A bit of a shameless plug for my own writing, but watching the protests in France over the weekend made me think of Berlin's interpretation of the hedgehog and the fox, with Macron failing to see the connections of his own policy. Thoughts?

Comments

Anonymous
Anonymous
a year ago

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rachel
rachel
a year ago

So first off, this was a fun read, thanks for posting! With respect to the core argument, I like the way you’ve captured a key political tension around global environmental policymaking initiatives, wherein leaders must reconcile the supranational imperative for climate mitigation with the (often) divergent perceived interests of their domestic constituencies. In the example illustrated here, there’s a split between Parisians/urbanites and the car-dependent residents of everywhere else, with Macron adopting the “hedgehog” mindset that favors a big-picture focus to policymaking, and generally tends to overlook the more mundane needs of groups that will bear negative impacts from policies intended to serve the larger goal (e.g., shouldering the burden of the fuel tax).

For this particular example, I’d like to understand a bit more about what the “fox who knows many things” approach would be, and how a leader like Macron might be able to implement them. What kind of policies might be needed in order to soften the blow of a fuel tax on the fifty-mile commuter? I imagine that the long term solution would need to involve significant investments in infrastructure—but in the shorter term, how might a leader best create a consensus around (or at the very least, minimize opposition to) these very necessary measures?

simon
simon
a year ago

I am not sure that the issue has anything to do with environmental policies in particular - The fuel tax hike may just be the straw that broke the camel's back for a frustrated constituency looking for an outlet. It may also be of note that protests specifically aimed against fuel taxes have a history of success in France - see the Red Cap (bonnet rouge)

Macron has imposed a variety of austerity/austerity-light policies like the pension tax, privatizing the railway, etc. that have especially hit the working poor and those relying on government benefits. Looking at the fuel tax hike in isolation misses the bigger point.

I think it's also interesting that this movement is getting co-opted in Italy and Belgium as a Eurosceptic movement.

rachel
rachel
a year ago

Interesting, although I would argue that even in light of the broader scope you propose--taking the view of the protests as a reaction to Macron's economic reforms more generally--I think the fundamental tensions of the prior argument still hold true, and can be a useful way to frame the key issues at hand.

What strikes me about Macron's economic reforms is how closely they align with a kind of center-right internationalist consensus (i.e., a preference for markets and privatization, a loosening of state protections and entitlements, etc.), and I would characterize the nature of his political vision as being distinctly concerned with France's positioning in an international context. As such his economic reforms look a lot like policies that have been implemented by other countries in recent years--with the most salient and relevant example being the UK. And in this comparison with the UK's experience, the potential perils of adopting an internationalist approach become more clear--especially when the resultant economic reforms produce inequality and impose undue costs on the working classes. That is to say, the UK's experience could be a valuable lesson for Macron, and he might do well to take these protests as a warning sign.

To that end, the current govemment's best bet would be to use a little creativity in devising some comprehensive policy solutions to offset the negative impacts on certain segments of the population and ease the transition into the reforms.