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John Maynard Keynes; May; Macron; Merkel
Paris

Childless leaders are steering Europe

Three world leaders now have the distinction of being childless at an historical time in Europe.

Published: May 11, 2017, 10:34 am

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    Emmanuel Macron is the new president of France, and the 39-year-old, who has no children of his own, unbelievably won the second round of the presidential election in France without a party to support him.

    German chancellor Angela Merkel and British premier Theresa May are also childless as they face hard decisions on the future of their countries.

    Turnout was the lowest in more than 40 years in France. Almost one-third of voters chose neither Macron nor Le Pen, with 12 million abstaining and 4.2 million spoiling ballot papers. It is thus worth noting that over 16 million French voters abstained or spoiled their votes against the 20 million who opted for Macron.

    Marine Le Pen gained a record of almost 11 million votes for Front National from the 47.5 million registered voters, most of them young. It means that 27 million French voters, many young, had in fact rejected Macron.

    Despite that, pro-EU and pro-euro supporters are delighted. But is there really a reason for cheering? The three most important leaders clearly suffer from short-termisms.

    According to the Institut de Recherches Economiques et Fiscales in the first round of the presidential election 55 percent of voters supported a market-hostile collectivist course. In other words: More than half of the French voters want France and Europe to move away from a free market economy.

    In the second round, the French put Macron into power largely to prevent Le Pen from becoming president, and not because of Macron’s proposed policies. But that might change soon.

    His political movement En marche! has no basis in France’s lower house of parliament, and almost nothing is known about his economic views, except his support of a Keynesian-style economic policy. The gay and childless British economist John Maynard Keynes, became so popular in the middle third of the twentieth century that an entire school of modern thought bears his name.

    The government, according to Macron’s Keynesian outlook, ought to stimulate credit-financed expenditure programs to counter unemployment. He has proposed an economic and finance ministry for the euro area; to stop “social dumping” within the EU; a “Buy European Act” to protect “strategically important” companies from foreign competitors; and the issuing of “euro bonds”.

    France already suffers from low growth, high unemployment, rising public debt and ailing banks. Macron’s presidency would not resolve the effects of the credit boom created by the European Central Bank (ECB) either.

    The euro zone has not meant prosperity for its members. Instead it is a Soviet-style mechanism in which dysfunctional economies increasingly drain the power of their well-performing counterparts. The ECB’s industrious electronic printing press which bails out overstretched states and banks, has resulted in redistribution of income and wealth.

    The German political establishment is nervous about Macron’s eurozone agenda, even though Emmanuel Macron was favoured over Le Pen during the election campaign.

    As the German daily FAZ noted, the relief over his victory still weighs heavier than the reality – which is that Macron and Angela Merkel have diametrically opposed views on the future of the eurozone. Merkel has already said that eurozone bonds are not an option.

    The FAZ article speaks of Zumutungen, which means an excessive and immoral demand from France on a fiscal level that Germany can not conceivably fulfil.

    The article notes that Macron’s ideas go even further than those of former president Francois Hollande. Macron’s eurozone agenda is not about crisis resolution, but economic shock absorption in general, as evidenced by his ideas for a pan-European unemployment insurance. FAZ is appalled by this, as well as by Macron’s idea of a Buy-European act. The paper noted that the eurozone finance ministers, at their meeting in Malta, criticised similar ideas by the European Commission, Eurointelligence reported.

    Labor reforms, similar to the ones Macron is now proposing, were particularly traumatic for the outgoing Hollande government. Hours after Macron’s victory, radical trade unionists were already rioting out the streets, while the more cautious warn against implementing the whole agenda.

    The election of the 577 deputies will take place on June 11 and 18. While Macron wants to reconcile his country with globalisation, the economic changes he is proposing, are going to provoke fierce resistance.

    Fifteen years ago, the eurozone’s two biggest countries, France and Germany, enjoyed comparable living standards. Today, Germany’s are almost a fifth higher than those in France. And when euro notes and coins were introduced in 2002, French and German unemployment rates were both around 8 percent. Today, Germany’s unemployment rate has dropped below 4 percent while French unemployment is close to 10 percent.

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