After the populist victories for Brexit and Donald Trump, all eyes are now turned towards the National Front’s (FN) Marine Le Pen, who could cause another worldwide stir by winning the French presidential election.
And with the present state of the polls, she could repeat her father Jean-Marie’s exploit of progressing to the second round of a presidential election (France has a two-round, direct electoral process). She even was ranked ahead of right-wing candidate François Fillon in a survey of the most popular French men and women of 2016. And her recent trip to Trump Tower shows that she has an affinity with the President-elect.
Should these poll figures translate into Marine’s election, France (and the rest of the world) should be worried.
Like Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, Le Pen adopted a very vague and populist slogan, “Au nom du people” (In The People’s Name). According to her, the 2017 election is between two options,
- The dilution of the Nation, its society divided by multiculturalism, open and defenseless against unfettered globalization and the European Union, plagued by laissez-faire, and where the strongest will rule
- The reconquering of the French Nation’s independence, liberties, and national pride, where the State protects prosperity and every citizen. The People will be moved by a grand collective project.
Her party’s platform reveals how she intends to make these “reconquests”.
Less Immigration, State-Sponsored Identity
As a backlash against Nicolas Sarkozy’s “betrayal” of the French regarding immigration, an FN presidency would reduce immigration to 10,000 people entering per year within five years – one-twentieth of what it is right now. This would be done by ending the Schengen Agreements on free movement, dual citizenship for people coming from outside the EU (they would have to choose either nationality), family reunions, and by mercilessly fighting undocumented (“clandestins”) immigrants – including legal changes to suppress any future regularization of their status.
Identity would become a matter of complete government control.
Part of the latter measure would actually be good as it would end the Aide médicale d’État for undocumented immigrants. These government grants help anyone living in the French territory receive basic medical assistance if his or her health justifies it. Its costs increased 16.4 percent in 2013 (to over 800 million €), which prompted UMP deputy Claude Goasguen to question the pertinence of the program that covers nearly 300,000 undocumented and illegal immigrants in French territories (including Guyana). However, getting information from the ministère de la Santé who administers the program is rather difficult.
But this savings in tax euros pales in comparison to other citizenship policy ideas that are reminiscent of Germany’s darkest days.
For example, one may obtain French citizenship only when able to master the French language, show proof of assimilation, and reside on the territory legally. Also, identity would become a matter of complete government control; the FN would make a constitutional amendment claiming that “the Republic recognizes no community whatsoever” – like Corsica or Brittany. It would even have its own ministry, the ministère de l’Intérieur, de l’immigration et de la laïcité (Ministry of Interior, Immigration and Secularity).
State identity would also find a strong foothold through the Ministry of Culture. The FN would stop any foreign purchase of French editing businesses, defend the “French cultural exception” by imposing strict quotas to air French productions on TV and on the radio and promote French movies – the “only counterweight” to American cinema – more aggressively.
Another measure, touching on economics this time, would encourage businesses to hire French citizens if a non-citizen has similar skills. It would also exclude non-citizens from jobs like justice and public security.
A State with an Iron Fist
The strengthening of the French state under the FN would also mean implementing U.S.-style policing, in order to stop “a 20-year growth in insecurity from successive governments.”
Government spending is already 57% of France's GDP.
This includes a restriction on the free circulation of newly freed inmates within the country, so they won’t “fall again” in criminality by meeting their former buddies. It would include specific city blocks, but the FN would want to extend the interdiction to whole départments.
The War on Drugs would greatly expand, as the FN categorically refuses any drug decriminalization. Instead, they want to reinforce repression of both dealers and consumers, strictly control borders to prevent importation of illegal drugs, and “facilitate” the police’s work – through email interception, paying-off snitches, compelling security camera businesses to have videos available for investigations, etc.
And as it seems to happen in the U.S., the police under an FN administration would use firearms, presumably in self-defense. Non-uniformed police would even be used to fight against “insecurity”.
An Omnipotent State Master of the Economy
Finally, Marine Le Pen and the FN would make communists’ dreams come true by reinforcing the state’s already strong position in the French economy – government spending is already 57 percent of GDP according to the most recent figures.
The plan erroneously assumes that international trade emits more greenhouse gases than local production.
To do so, they would restore public services, the “a patrimony to which the French are legitimately attached to.” The FN would immediately end the “dogma” of government liberalization and protect government services, especially mail delivery and train transportation. The FN would also expand regulations on private providers (like phone and internet companies) to make sure that every parcel of French territory (including DOM-TOM) has equal access to their services.
Paralleling Donald Trump’s wishes, they aim to make mercantilism great again by imposing “reasonable” protections against “unfair” international competition from developing countries detrimental to France’s reindustrialization. Yes, you read that right: a government in 2017 believes that durable economic development can be a top-down move.
The plan, Planification Stratégique de la Réindustralisation, includes a strong local purchase policy under the erroneous assumption that international trade emits more greenhouse gases than local production. Speaking of which, tariffs would also consider a foreign producer’s “footprint” in order to save the environment. The plan would oblige public authorities and business cafeterias to prioritize French farm products and institute “agricultural patriotism” in order to limit food imports to only those that France isn’t self-sustaining.
The plan would also coordinate with scientific research, on which the FN wants to spend three percent of GDP when finances are better. They even predict some of the domains in which the French state will excel: energy alternatives to nuclear power, nanotechnologies, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
In short, Marine Le Pen and the National Front are completely doing away with the ideas of France’s greatest intellectuals like Frédéric Bastiat and Jean-Baptiste Say, and are instead embracing economic charlatans like Jean-Baptiste Colbert.
They will certainly test the limits of “plucking the chicken with the least amount of hissing” by increasing the highest income tax bracket to 46 percent (now at 45 percent), imposing higher rates of capital gains taxes, and increasing the value-added tax on “luxurious” products.
So if Le Pen gets elected, let’s hope that, as was the case during Trump’s nominee confirmations, deputies at the National Assembly will question her decisions and will not allow the country to sink under toxic economic nationalism. The last time the world experienced widespread nationalism, countries fell in one of the deepest depressions ever recorded and nearly annihilated each other.