The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Quick Hit: France Is Just a Giant Greece


If you thought that France could elect a right- or left-wing populist and then dictate more favorable Eurozone terms in a manner qualitatively different from Greece, you should maybe hold off on making that judgement. Size ain’t everything: It’s the relative size of your interdependency that matters. And France is, to put it mildly, rather interdependent.

Seeing the rapid rise in popularity of a more left-wing alternative in the French presidential elections, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Olivier Blanchard (yes, that Olivier Blanchard) just published a fictional scenario of the first 100 days of a Mélenchon presidency. It’s in French in Le Nouvel Observateur, but there’s no need for me to translate it for you: It’s the summary of the instruction manual for Syrizifying France. It’s totally believable, starting with an absolute German rejection of Eurozone reform demands from Mélenchon, the intentional and perfectly designed Chinese finger trap of deliberate fiscal crisis will ensue. As the French are still not ready to accept mass immediate suffering for departing the Eurozone, Mélenchon will end up inevitably, not merely like Hollande, but like Tsipras. What Blanchard is telling you is that they’ve already charted out, in great detail, what to do to bring an anti-austerity French leader into line.

The heart of this problem resides in German politics. The German public was promised and continues to be promised that the goal of the Eurozone is to make orderly, competitive export-manufacturing economies out of Southern European Urlaubsländer (vacation countries), with the salutary side effect of costing the German taxpayer nothing (they think). A grand favour that can, in fact, only work if Germany pays (appears to pay) nothing for it.  Paying no transfer payments is the virtue, the moral soul, the charity in this deal. German politicians have invested too much in this illusion.

Or Blanchard could be wrong, and the French public is willing to endure the Chinese finger-trap. Merkel and Schäuble could have a change of heart? Again, my willingness to give the benefit of the doubt may be excessive.


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  1. Mallam

    I largely agree with your analysis. However, if that’s where we are, what do we even recommend? You largely agreed with what Syriza did and how they played their hand(s). Has seeing Donald Trump changed Europe and Germany’s calculus whatsoever? I mean sure, he’s being cowed by China and NATO and is even agreeing to potentially re-nominate Yellen; another George Bush but way more racist and more stupid without any understanding of policy. But he’s still causing mass stability and his climate policies will doom us all. And Le Pen is committed.

  2. Everybody wants to to get paid – but not pay in return.

  3. BlizzardOfOz

    @Mallam, don’t hate Trump for being racist. We were Born This Way.

  4. Mallam

    I might respect what you have to say if you were honest about your Nazism rather than hiding behind pseudoscientific racialism. But whatever eases your mind with make believe rationalizations!

  5. Babies learn to recognize familiar facial features shortly after birth, prefer familiarity. News at 11.

  6. Mallam: it requires a cooperative consensus of multiple larger European countries in order to have sufficient leverage over the system to force Germany to deal. ie, Spain, France, Italy at once. Like Podemos, Mélenchon, and Beppe Grillo.

  7. Tom

    Looks like Maduro is on his way out. Heavy street clashes in Caracas, Venezuela.

    As for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, if he isn’t ready to go nuclear, then he should shut up about re-negotiations. Only the credible threat of violent destruction can get Germany to quit its shit and if he can’t or won’t communicate that, then no change will happen.

  8. > Film at 11

    Except where they do not. Some percentage prefers different – keeps the species together until there is some extraordinary difference which causes the group bifurcate.

  9. The Stephen Miller Band

    Richard Nixon was quite an enigma. He reestablished relations with China and he was the first American President to visit Damascus. He crossed one too many lines and would not be cowed by The Burgeoning Deep State like Don the Con has been.

    Any bets? Does Donald nuke North Korea? Does North Korea nuke South Korea? I think there’s a good chance of both and then America will really have egg on its face. Let me see, Assad is accused of a Chemical Weapons Attack killing a handful of civilians and Donald nukes North Korea killing maybe a million North Koreans (women and children included).

    One would think if that happened, America wouldn’t have a credible leg to stand on, as if it does now, but no doubt The Lamestream Press and The Establishment it serves will find a way to spin it and justify it and Trump Supporters will cheer him on to Moscow when just months before they were opposed to Hillary because she would start WWIII.

    Hafez, do you have anything stiffer than water? It’s been a long day and a rough year so far.

  10. Willy

    Most people come from the hump of most bell curves. But a few of us do not. Probably why things seem so fucking messed up to us. Now all we need to do now is figure out how to get them to be more like us. Of course, I’m just kidding. I think.

  11. Hugh

    France isn’t Greece. Interdependency cuts both ways. And France isn’t the only country wanting major changes to the EU/EZ. Remember Brexit. The UK and France have economies that are together 50% larger than Germany’s. Add in Italy with its failing banking sector and you have three countries with a combined GDP twice the size of Germany’s. Now add in the rest of the Southern Tier and Eastern Europe, all of which have been stiffed by the EU. The EU/EZ is in a slow motion collapse. What France could do is be the tipping point to bring about fundamental change or hasten the ongoing collapse.

    BTW according to Trump, NATO which was obsolete last week isn’t this week, all naturally because of him. So everything is jake on the military front. /s

  12. The thing about all the “stability mechanisms” and so on is that they’re designed to defer the cost to the “status quo parties” of breaking interdependencies for long-enough for the “offender” to suffer steeply first. This was and is the constant tactic used with Greece.

    Yes, as I said, this can be overridden if there is a large political consensus on the losing side of the Eurozone balance sheet. Otherwise, France is probably Greece. Now, a putative Mélenchon presidency could play its cards right and try to align with movements in other countries before pulling any triggers…but it would have to give up the initiative then.

    We’ll see. It’s still unlikely that Mélenchon will be president, although perhaps France has reached a tipping point? It’s still likely that the winner will be the centrist neoliberal Macron (which is way better than Fillon, who was a nearly far-right neoliberal). But there’s still time left for the hidden Le Pen vote to come out.

  13. The Stepehn Miller Band

    Look closely at Hafez’s left hand. He has six fingers. The digit between the index finger and the thumb doesn’t look fully formed so the effect is likened to a crab claw. Weird.

    For me, pointing out ruthless dictator’s foibles & flaws makes them more human, although, a sixth digit could be an asset especially if it’s a sixth digit in your bank account.

  14. Tom

    @ The Stephen Miller Band

    Looks like China will be taking care of it, hundreds of thousands of troops are massing on the NK Border. China has too many valuable investments in South Korea to just give up. Unlike Putin, China recognizes when their dogs go rabid and need to be put down.

    Already China stopped taking NK Coal, and told the NK Leadership to quit its shit.

  15. The Stephen Miller Band

    Tom, as a certain someone says, “we’ll see.” Either way, there’s going to be a hell of a lot of bloodshed and much of that will be “innocent” blood. North Korea, if it’s backed into a corner, will annihilate Seoul. Kim Jong-un is Trump on massive steroids.

  16. The South won the Civil War, Germany won WWII. OK.

  17. bruce wilder

    The U.S. and Europe are both deep in major legitimacy crises. Neoliberalism in its degeneration has left the political class effectively disabled and blind to its own disability. That the French election has brought oddballs to the forefront is a measure of the deep popular despair. Le Pen as a known quantity seems unlikely, and could only achieve office, I would think, on a large scale failure to vote at all.

    Whether anything could be done thereafter is secondary.

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