Populism and France: A new love story?

Two-Party france french

France is possibly the most romantic place in the world, a land that promises romance and more often than not, delivers it. But, this political season, it seems the French people are infatuated with a new idea, one that, if they decided to go on with, might be catastrophic. This new infatuation is populism.

Populism is not new in the world. The Romans had their own political party named the Populares, which is widely considered to be the first populist party in the world. Julius Caesar, perhaps the most famous Roman, thanks to the Shakespearean play, was a member of the Populares. It is worth noting that it was after a populist’s dying wishes that democracy died a terrible death in Rome.

Populist candidates have been present all over the world. In democracies like USA and Philippines, populist candidates Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte found success. In other democracies, populists failed. The Aam Aadmi Party in India failed to win a single state in 2017 elections, while Dutch leader Geert Wilders lost an election many expected him to win.

As I discussed earlier, populism doesn’t work.

In one of my earlier articles, I explained how this philosophy had crushed the economy of Brazil. Today, France is flirting dangerously with the idea.

Two of the four leading candidates in France are unhinged populists. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front Nationale, is a right-wing populist; while Jean Luc Melenchon, a former Socialist Party member and president of Unsubmissive France, is a left wing populist. Both Le Pen and Melenchon are opposed to the EU. Both of them have pledged to pull France out of NATO if elected. Both are seemingly left wing on the economic scale. So where do they differ?

Jean Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen, both unhinged populists, are doing quite well in the polls.

The only major issue that separates Le Pen from Melenchon is immigration. While the Front Nationale leader wants to tighten up the border, Melenchon wants to continue with the same plan. Both of them are against the public displays of religion.

What the election of either of these candidates will bring is nothing short of a disaster.

Le Pen is opposed to free markets and staunchly believes in protectionism. She opposes the privatization of any government body and is bound to repeal the privatization of the public transport service undertaken by Emmanuel Macron, which generated 13,000 jobs. She’s a firm believer in taxation and will definitely increase taxes once elected.

Never in the history of any country has protectionism flourished. A free market is necessary to ensure that foreign investments generate a growth in the industrial sector, creating more jobs. My country, India, is the best example of this. For years, we had a system which was borderline autarky, but once the markets were opened, the economy started to grow rapidly. With unemployment rate being high in France, protectionism is definitely not an option.

Melenchon, economically, is completely nuts.

He is a borderline communist who wants a mass redistribution of wealth. He has proposed a 100% tax on all income over 35,000 euros. He wants to heavily increase public spending, despite France being in massive debt.

The 100% tax is probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I can’t think of a more vicious deterrent to investors than this. He’s single handedly crippling the chances of any French citizen becoming rich. This will not only deter investors, but also lead to massive corruption in the country. No one will pay what they are due to the government (which is a massive, massive amount) and instead will keep this untaxed money with themselves, creating an even larger disparity.

What Le Pen and Melenchon are proposing sounds very good to the average middle class French voter, as they speak about national pride and redistribution, but it doesn’t work that way. Electing either of these will lead to a humongous stagnation of French economy, and France might just turn into a European version of Brazil.

Libertarians in France should go out in full force and cast their vote for Emmanuel Macron. He looked quite out of place in the Socialist Party, but now finally has found a foothold.

Now is the time for French voters to re-read their country’s motto. If they want to keep Liberty alive, they have to stay away from populism.

* Varun Gajendragadkar is a junior year engineering student from India with an avid interest in politics. He is on the center-right of the political spectrum with libertarian-ish views. He also maintains his own blog at opinonatedmoderate.wordpress.com. Varun can be reached at [email protected]

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  1. You ignore that the biggest threat to France is not the economy. France is losing its culture and way of life thanks to uncontrolled Muslim migration. Terror attacks are now part of the new normal and only Le Pen is promising to do something about both. You claim she would be a disaster yet France is currently sinking under the weight of Islamism.

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