Monday, June 19, 2006

The French Are Still Doomed

Captain's Quarters reports on the candidacy of Sabine Herold for the French National Assembly. Captain Ed writes:

Will the French change overnight? Of course not. However, if Herold can find her way into the National Assembly, she can serve as a beacon for the sanity of open markets and laissez-faire regulation as the only means to generate the new investment needed to rescue the French economy. At the least, Herold will provide some political fireworks in a nation that sorely needs a positive debate instead of riots and walkouts to set their policies.

I have no quarrel with his opinion regarding 'the least' that Herold's candidacy means; no doubt her election can only improve the dismal state of French politics. But I think Captain Ed is overly optimistic about the likelihood that France's culture and economy can be resurrected, by Sabine Herold or anyone else. For over two centuries the French have had at the center of their politics the principles "Liberty, Brotherhood, Equality." These principles, as applied by the French, are not conducive to personal freedom of the sort that Captain Ed suggests. As applied, "Liberty" does not refer to personal liberty, but to the liberty of France from a foreign state, an alienated aristocratic class, or an international religion. It is a negative liberty expressed as opposition, not a positive individual liberty. "Brotherhood" and "Equality" have always been expressed as the principle that no Frenchman is freed of obligation to other Frenchmen, that the people, through the state, have the right protect themselves from their neighbor's success.

Great Britain, even through the dark years prior to Margaret Thatcher's election, had a long tradition of individual freedom and laissez-faire economics. One can even argue that Thatcher was a counter-revolutionary returning Britain to her core principles after a disastrous flirtation with continental socialism. In France, the opposite is true: it is Herold who flirts with foreign ideas, and absent a social revolution that fundamentally changes French politics, it is doubtful that her presence will affect the root ills of French life.

UPDATE: Welcome Captain's Quarter's readers. Feel free to visit the main site and add me to your favorites.

UPDATE: Welcome also Publius Pundit readers. First Captalanched, now Publialanched.

UPDATE: Apropos the French, I recently had a bunch of letters written by my great-great-grandparents scanned to an HTML document. One letter concerned the French troops besieged at Acapulco in 1866: "Oh, if we had only had one of our little monitors there..."

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Anonymous said...

The French mindset will probably change under economic pressure, possibly by way of ethnic renewal, seeing as many young people are now left with little choice but to leave France in order to find employment. If on the other hand that notorious mix of corruption and arrogance known as the French mentality doesn't want to die in the face of decline the French themselves will completely disappear as a nation and a culture, a process which is already well-advanced.

Jean-Baptiste Egret

McKreck said...


It has struck me since I wrote this post that a possible fate for Sabine Herold is that she, like the young people you mention, will abandon hope of France ever changing and come to America, where perspectives such as hers are greeted with much more respect than on the continent.