pretty much always the case since 1958 before Hollande.
Under the 5th Republic, the president needs the Parliament to approve these kinds of reforms or to call a referendum. A referendum is politically way too risky (see Italy).

23 Tom T. July 7, 2017 at 1:51 pm

“He just wants strict voting discipline from the deputies from his party.”

In other words, to remove a potential challenge to his power. That’s kind of the point of the article.

24 Aurélien July 7, 2017 at 3:56 am

Tyler, I am not sure what you mean when you write that endogeneity will make the candidate we want resemble the candidate we don’t want.

Does this mean that whoever we pick will pursue policies similar policies because of external variables ? Is this a consequence of Weber’s ethic of responsibility ?

25 Art Deco July 7, 2017 at 9:20 am

Does this mean that whoever we pick will pursue policies similar policies because of external variables ? Is this a consequence of Weber’s ethic of responsibility ?

It didn’t mean a blessed thing. The moderator’s just trying to sound clever.

26 Jr July 7, 2017 at 3:58 am

Proportional representation would mean less chance that the president has a majority in the national assembly. Since he needs a compliant assembly and prime minister to get his agenda through, I would say it could weaken the president’s power.

27 lbc July 7, 2017 at 4:25 am

so much american jealousy and animosity towards macron
unbelievable

28 Art Deco July 7, 2017 at 9:09 am

He wants the wrong things for France. Elect someone who wants the right things.

29 jl July 7, 2017 at 4:37 am

Macron is a competent technocrat with good values. Which is precisely what a president should be.
Trump has no values. And is clueless about public administration.

The media’s “fearmongering” about Trump is about his total disregard for the justice system, and his mafia mentality (only appointing family members to key jobs).

Meanwhile, one of Macron’s key reform in the short term (“moralisation de la vie politique”) is intended to reduce soft corruption and unethical behavior by top civil servants ; for example by banning members of parliament from having their family members hired by their administration…

The contrast is striking.

30 Art Deco July 7, 2017 at 9:06 am

Macron is a competent technocrat with good values.

No, he’s a Europhile in public life and a sexual deviant in his private life. He was just about the worst possible choice running bar the red haze fellow, but the French electorate ate that s*** sandwich enthusiastically.

31 Boonton July 7, 2017 at 10:41 am

1. What’s wrong with being a Europhile?

2. By ‘sexual deviant’ you mean he is married to an older woman. OK what positions should men married to older women not have? Can they run an auto dealership? A law firm? A landscaping company? Exactly what system of morality/ethics/normality are you using to come these conclusions?

32 msgkings July 7, 2017 at 11:22 am

The gap between what Art Deco knows and what he thinks he knows is enormous, and growing daily.

33 Art Deco July 7, 2017 at 11:41 am

. What’s wrong with being a Europhile?

Self government requires the EU be replaced with a series of co-operative projects. Macron made noises about the extension of Brussels’ discretion, the disasters of the last 7 years notwithstanding. Why double down on bad.

By ‘sexual deviant’ you mean he is married to an older woman.

She was 2.5x his age and had a husband and 3 children when he got with her. The schlub has a stepchild who is older than he is. Our interlocutor fancies that’s an indicator of ‘good values’. You’re gassing on the subject because you can’t help yourself.

34 libert July 7, 2017 at 7:49 am

“He wants to cut a third of MPs from the National Assembly, restrict representatives to two-term tenures, introduce a ‘dose’ of proportional representation, and cut back on unnecessary lawmaking.”

Let’s see, getting rid of congressmen, term limits, and limiting new laws?

In America, we call these goals either “deeply conservative” or “anti-establishment” (with the exception of proportional representation, which no one in the US seems to care about).

35 M July 8, 2017 at 8:13 am

Anti-establishment tends to fixate more on reducing the civil service and on simply reducing the scale of governance. Neither of those seem to be on the table!

The charge here seems to be that;

– introducing term limits that will reduce institutional experience in the house
– an increasing measure PR will break personal relationships by representatives independent of party
– reducing statutory law in favour of discretionary powers and regulation in the bureaucracy

will all tend to favour a presidential-bureaucratic establishment, and the EU legislature, to the exclusion of democratically elected national representatives. Could well right; certainly it’s much more what the reasonable person would be prejudiced expect from Macron than anything actually against the European establishment.

36 Axa July 7, 2017 at 7:54 am

Mr. Tom Slater needs some culture……..no prob, the French have a web site in English to explain why they use the Congress Chamber in Versailles since 1871 http://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/palace/congress-chamber

37 Just Another MR Commenter July 7, 2017 at 9:01 am

I got fired from my job for incompetence.

38 Scott Sumner July 7, 2017 at 9:20 am

Jr beat me to it; proportional representation weakens the executive. If he got that basic point wrong, I have little confidence in the rest of the argument (I don’t know enough about French politics to evaluate the symbolism of the parliament meeting at Versailles.)

Term limits seem like a defensible idea (I’m undecided on the proposal), as long as it’s also applied to the President.

39 Art Deco July 7, 2017 at 9:22 am

It’s already applied to the President in France. They also cut the president’s term from 7 years to 5 in 2002.

40 August Hurtel July 7, 2017 at 10:17 am

You guys keep trying to prove Marx right. You analyze based on the class you are a part of. How many Americans actually rate him at all, much less overrate him? He would have little to no rating using economic, or libertarian analysis.

I have not seen anything to make me think he is taking some grand detour from the plague of globalism that he promised his voters.
But it does seem that, if this is anything at all, it is good PR in an age of growing nationalism.

41 Fazal Majid July 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

Slater’s article is dumb beyond belief, and makes the rookie mistake of analyzing French politics on Anglo-Saxon frames of reference.

Macron made a campaign promise to introduce something resembling the State of the Union speech, and in France the joint houses meet in nearby Versailles as there is no large enough space in either the Assembly or Senate buildings. As for the French technocratic elite, they tend to be more competent and less corrupt than US or U.K. ones, their main problem is they do not understand the opportunity costs of government intervention, although the younger ones like Macron do because the curriculum has a much higher emphasis on enterprises.

Macron is economically and socially liberal, something that hasn’t been seen in France since Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was elected in 1974, also at a very young age. He is most comparable to Gerhard Schröderof Germany. The only indication of authoritarian tendencies is his stance on encryption and possibly anti-terrorist laws to enshrine some state of emergency powers into ordinary law, like house arrest for suspected terrorists.

He is well aware of how France’s tight labor laws are strangling the economy. If his right-wing competitor François Fillon hadn’t been taken out of the running by an expenses scandal, France would be getting much the same economic policy, just with a heaping of pandering to traditionalist Catholics like a ban on gay adoptions.

42 Art Deco July 7, 2017 at 11:49 am

Macron made a campaign promise to introduce something resembling the State of the Union speech,

Why would you do that? If ever there were an obnoxious and worthless piece of ceremonial, it’s that. If we’re fortunate, future presidents will return to the pre-1913 practice of sending a written memo to Congress.

Giscard was 50 at the time of his election. Younger than optimal, but not young, much less very young. Who benefits from ‘social liberalism’ other than porn merchants, pimps, sexual deviants, lounge lizards, drug pushers, and sluts?

just with a heaping of pandering to traditionalist Catholics like a ban on gay adoptions.

What’s wrong with ‘pandering’ to us? That aside, why is it ‘pandering’ and not just stating a policy position?

43 KevinH July 7, 2017 at 11:56 am

I’m not sure if I should nock the analysis or the strategy, but it seems like reducing the number of MPs should concentrate power and make collusion amongst them easier, weakening the presidency, especially in protracted negotiations.

44 Cooper July 7, 2017 at 1:54 pm

I like Macron. I think he has the best chance of reforming France’s stagnant economy of any French leader in decades. If we’re lucky, he could be the Gerhard Schröder of France.

But it’s hard for him NOT to be overrated.

He’s a B+ in a country that has had a lot of Cs and Ds running it for a while. People are treating him like he’s an A++++

45 MHJ July 7, 2017 at 2:54 pm

When one likes what the executive plans, the legislature is a nuisance.

When one disagrees with the executive’s plan, the legislature is a bulwark of democracy.

So, of course the same people who hate Trump and want to restrict his executive discretion thought Congress an execrable anachronism when Obama was in office, and view the French National Assembly similarly under Macron’s Presidency. And vice versa.

Principle has nothing to do with it, and thinking past the possibilities of the next election is too hard so they mostly don’t do it.

They are consistent as a matter of interest, not principle.

46 Shaun Marsh July 12, 2017 at 10:05 am

It’s hard to say and also tough to say about Trump better or not, as these things is just not going to work too much on talk table with everyone having very different views. I just like to keep things relatively simple and straight to the point, it’s easier with broker like OctaFX who got superb setting from lowest possible spreads at 0.1 pips to high leverage up to 1.500, zero balance protection, swap free account and even 24/5 support present.

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