At least, that’s how it starts. But soon enough we’re talking about the Battle of Jena and all points between, which include the Franco-Prussian War, the siege(s) of Paris and the Dreyfus Affair.
This is the cartoon I mention:
“Above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!”
I’ve noticed that Nicolas Sarkozy’s election as President of France has been greeted in some quarters as little short of the second coming. So, it might be just as well to put a dampener on that whole idea. My guess is that Sarkozy will be good, but not that good. Here, based on my experiences of not-completely-awful politicians, are my predictions as to how his reign will pan out.
Having won the Assembly elections, almost the first thing he will do will be to provoke a confrontation with the unions and the left in general. This he will win. He knows that everything else he does will rest on overcoming this hurdle at the earliest possible opportunity. Better to do it sooner rather than later - before his placemen forget who got them the job.
He will then make some mild reforms to France’s economy. This will include a small reduction in taxes, and an easing of the 35-hour week, employment laws and state-employee pensions. Unemployment will start to come down almost overnight and France’s economy will enjoy some impressive growth.
As for the banlieus he will make some efforts, but no more, to crack down on the current wave of violence. It will subside but never entirely go away.
The reforms will then end, after which he will become an international statesman - which Britain’s (by then) weak political leadership isn’t going to like one little bit. He is likely to foster a further deepening of the European Union along with a new, probably less verbose, constitution. His relations with the US will have moments of frostiness but he will be, generally speaking, on side. This will cause further difficulties for Britain, finding her stolid loyalty ignored while the US pursues France’s will-she, won’t-she promise.
- Harry Hutton considers the issue of smoking inspectors:
If we can raise a fighting fund of £500,000 we can probably drive many of them into exile, arranging for gangs of hoodlums to break their windows, drag them from their homes and tar and feather them.
Ha! Unlikely, for sure, but looking to the future, is it really beyond the bounds of possibility?
- Just when you thought it was safe to surf free of pop-ups, WordPress (of all people) bring them back. Jackie isn’t too impressed either.
- Free market think tank sets up school. Or does it?
- The standard version of the Madrid train bombing is that the government tried to pin it on ETA when, in fact, it had been carried out by Islamists. John Chappell begs to differ.
- A photo of Roman Abramovich from the 1980s. Seems there’s nothing new in the blank expression, even when, as it would appear here, he has plenty to smile about.
- Helen Szamuely feels the need for a German national identity. Which begs the question, if they don’t already have one, what is it that is keeping them together? Also check out Helen’s article on Willi Munzenberg - Josef Goebbels’s propaganda nemesis.
- France’s Socialist Party has selected a good-looking woman to be its candidate in the up-coming Presidential election. This has implications. But only an economist can tell us what they are.
- Don’t fancy yours much… Mark… Anthony.
- I know this item is called: “If you haven’t already...” but I have never made it clear what you may not already have done - read it, or seen it. For instance, while I have read this article on bullying in the Russian Army I haven’t seen it and I am not sure I want to. The British Army, of course, is so much better. While we’re on the subject of English Russia don’t forget to check out, well… everything.
It’s been pretty much impossible to ignore the news that France proposed a merger with Britain way back in the 1950s (here is a typical blog posting on the subject) - but what has been overlooked is that this was not the first time the idea was aired - well, in modern times, that is.
So, using your skill and judgement - or knowledge - can you guess who first came up with the idea and when?
Answer in the comments.
So, there I was wondering why France and Britain are so different and then, almost by magic, a half-way decent explanation comes along:
First, France is under normal circumstances an immensely disciplined country: disciplined by manners, social custom, law, protocol, taxes. A phrase you will hear almost every day, if you live in France, is ça ne se fait pas, meaning, that is not done; these words are a key to understanding French culture. France is far more disciplined, on a daily basis, than the United States; it is also more disciplined than almost any other European country, save perhaps Germany. (This is a point, by the way, that I stress in the chapter of my book titled “The Hell with Europe”. ) It is entirely natural that this discipline exacts a psychological cost, one that is paid regularly every few years in riots, anarchy, lawlessness and a great eagerness to get into the streets and do damage. This has been a feature of French life for centuries.
A recent Samizdata piece by Johnathan Pierce on the dreadfulness of the French Revolution got me thinking.
In the French Revolution you had an absolute monarchy, a cash crisis, the recall of an (apparently) defunct parliament, radical politics, regicide, terror and restoration; all of which elements were present in the English Civil War. What I find curious is what happened next. While Britain entered a period of (by most standards) internal stability, France went through the most amazing internal political chaos, with republic after empire after republic after monarchy.
So, why after their respective convulsions, did things go so well for Britain and so badly for France?
Was it geography? Being a continental power is never easy - as the late Findlay Dunachie pointed out it means you need a large army and all the knock-on effects that entails. But how would that explain France’s instability?
Was it something in the French character? I don’t much care for explanations like this and, anyway, if true, where did it come from?
Was it, perhaps, nothing to do with the Revolution, as such, but bound up in the simple fact that France lost the Napoleonic Wars? Could repeated failure on the battlefield explain repeated attempts at getting the politics right; in much the same way that unsuccessful football teams keep changing manager? Perhaps, but how does that explain the events of 1830, 1848 - occasions where defeat was not present?
Could it have been the absence of a proper all-out Civil War - the theory being that such things resolve issues? I could believe that if the English Civil War had actually resolved anything but it didn’t.