Could Macron Surprise?

From the New York Sun

The lesson from the defeat of Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election is that mere nationalism is not going to carry the day in Europe — even if one makes cosmetic attempts to renounce anti-Semitism and racism. At the end of the day the National Front failed to articulate any vision of the sunny uplands of liberty that we like to think won the day for British independence in the referendum a year ago. Nor any of the corny 76-trombones optimism that Donald Trump used to help carry the day right here in River City … pardon, America.

Emmanuel Macron and his “En Marche !” movement defeated Mme. Le Pen by a margin that Reuters is calling “emphatic.” With all of the communes reporting the centrist had won more than 66% of the vote, which certainly adds up to a glissement de terrain.* Monsieur Macron is being called a “centrist,” though he had served under President Hollande and favors remaining within the European Union and the euro. But, at least by our lights, he failed to offer a proper, supply-side vision in respect of economic growth and principles of liberty.

By that we mean tax cuts, particularly at the top margin, free trade, free movement of labor, free movement of capital, deregulation, and sound money. France certainly doesn’t lack for a liberty tradition in any of these areas, particularly sound money. It has Say, and Bastiat, and Jacques Rueff. Given what the European Union has become, we would have thought that a candidate who wants to stand for growth would have made some reference to these traditions. Monsieur Macron, however, stood for remaining within the EU and against French independence.

Mme. Le Pen made the same error, in our view. It’s no small thing that she read her father out of the National Front, and seemed to grasp the desperation of those in the French equivalent of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. But where was the rest of it, the “sunny uplands” of liberty that, say, Boris Johnson kept talking about in the homestretch of the Brexit campaign? What is the purpose of campaigning to bring back the French franc unless one is going to talk about bringing it back as a hard currency, in sharp contradistinction to the euro?

The sovereignty issue is not nothing, but the euro’s problem is not that it’s European (or a multinational currency). It’s that it’s fiat, without any specie content. The great pity of this default is that DeGaulle, who created the republic whose leadership was up for grabs in this election, understood this point better than almost any leader of his time. He was for gold, itself a multinational currency. The politicians in Europe who are going to excite our interest are the ones who talk in these terms. Our hopes may not be high for France, but all the more enjoyable would be a surprise by President Macron.


* A dispute has arisen in the editorial sanctum of the Sun over the correct translation of “landslide.” The editor insists on glissement de terraine. He, though, was once described by his undergraduate language professor as the “worst French student since Harvard was founded in 1636.” So the copy desk feels entitled to note that the more widely used phrase would be raz-de-marée.

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