While the mainstream media’s focus is elsewhere, France is in chaos with ongoing street protests, fights between protesters and the police, and abysmal approval ratings for President Emmanuel Macron.
After years of economic decline, French commuters and drivers finally had enough when Macron added fuel taxes to their burdens. In October 2018, they flooded into the streets of Paris wearing yellow vests to protest the government. Since then, France has been in a constant state of chaos with major protests every weekend.
Far from fizzling out, the movement is getting stronger. Recently, French firefighters joined in and clashed with the police in street brawls.
Macron’s unpopularity peaked in December 2019, with more than 70% of voters disapproving of his job performance. Since that time, his rating has recovered somewhat, but he remains brutally unpopular.
The Californian Connection
Surprisingly, France resembles California, politically and socially. France is the most socialist country in Western Europe, while California is the most progressive state in America. Incidentally,
Both California and France have levels of economic inequality that are among the highest in their respective regions. Both have a huge homelessness problem, have experienced mass immigration, and suffer from significant cultural tensions. Apart from a few thriving industries, both France and California have experienced a certain level of economic stagnation.
Whereas Californians can effortlessly flee to Texas as economic refugees, French workers are, for the most part, stuck in the socialist quagmire.
Macron not the Problem
Despite his unpopularity, Macron is not the cause of France’s troubles. The French people must take much of the blame for voting for socialist policies over many decades, which has caused economic rot. The labor unions have abused their power to push industry out of France and the youth out of the labor market. In the last decade, youth unemployment has remained stubbornly high – above 20%.
France has among the highest average tax rates in the world in combination with stifling market regulations. It’s a hostile environment for job creation.
The French did not vote for economic stagnation but for the lure of free welfare. Government spending has spiraled upwards so much that workers are struggling with taxes and high living costs. Macron, a typical Tony Blair-type center-left politician, has tried to reform the welfare state by lowering taxes for industry and entrepreneurs and reducing retirement expenses.
Under other circumstances, these actions may have worked, but Macron has become a symbol of the arrogant globalist elites; one who slashes taxes for the rich, cuts welfare for the poor and punishes the working class with climate taxes to save polar bears in the distant future.
As such, the yellow vest protesters are a mixed bag. Some of them are identitarians fighting multiculturalism, some just want lower taxes, while some carry communist flags. They are only united by their disdain for Macron and the elites he represents.
No Quick Fix
There is no easy way to solve the problems facing France, much because politics is dictated by left-wing ideas that permeate society. Indirectly, however, the British may provide a path to change. The U.K. will be watched with great interest after its official exit from the European Union. If the Brits come out of their Brexit with economic strength and revitalization, it will influence the politics of many European nations. It may even shake the E.U. to its core. In the long run, that may be a good thing for France. But first: more chaos.
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