1. The only thing that really matters is whether the security services will continue to follow orders, specifically, the order to shoot. So far, they do not appear anywhere near the point where they will refuse to do so.

2. Barring a change in 1. above, Macron will continue to survive politically. This is not because of any skills on his part, but because if he were gone, there is a non-zero chance that Le Pen would get elected. The overriding goal of All Right Thinking People in France is to prevent Le Pen or someone like Le Pen from getting into power. Even if, by some fluke she were to find herself in the Champs Elysee, the Better Sort Of People, the people who control the institutions, would do whatever it takes to prevent Le Pen from actually ruling.

France, like the rest of Europe, will continue to trudge to its demise, rather than question its Atlanticist orientation, or the current power structure.

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I agree with the broad thrust of the article, but I have to admit to smirking a bit when you brought up the lack of a strong two party system as a contributor to the problems in France. A lot of people in US, in particular, imagine that the root of all problems here is the two party system. They imagine that if there are lots of parties out there, competing for "unconventional" voters, somehow things will be better, and to them, I usually suggest that they should look at dysfunctional multiparty politics in various parts of Europe, of which France has increasingly become the foremost example. The real problem, as I see it, affecting politics in most countries, is that parties have mostly become dysfunctional: when parties/coalitions/whatever work properly, they are vehicles for brokering compromise, allowing for horse trading or whatever to take place behind the scenes so that they can vote together to make policy whether they really "agree" in their hearts or not. This doesn't say, necessarily, that the policy produced would necessarily be "good"--you still need some publicly minded leadership to direct the compromise and bargaining in some productive direction. But the bottom line is that "parties" as embodiment of "ideology" is a self-destructive trap. If you cannot easily define what a particular coalition is about, that's likely a sign of a well-run, highly effective party. In this dimension, If you believe that the most important thing for a party or a coalition is to have an "ideology" that all its members somehow believe it, that's the thinking of comfortable elitists who think themselves above practical consequences of policymaking. (I'd describe the well-known saying about parties in US by Will Rodgers as prattlings of a nitwit. When no one know what the Democrats were all about, they were doing a wondrous job as a party.)

This description, which, incidentally, describes the decline of parties in US as policymaking organization (where you could get a bunch of people who don't share same views together and have them vote for some policy as a group), applies to the party/coalition politics in France (whose, politics shares a lot of characteristics with US.) except, well, the French citizens seem more hotheaded than we are when it comes to taking to the streets.

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I really think that this applies to the majority of politicians in Europe, in the UK, Canada and the USA…..I cannot make up my mind about Australia….although the Liberals might fit the bill…..

“ He’s a representative of a new generation of politicians, with a technocratic mind-set but very little technical knowledge, for whom senior political office is just another job on their CV, bringing in money and status, and the chances of profiting from it afterwards.”

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I have always found French politics a valuable canary in the coalmine for global politics and used to listen to Les matins de France Culture on a regular basis. You provide a fantastic summary of current events here (It gives me a similar feel to Brice Couturier's perspectives which I appreciated immensely) and it's interesting to see how flip-flop ping from left to right (politiques d'essuie glace) and the centre, strategically keeping out the Front National, could lead to a potential checkmate for the more extreme party of the people. Fascinating how the left has lost the working class to the far right, and the upper middle class to the greens, and the Right parties have to move further to the right to hoover up enough support. It's similar to the UKs New Labour movement alienating it's core voters. France does not however have the inter party fissure of Brexit to contend with. Striking may well become the UK's "Sport nationale" too. Thanks again for this and A+ for your writing style. I wish black mountain analysis (who I very much enjoy and found through you) would take as much care with the written word - it would really make a difference if he asked GPT-chat to tidy things up.

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Excellent work! One of your best.

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Wow. Loved the article.

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A lot of comments on this thread but none actually addressing the Pensions comments. I feel the Pensions "issue" is one of the top crises rapidly approaching most of the large Western democracies. Health Care and Elderly Care being the 2 key others. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's actually a 4-6-4 locomotive barreling down the track towards us. As demographics progress in the West there is no doubt that our aging societies are in deep do-do.

I can see from Aurelien's comments that he possesses a deep dislike (bordering on hatred?) for Macron. I don't particularly like Macron either but I cant believe that the goal of French pensions reform is as he postulates - "Rather, it’s about making them wait longer to collect a pension in the hope, brutally, that they will die." This seems like a strange comment from the author who says he tries to avoid polemics.

The issue with "Pensions" is quite simply how do you afford to pay for them? I have personally fully paid into a US Company 401K & Longevity Pension, US Social Security, UK National Old Age pension (which you can continue to pay into even after you leave the UK) and finally a UK defined benefit company pension. So I have 5 of those suckers and I am well aware of how lucky I have been to amass them. But I am also very aware of which ones are dependent on the State and in reality, the tax payers funding them. The UK made changes a few back to make the UK pension scheme a more realistic long term funded plan and spends less on pensions that most other Western countries but the pension itself is relatively small. By contrast many of the Western EU nations have significant unfunded pensions which are already costing those nations a fortune and are going to cost a great deal more as this decade progresses.

I am well aware that fiscal rectitude was taken out to the woodshed several years ago and "double tapped" in the back of the head, but as is obvious to many several nations are now cascading into debt at an increasing (it the case of the USA almost exponential) pace. I retired at 65 and probably could have done so at 62, but decided to build up my pensions further because I suspect a time is coming when national pensions will be under severe threat or at a minimum, the real value will be severely eroded due to inflationary pressures.

It is my personal view that there should be no obligation by the State to permit people to retire "early" and pay them a significant pension that is essentially unfunded. The voters should be told what it would take to fund these pension entitlements even if it shocks them. There are ways to fund retirement in old age but nobody will grasp that stinging nettle. But what I personally think is actually irrelevant because it will take a full blown fiscal crisis to bring about any change and the solutions will be unpleasant for all.

I have followed the debate in the USA over Social Security viability ever since coming here in 1988 and it was fairly obvious to me by the year 2000 that changes to Soc.Sec. were essential to maintain its viability. However, as the "Third Rail" of US politics, essentially nothing has been done and all those Soc. Sec. surpluses amassed over many decades were "spent" as part of government general expenditure and IOUs issued into a "Trust Fund". Most Americans still believe that Trust Fund is actually real money when in effect it is simply unfunded future government spending. As we can now see here in the US with the soaring and now PERMANENT trillion dollars annual deficits, that 4-6-4 "fiscal" locomotive I mentioned is rapidly approaching ...........and its light is getting brighter each year.

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How do you understand what's happening in France now?

Just another protest after yellow wests and pension reform protests or something more dangerous for the government?

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An analysis of Macron that doesn't start and end with the Attali commission and the demands of the 4-40 misses the mark.

Macron is a puppet put into place to force an agenda through. The items of that agenda are publicly known. Him ramming every reform through, no matter the blood in the streets is him doing the bidding of his paymasters.

And to say the left did nothing with their power is dishonest, Macron reformed the loi travaille, ie loi khomry under Hollande, and of course the state managed to grab all sorts of civil rights from the citizens under the pretext of combating terrorism. But ok boomer, we can put le mariage pour tous, as victory for progress. ..

Time to listen to Soral a bit closer, lest you'll get wool pulled over your eyes when they serve up Ruffin as your future lord and saviour.

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Mar 24·edited Mar 24

One thing that nags regarding retirement age is the contrast between France and the USA. The age for full retirement in America is 67 whereas the new retirement age in France is 3 years earlier at 64. Historically, most Americans retire early at around age 62 even though the full US pension retirement age has been 65 or older (now 67). The widely held interpretation of the age 62 plateau is that this is when the human bodies of laborers just exhaust. Back problems, eyesight, hearing, and chronic arthritis, etc. become debilitating as we humans approach age 60 regardless of nationality.

Macron’s raising the full-retirement age begs two questions. First, are the French just lazier than Americans? Second, is there an economic justification for raising France’s retirement age?

I doubt that the French are lazier than Americans. Early retirement in both countries comes with a penalty – a reduced monthly pension. However, most members of the workforce normally have alternative income sources including other pensions and investments. Thus, early retirement is not an extreme hardship in France or the USA. A slightly larger drop in pension income likely does not justify all the demonstrations.

The answer to the second, economic, question is almost certainly yes. Like the rest of the EU, France’s birth rate has been dropping for years. France must increase the pace of its productivity or raise taxes. But taxes are already quite high in France, so that might be the dilemma that has triggered all the protests. In the end, it is likely that the French will have to increase immigration. As we have seen in the UK, cultural racism can cause many people to endure a drop in standard of living before they will tolerate more immigrants.

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