Monday, January 23, 2012

I Was Born on the Wrong Continent

... because I want to vote for this guy:

François Hollande, the leading challenger for the French presidency, has described the banking industry as a faceless ruler and his “true adversary”. As he launched in earnest his campaign to become France’s first socialist head of state since the mid-1990s, Mr Hollande said he would seek a Franco-German treaty to overturn the “dominance of finance” and re-orient Europe towards growth and big industrial projects.

At a rally on the outskirts of Paris in front of thousands of supporters on Sunday afternoon, he said: “My true adversary does not have a name, a face, or a party. He never puts forward his candidacy, but nevertheless he governs. My true adversary is the world of finance.” ... Mr Hollande promised, if elected, to separate the investment activities of French banks from their other operations, ban them from tax havens and establish a “public” credit ­rating agency for Europe. He also promised higher taxes for people earning more than €150,000 a year and attacked the “new aristocracy” of today’s super-rich. A financial transaction tax would be introduced, with France acting with other European countries willing to participate....

In a powerful speech that advisers said he had written himself over the weekend, the socialist candidate came out fighting, looking to make an impression on the broader French public by taking aim at some carefully chosen national bêtes noires. These included globalisation, unemployment and shrinking domestic industry. But uppermost were bankers....

“I have always followed the line on which I was fixed,” he said. “I am a socialist. The left did not come to me through heritage. It was necessary for me to move towards it.”
Certain leftists I know will say this is just populist bluster, that nothing is finance's fault, and that this kind of language is just a distraction from genuine radical politics. But it's not all bluster: As Arin D. points out, French bankers seem to have been born on the wrong continent, too.

 Maybe we can arrange a swap?


  1. The post title of course is an allusion to Tom Geoghegan's splendid book.

  2. And yet the PS is, and has been, selling out from the point of view of this raised-in-Europe commie. Once this guy is in government he will worship at the bosses' altar. Which I guess just goes to show the immense gulf between European and US politics - in the US, a party like the PS or the SPD would be an improvement beyond our wildest dreams. In Europe, they have to be considered a bunch of class traitors. So yes, correct post title.

  3. [Will Boisvert sends me the following, which for some reason he can't post as a comment here. Blogger sucks, one of these days I'll move this thing to a better platform.]

    It pains me to say this, but if I were a French citizen I would vote for Sarkozy.

    That's because Hollande has promised to stop building nuclear power plants and start shutting down France's existing nuclear fleet. That's an appalling stance. If Hollande carries through on it, it means accelerated global warming, increased air pollution deaths, coal mining and gas drilling, and the wanton vandalism of a clean, sustainable energy infrastructure that should be a model for the world.

    Sarkozy, by contrast, has mounted a courageous and statesmanlike defense of nuclear power in the face of the Green panic that stampeded Angela Merkel into shutting down German nukes.

    I hate to be a single-issue zealot, but as you have pointed out, climate change is the most important issue facing the world, one that eclipses even taxes and financial regulation. (Also, since Sarkozy is far to the left of the typical Democrat in the States, the differences between him and Hollande on economic issues aren't all that dramatic; they are both Frenchmen, after all.)

    That Hollande and the rest of the left are so besotted by anti-nuclear phobias is one of the great political tragedies of our time.

    Will Boisvert

  4. I'm not aware of Hollande promising to close down nuclear power; even if he did, it would be a promise so obviously impossible to fulfil that no-one should take it seriously. In any case, I don't see why Merkel proposing the same thing more credibly is a peccadillo, while Hollande would be committing the greatest crime in history.

    1. @5371,

      Here’s a recent Reuters article on Hollande’s nuclear power platform.

      As part of a pact with the Greens, the Socialist plank calls for reducing the percentage of electricity supplied by nuclear from 75% to 50%, in part by closing 25 existing nuclear power plants by 2025. The Socialists also call for increasing the renewables portion of the “energy mix” from 13% to 23% by 2020.

      It’s not clear if the “energy mix” refers to electricity or everything—transport, heating, electricity—I’m guessing it’s the former; if so, than these figures imply a substantial increase in electricity produced by fossil fuels to fill the gap between nuclear’s draw-down and renewables’ build-up. (88% of electricity from non-fossil sources now, only 80% in 2025 if we assume renewables have further grown to 30% of electricity production by 2025 while nuclear is producing 50%. And that’s assuming that they are able to meet ambitious renewables goals in a country with mediocre wind and solar resources.) Even if they build out a lot of renewables capacity to replace the nukes, they may still have to also burn a lot more natural gas as “back-up” when these intermittent power sources fluctuate and fail.

      Reuters sees a softening in Hollande’s anti-nuke stance, noting that he has now said that he will close only one plant, France’s oldest, during his first five-year term. (That’s still not good from a climate change perspective, since each functioning nuke displaces fossil-fuel burners that would emit several million tons of carbon dioxide every year.) Hollande’s spokesman also voices a desire to preserve France’s nuclear export sector, which clashes a bit.

      So you may be right that Hollande will not carry out his anti-nuclear pledges, or at least not very vigorously.

      Still, we can’t expect him to pursue a robust pro-nuclear policy, which is what’s called for given the urgency of the global warming, environmental and air-pollution crises. At best, Hollande will block new nuclear builds and gradually shrink France’s nuclear fleet through attrition. That will be a tragedy because a revived French nuclear industry could, once the teething problems with its new builds are fixed, be a leader in the mass production of nuclear plants, driving down costs and construction times and making feasible a decisive turn away from fossil fuels to clean energy.

      You’re right: Merkel, who has already closed 7 German nukes and promises to close them all in ten years, is much worse than Hollande is likely to be. In general, Germany will always be worse than France. But I’d like to see France not just lagging Germany but marching in the opposite direction, which is more probable with Sarkozy in office.

  5. Which methons do you personally choose to search info for your fresh posts, which search websites do you often rely on?