Macron – a mainstream politician who gets it?

In his victory speech following his election as French president on 7 May 2017, Emanuelle Macron stated that he intended to take into account the rage of the people who felt left behind by globalisation.

As such, he is one of the few relatively mainstream Western politicians who has embraced, at least on a rhetorical level, the problems and anger felt by many, in particular the 10.64 million people who voted for Marine Le Pen last Sunday.

His tone is a welcome change from Hillary Clinton’s infamous disparagement of the “deplorables” and shows a willingness not to exclude, but to include everyone in the country.

But can he really do anything?

Macron would like to boost employment, which France currently needs much more than Germany, the UK and the United States, but during the election campaign he told blue-collar workers that he would be unable to prevent companies moving production abroad. He would, however, try to ensure that they got due compensation and retraining to help them find new jobs.

This is fine and dandy and, along with other ideas now in circulation, such as a universal basic income and taxes on robots, is meant to ease the transition to the new world of work.

However, ESC remains convinced that while such training is useful and vital, the number of new positions created will be nothing like sufficient to solve the problem of immanent mass unemployment as computerisation in all its forms destroys increasing numbers of jobs.

Robots, IT and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and quantum computers will represent an exponential leap forward if they are successfully developed.

As we stated in our forecast last year, we believe that mass immigration is therefore now a non-starter since even the indigenous populations in the US, Canada, and Europe will have insufficient work and mass unemployment puts yet more pressure on government budgets which are already under strain in most countries.

Moreover, like many other politicians and observers, Macron seems to believe that dissatisfaction and anger about immigration is a purely economic issue, which can therefore be solved by economic policies, such as boosting employment.

Even if this could be done, which ESC does not believe for the reasons already indicated, much of the opposition to mass immigration is not about economic issues at all, but about culture broadly defined and includes language, religion, values, mores and, yes, ethnicity, unpleasant as it is to admit this.

Macron’s policies so far are therefore little more than rhetoric, contradict each other and in any event will be difficult, if not impossible to implement.

France has still to realise the extent and depth of the problems it will face in the future as both it and the West in general undergo rapid and unprecedented change.

What is required is far more serious discussion about the West’s future, but so far Macron’s policies bring to mind the well-known warning of John Maynard Keynes:

Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.

Even if Macron gains sufficient support in the upcoming June 2017 parliamentary elections, he will find it hard to escape the constraints and trends outlined above.

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