From the New York Sun
The presidential run-off in France between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron has us wondering about this question: What would Jacques Rueff do? He was one of France’s — the world’s — greatest economists. During World War II, he was ousted from his post at the Bank of France by the Vichy government. After the war he became a backer of European integration and an adviser to De Gaulle, and a founder of the Mont Pelerin Society of economists partial to classical liberalism. He died in 1978.
All too soon, in our view. Rueff understood better than any man of his (or our) time the importance of honest money to free trade, prosperity, and the redemption of France. His meetings with DeGaulle have been described to us (by Lewis Lehrman, his intellectual heir) as tutorials. No doubt Rueff precipitated the famous press conference at which De Gaulle called for a restoration of the gold standard as a way to establish equality among nations. What a fantastic adviser Rueff would be for France today.
The astounding thing is that we are hearing none of Rueff’s wisdom in the showdown between Marine Le Pen and her National Front and Emmanuel Macron and his “En Marche !”. On the one hand, it is hard to imagine Rueff — the son of a Jewish doctor who married, and became, a Catholic — being comfortable with Madame Le Pen, even after her attempts to purge the anti-Semitism of her own father from the National Front that she inherited from him. Rueff, after all, can be seen an example of French inclusion.
Mme. Le Pen may be — as we suspect Rueff would have been — in favor of restoring the French franc. But she has made nowhere near the kind of critique of the euro that Rueff would have made. Rueff would have have been appalled at the fiat nature of the euro, which has no backing in gold or other specie. He’d have warned that disaster is the inevitable result of the system of floating exchange rates of which the euro is a part. If Mme. Le Pen intended to emerge as a tribune for Rueff’s kind of ideas, we have the feeling we’d have long since learned of it.
(In Paris in the 1980s, the future editor of the Sun, then an editorial writer of the Wall Street Journal, took Mme. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, to lunch to see whether the there could conceivably be any common ground with the kind of supply-side economics favored by the Reagan Republicanism. Le Pen tried his best, even likening his own nationalism to Zionism. Yet it proved impossible to discover principles of political economy about which we thought in the same way. The Journal chose not to make common cause with the National Front.)
On the other hand, could Emmanuel Macron be any more attractive than Mme. Le Pen to the shade of Jacque Rueff? We doubt it. Rueff may have once been taken by the idea of European integration. It’s hard, though, to imagine him sticking with it through what has happened in Brussels, Strasbourg, Frankfurt, and Luxembourg, where the branches of the European regime are seated. He himself served a decade on the European Court. Had he come on at a later era, our guess is that he’d have long since stalked off the bench. Yet Mr. Macron is all for the EU.
We don’t discount entirely the possibility that something good could come out of this showdown. The old parties have, at least for the moment, been cast aside, and they’re little lamented. Maybe Mr. Macron will be elected president, shed whatever it was that enabled him to serve under President Hollande, grow into office, and save the European Union from the inside. Maybe Mme. Le Pen will listen to President Trump, discover her inner Nikki Haley, and emerge as a fierce defender of Israel. Maybe Mr. Trump will disband the Federal Reserve.
We’re not holding our breath. We happen to be the proprietors of a beautiful old “Senate” brand fly rod with a lovely reddish amber lacquer and a maroon silk carrying case. It’s currently being refurbished by the famed Fred Kretchem of Kittery Point, Maine. Our hope is that it will be finished by May 7. If so, we’re going to load up the van and head north. We’ll toss into our rucksack a copy of DeGaulle’s “Call to Honor” and Rueff’s “The Monetary Sin of the West.” We’ll stuff some well-tied flies in our kit and hang a sign on the typewriter: “Parti Pêcher, retour Mai 8.”