The French have invented a right for citizens to opt out which goes beyond simply abstaining during elections.
In France, the nation is built around the state, as opposed to England whose institutions were created to protect citizens from the vagaries of public power. With the senior civil service taking over political power, state prominence in the 5th Republic has reached its highest point ever. The corollary of this is the subordination of, and contempt for, civil society, as described by Tocqueville: “What characterizes the French civil service is the violent hatred it feels towards all those who want to deal with public affairs apart from itself.”
In an open world in which governments are being circumvented by universal capitalism and by technoolgy, in which they face competition from the vitality of cities, entrepreneurial innovation and individual mobility, and in which they are losing the monopoly of legitimate violence to the point of collapse, statism is undergoing a crisis of legitimacy and effectiveness. Far from fostering change, public custodianship blocks any reform. And because society is being brutalized, it ends up by revolting. Two forms of protest are open to citizens living in democracies: opting out or violence.
François Hollande has caused French society to swing from passivity to revolt. Faced by confiscatory taxation, by the predominance of public expenditure (57.5% of GDP) over private activity, and by the proliferation of regulations and the state’s pretension to dictate behavior, the French have invented a right for citizens to opt out which goes beyond simply abstaining during elections.
Retaliation for attacks on the family and on businesses is brutal. People have stopped having children – births plummeted by more than 19,000 in 2015 – and the Macron law has produced a response that has had the paradoxical result of reducing activity and the number of shops open on Sundays.
The most absurd and destructive of measures are being refused. In education, parents and teachers have come together to ensure the survival of beacons of excellence – the European classes (in which there is intensive language-learning), and bilangue classes (conducted in two languages) – as well as the teaching of Latin. Doctors have defeated the generalization of the tiers payant (a third-party payment system). Agricultural workers have announced that they will not apply the compte pénibilité (a hazardous jobs pension points system), opening a path for artisans and workers in the building and transport sectors to follow.
The most radical reaction to oppressive taxes and regulations is to leave the country. Every year, more than 80,000 people with high potential leave France. More than 300 billion euros of productive capital have gone elsewhere. There has been a sharp rise in the number of public companies changing their status to societas europæa (European company), which guarantees their right to set themselves up elsewhere in the European Union. Finally, under the cloak of mergers, there have been increasing numbers of company relocations, as in the cases of Solvay, Alstom, Lafarge and Alcatel.
The temptation to resort to extremism and violence is seen through the rise in power of the National Front party – which obtained 6.6 million votes in the regional elections – and in the beginnings of a French jihad.
For all that, signs of renewal in civil society bring a glimmer of hope. For the moment, the French have shown proof of resilience in the face of terrorism by refusing to go down the path of civil war that Islamic State is seeking to initiate. French people are leaning towards reforms and changing much faster than the political class, who continue to be in denial. Voters on both the left and the right have united to keep the Front National out of regional government. The reputation of “French Tech” throughout the world is forever growing, proving the excellence of our human capital. The fact that large numbers of young people are joining NGOs, the police and the army, shows that there is still a strong will to uphold the values of the French Republic and to serve humanity in the 21st century.
In 2017, France faces bankruptcy and implosion, and cannot afford to make any more mistakes. In order for there to be renewal, one basic principle must be asserted: the state is no longer the solution, it is the problem; French people are no longer the problem, they are the solution.